Interstate fishing managers have approved new protections for herring that they hope will help reverse an alarming trend in the fish's population.

The Atlantic Herring Management Board, an arm of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. is implementing protections to help Atlantic herring. The schooling fish are important commercially and a key part of the ocean's food chain. They're also important as lobster bait.

The board says the changes mean the fishery will close in Area A1, the inshore Gulf of Maine,  when a lower percentage, 25 percent to 20 percent, of the population of herring is spawning, and extending the closures from four weeks to six.

A reclosure of the fishery will be triggered when 20 percent or more of the sampled herring are mature but have not yet spawned.

The commission says changes are necessary because an assessment of the herring stock showed the population was down over the past five years, with 2016 recruitment levels the lowest on record.

States must implement the changes by Aug. 1.

More information is available by contacting Senior Fishery Management Plan Coordinator Kirby Rootes-Murdy at or 703-842-0740.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.