BELFAST, Maine — The National Marine Fisheries Service Saturday closed a large swath of ocean offshore in the Gulf of Maine to fishing for Atlantic herring — the preferred bait of many lobstermen.
But the closure should not have a major detrimental impact on the state’s valuable lobster fishery, according to David Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. He said Saturday that management area 1B, which begins at the eastern tip of Cape Cod and travels northeast along the Gulf of Maine, is not as productive a place to catch herring as management area 1A, which hugs the Maine shoreline.
“It’s not a big deal,” Cousens said of the herring fishery closure.
Last year, according to figures from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, fishermen brought in 44,579 metric tons of Atlantic herring, or nearly 100 million pounds. At 16 cents a pound, the fishery was valued at $15.39 million — more money than ever before, and double what it was worth in 2009.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Friday the projected Atlantic herring fishery in management area 1B already exceeded 92 percent of the total allowable catch for 2014. The fishery was slated to close at midnight Saturday and would remain closed until May 1, 2015.
During the closure, boats issued federal permits for Atlantic herring may not retain or land more than 2,000 pounds of Atlantic herring from the closed area per trip or calendar day, according to a press release issued Friday by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Also during the closure, vessels may move through the area 1B with more than 2,000 pounds of herring on board, as long as the fish wasn’t caught in the closed area and the boat stows all fishing gear aboard.