BAR HARBOR — The Atlantic herring fishery in the inshore Gulf of Maine will be closed through the end of September after fishermen harvested the limit for the first half of the season.
Herring is a prized bait fish for lobstermen, but the species is considered overfished by regulators, which has led to tighter quotas over the years.
By the beginning of this month, fishermen were projected to have caught 92 percent of the allocation for the first half of the season, trigging the move to zero landing days through to the fall.
The Gulf of Maine herring fishery is split into two seasons. The first runs from June to the end of September and the second from October through the end of the year. The annual catch limit for the area is 1,453 metric tons. The first season gets 72.8 percent of that allocation, and the second season gets 27.2 percent.
Regulators projected that the first season limit had been reached and the fishery was closed on Aug.3.
Atlantic Herring Management Board members from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are expected to reconvene in September via conference call to set effort controls for the 2021 for the second season.
All vessels traveling through the Area 1A must have their seine and mid-water trawl gear stowed.
This year’s catch limit for the gulf is lower than in years past, as regulators work to try and conserve the species. Emilie Franke, the fishery management plan coordinator at the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission, said that the time it takes for fishermen to reach the catch limit changes annually, depending on the quota and other factors.
“It really varies from year to year,” she said.
Regulators use limits on the number of days herring fishermen can be out as the primary control measure for the Gulf of Maine. States can extend the fishery by using landing restrictions. The goal is to provide a consistent supply of herring to the market, particularly early in the season when the small fish are largely in the gulf.
While it’s still seen as the premier bait for lobstering, many fishermen have turned to other types of bait over the years, including pogies, redfish and pig hide.