BAR HARBOR — The directed herring fishery has been closed for the rest of the year for the inshore Gulf of Maine, according to officials.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Herring Management Board voted late last month to set the number of landing days at zero for the second half of the herring season, meaning a vessel can’t go out fishing directly for herring.
Fishermen are allowed to fish for other species and may land up to 2,000 pounds of Atlantic herring per trip as incidental catch only, said Emilie Franke, the fishery management plan coordinator at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Herring is a prized bait fish for lobstermen in Maine, though many have resorted to other species, such as pogies, as herring numbers have declined and quotas have tightened. Herring is considered overfished, but overfishing by fishermen is not currently happening, leaving officials searching for an answer on how to help the species rebound.
The New England Fishery Management Council met late last month to talk about how to move forward with the conservation of the species across New England. The council decided to go forward with an acceptable biological catch strategy that allows for sustainable harvest of the fish while accounting for the species role as a forage species and baitfish. The rule works by allowing fishing mortality rate to fluctuate with the highs and lows of the species’ biomass, allowing flexibility depending on how the fish is doing. It also adds accountability measures.
The plan has been sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for review and implementation.
In Maine, the Gulf of Maine inshore herring fishery has an annual catch limit of 1,453 metric tons, lower than in the past as regulators work to conserve the species. That limit is split, with 72.8 percent allocated for the first season and 27.2 percent for the second.
The first season limit was projected to be met in the beginning of August and the fishery has been closed since. The second season was aimed to start in October and run through the end of the year.
There was a slight overage from the first season, according to officials, and with that plus allocations for fixed gear fishermen and the built-in 8 percent buffer, the number of landing days was set at zero.
If quota is reallocated from the Canadian weir fishery to the area, a meeting would be scheduled for potential adjustment.