NMFS closes herring Area 1A, catch limit nearly harvested
The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced a temporary closure of herring Management Area 1A (inshore Gulf of Maine) due the area reaching its catch threshold.
Starting last week, fishermen in the area can no longer attempt to fish for, possess, transfer, receive, land or sell more than 2,000 pounds of Atlantic herring per trip. In addition, all permitted dealers cannot acquire more than 2,000 pounds of herring that was acquired in a trip from Management Area 1A.
The closure is in effect until 31 December, 2019. However, since the management area is closed from 1 January until 31 May, 2020, the area is effectively closed until late spring next year.
“The Regional Administrator has projected, based on vessel and dealer reports, state data, and other available information, that the herring fleet will have caught 92 percent of the herring sub-ACL allocated to Management Area 1A by November 27, 2019,” the NFMS announced in the Federal Register.
According to Jennifer Goebel, public affairs officer for the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, the closure is not unusual.
“It's normal for Area 1A to close around this time,” she told SeafoodSource.
Vessels can still transit through the area with more than 2,000 pounds of herring, provided that the fish was caught outside of the management area, as long as “all fishing gear is stowed and not available for immediate use,” according to a release.
The sub-annual catch limit for Area 1A was 5,184 metric tons (MT). It joins Area 2, which was closed in March, which has a quota of 4,062 MT.
So far this year, according to NOAA’s herring quota monitoring, Area 1A has caught 4,479 MT; Area 1B has caught 125.9 MT of a possible 628 MT; Area 2 has caught 4,727.6 MT, or 116 percent of its quota; and area 3 has caught 2,952 MT.
The herring fishery has been the subject of extensive discussions in recent years, with the allowable catch plummeting from more than 100,000 MT in 2018 to the current total of just over 15,500 MT. Those reductions were bad news for the lobster industry, which relies on the fish as bait.
In addition to the quota reduction, the New England Fisheries Management Council has been working on changes to how the fishery is managed which would take the small fish’s role in the ecosystem into account.
Image courtesy of the National Marine Fisheries Service