Gloucester is Massachusetts’ No. 1 lobster port when it comes to landings, with Rockport in the No. 3 spot.
And when it comes to bait to catch the shellfish, local lobstermen usually use herring.
But the Massachusetts herring fishery will be restricted in an attempt to mitigate a shortage of the bait fish that threatens the lobster fishery.
So, lobstermen are looking further afield to tempt lobsters’ palates and into their traps.
Gerry O’Neill, who owns the two 141-foot mid-water trawlers Challenger and Endeavour, says while fresh herring may be in shorter supply on Cape Ann than in the past, he has frozen fish ready to go at Cape Seafoods on the Jodrey State Fish Pier.
Joey Ciaramitaro of Capt. Joe & Sons, a lobster dealer on East Main Street, says many of the lobstermen who sell their catch to his company are already using alternative baits.
“They’re using cowhides and stuff,” he said.
O’Neill is selling more alternatives at his bait shop, too.
“The problem is, frozen herring is expensive,” he said. “They’re buying fresh redfish heads, frozen pogies.”
The interstate Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to cut the number of days that herring boats can bring the fish ashore from five to two. The changes are in effect from this Sunday to Sept. 30.
Regulators say that reducing the number of days will prevent the herring fishery from catching its entire quota too quickly. Maine cut its herring days down to two earlier in the season.
The problem is that fishermen aren’t catching herring far out at sea, which has increased pressure in inshore waters.
Massachusetts and Maine combine for about 94 percent of all U.S. lobster landings. In 2014, Massachusetts lobstermen landed 15,321,142 pounds worth $68,368,543, according to the latest figures available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Gloucester is the state’s largest lobster port, with 140 permitted lobstermen and 2.28 million pounds of lobster landings in 2014 with an off-the-boat value of $12.28 million, according to figures supplied by the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries.
Those 140 lobstermen landed 2.8 million pounds in 2015 through October and dwarfed that of No. 2 Plymouth (1.1 million pounds from 60 lobstermen), No. 3 Rockport (1 million pounds from 52 permitted lobstermen) and No. 4 Marshfield (881,000 pounds from 37 lobstermen), state statistics show.
Material from staff writer Sean Horgan and the Associated Press was used in this report.