Plan to protect spawning herring to get Gloucester hearing

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff file photo/A Cape Seafoods employee shovels herring into containers in on the Jodrey State Fish Pier. The baitfish, which had been salted to preserve them, were caught by the Challenger and the Endeavour, visible in the background. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering measures designed to protect spawning herring in the inshore Gulf of Maine.

Cape Ann fishermen and other stakeholders will have a chance to weigh in on a plan to protect herring off of New England when the fish are spawning.

Interstate fishing regulators are holding hearings on the plan March 6 in Augusta, Maine; April 1 in Gloucester; and April 2 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering measures designed to protect spawning herring in the inshore Gulf of Maine.

Herring are important economically because they serve as key bait for the lobster and tuna industries. They're also used as food for human consumption. But perhaps most important, the fish is a critical part of the marine ecosystem because it serves as food for whales, seals and larger fish. 

The commission says the proposal is a response to a June 2018 assessment that found the herring population is declining. Regulators use fishing closures to protect spawning herring, and the proposal considers lengthening the closures and changing the point at which they start.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced early this month that it's cutting this year's herring quota from nearly 110 million pounds to about 33 million pounds. NOAA says herring aren't overfished, but the catch of the species needs to be reduced to prevent overfishing. 

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.