Bait Supply Disrupted By Herring and Menhaden Shifts


The annual strategizing by the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to stretch herring quota to the end of the lobster fishing season has led to tension for some Maine bait dealers.

There was a shortage of herring early in the season. At the same time Menhaden showed up a month early in June in numbers that triggered the episodic event program, which allows directed fishing after Maine’s menhaden quota has been met.

Independent of the episodic event program is the, as yet to be officially defined by the ASMFC, incidental catch fishery.

A provision that kicks in after the state’s menhaden quota has been reached. Incidental catch allows any fisherman with a menhaden permit to catch 6,000lbs of menhaden a day. If there is no episodic event, the incidental trip limit is still in place.

The episodic event set aside comes out of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 440 million lbs. of menhaden for the entire east coast. The 1% set aside for New England of the 440 million lbs. TAC is 4.4 million lbs.

The rub, say some bait dealers, is that they have agreements with their suppliers to buy a certain amount of herring for the season. They freeze some of it and may keep it frozen through the end of the season. The unexpectedly large surge of menhaden has left them, including lobster coops that sell bait, holding bait they might not be able to sell. One dealer said their sales this year were lower than any year in memory. They attributed that to two things: First, the large influx of menhaden which diminished demand for their bait. Second, they said, the number of fishermen fishing menhaden has been much larger than they would have expected.

Over the season the Maine DMR changed the number of trucks per week dealers could receive from 17 to 15 and to 24 in mid September in and effort to address rising bait prices.

Megan Ware at the ASMFC said, “The Episodic Event Set-Aside Program was established to enable the allowable catch of menhaden. According to the episodic event parameters, only the New England states can fish this episodic event set aside. Abundance varies and therefore cannot be predicted, but New England can set aside a portion of its quota and later apply some of this set-aside when appropriate.”

The intention of the 6,000-pound limit was for it to apply to “incidental “ catch. But, said Ware, “incidental catch was not clearly defined by Amendment 2, the current management plan. Amendment 3 is expected to better define “incidental catch” for the incidental catch provision. The ASMFC will be meeting in Maryland on November 13 and 14, 2017, to discuss Amendment 3 to its menhaden management plan (