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Bait crisis can take the steam out of lobster this summer



The boom time of the American lobster industry is disturbed this year due to the lack of a small fish that has lured crustaceans into traps for hundreds of years.

Members of the lobster industry fear a threatening bait crisis could disrupt the industry at a time when lobsters are as abundant, valuable and in demand as ever. America's lobster catch has climbed this decade, especially in Maine, but fishing is dependent on herring – a school fish that other fishermen are looking for in the Atlantic.

Federal regulators impose a steep cut in herring fishing this year and some areas of the east coast are already limited to fishing, months before the lobster season is rolling. East Coast herring fishermen brought more than 200 million pounds of fish to docks as early as 201

4, but this year's catch will be limited to less than one fifth of the total.

The clip leaves the lobsterm, which has baked herring for generations in Maine, scrambling for new bait sources and worried about their ability to get lobsters to customers who have expected easy accessibility in recent years.

"If you don't have bait, you don't want to fish. If the price of bait goes up, you won't fish," says Patrice McCarron, CEO of the Maine Lobstermen's Association. "We need to take the big picture and make sure our society continues to have sustainable fishing."

The cut in herring quota stems from a scientific assessment of the fish population last year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northeast Fishing Science Center. The assessment showed that a below average number of young herring survives in the sea.

The herring loss has sounded alarms among scientists and preservers, because the fish also serves a critical role in the marine food chain, and they are valuable as food for humans.

It is unclear exactly what factors cause young herring not survive to maturity, says Jonathan Deroba, senior herring assessment researcher with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. He said it was "too early to predict that the sky was falling," even though he added that the herring population was suffering more burdens at once.

"We would be foolish not to look at climate change. Are egg predators. And fishing activity on Georges Bank disturbs herring," Deroba said. Georges Bank is a key fishing area off New England.

Fishermen bring herring to land mostly in Maine and Massachusetts, which are also the largest lobster fishing states. Lobstermen also traps other types of bait, such as the menhad, and some herring are available in freezers, but the fishermen said they are worried that there will not be enough walking around.

The New England Fishery Management Council is also considering the herring catch quota for 2020 and 2021 later this year, and the fishermen said they were concerned that the cuts could be maintained these years. The herring loss is also a big blow to the fishermen who harvest the species, says Jeff Kaelin, who works in government relations for Lund Fisheries, a herring stocker based in Cape May, New Jersey.

"It gets tough on everyone, kaelin said not only the people who catch the herring, but also" the lobster terms that depend on it for historical bait supply. "

The American lobster fishing set an all-time record for Value at ports in 2016 when the catch was more than $ 670 million, also the year when the herring fish fell to its lowest point since 2002, although it was still over $ 138 million.

Lobsterman Jeffrey Peterson fishing of the island town of Vinalhaven, Maine, said he is confident that he & # 39; I can read his traps with bait this summer. He is just concerned about how expensive it will be to do it.

"It must be , "he said." It's just how much they pay tribute to you. "


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