ShareThis Page
Fishermen face another quota cut, could hit lobster prices | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Fishermen face another quota cut, could hit lobster prices

Associated Press
1209866_web1_1209866-088f8365f12c4366913f885db0a3d712
In this July 8, 2015 photo, herring are unloaded from a fishing boat in Rockland, Maine. Herring are the most important bait source for the lobster fishery. Regulators are contending with a drop in the herring population on the East Coast. Cuts in the catch quota will mean the total haul for 2019 will be less than a fifth of the 2014 harvest. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine — Fishermen already dealing with a dramatic reduction in the amount of a key bait fish they are allowed to harvest will likely face an additional cut next year that could drive up the price of lobster for consumers.

Regulators on the East Coast are contending with a drop in the population of herring, a key forage fish species that has been used as lobster bait for generations. Cuts in catch quota this year will mean the total haul for 2019 will be less than a fifth of the 2014 harvest, which was more than 200 million pounds.

A fishery management board is due to make a decision about the 2020 catch limits in early June. The options include maintaining this year’s levels or reducing them further, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said in public documents.

The agency wants to avoid overfishing at a time when a scientific assessment has shown a below-average number of young herring are joining the population. Scientists have said it’s not clear why that’s the case, but two possibilities they’ve cited are climate change and an abundance of predators.

The lobster industry has enjoyed large hauls in recent years, but it’s dependent on bait to load traps. A spike in the price of bait could ultimately be felt by consumers in restaurants and fish markets.

For lobster fishermen, another cut to the quota will mean finding new sources of bait, said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association. It’s possible there won’t be enough to go around, and prices are sure to be high.

“I’ve heard from other fishermen up and down the coast, from Maine to Massachusetts. It’s going to be survival of the fittest,” Casoni said. “Every year is challenging, and every year just gets a little more.”

The drop in the herring population has also sometimes put the lobster and herring fisheries at odds with environmentalists who believe the herring fishery should be restricted because of its role in the ecosystem.

Herring are schooling fish that serve as food for whales, sea birds and large fish. Herring need to be managed for their role in the ecosystem and not just their economic value, said Erica Fuller, an attorney with Conservation Law Foundation.

“We’re approaching a tipping point where we need to be careful not to lose all of our forage species at the same time,” Fuller said.

The fishermen will get an idea of how much of a cut they could experience in 2020 when a committee of the New England Fishery Management Council meets on May 30 in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The full council could cast a vote during the second week of June in Portland.

The council is also scheduled to set limits for 2021 but has said those numbers are likely to be revised based on a new assessment of the stock that is expected to take place next year.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.