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Steaming Ahead: How Do We Plan for the Future?

The million-dollar questions on lobstermen’s minds seem to be, “What do I need to do to prepare for the 2019 fishing season? Will there be new whale regulations to contend with, and what is the bait supply going to look like?” Unfortunately, no one can answer those questions. And we have even less information right now than we should due to the government shutdown. The timing and severity of new whale and herring regulations are unknown. But we do have some parameters on what herring landings will look like next year. The herring quota will be cut by 51% if the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed rule goes through or by 70% if the New England Fishery Management Council proposal goes through. Under the NMFS scenario, we lose over 56 million pounds of herring, with a 45.5-million-pound reduction from Area 1A. Under the Council scenario, we lose nearly 77 million pounds of herring, with a 51.5-million-pound reduction in Area 1A. To put it differently, if a truck carries 40,000 pounds of bait, we lose 1,400 trucks under the NMFS scenario and 1,920 under the Council scenario. That’s a lot of herring! For comparison, Maine landed approximately 12 million pounds of herring in 2018, the equivalent of 300 trucks. While both scenarios are grim, the NMFS alternative gives the lobster industry a little more breathing room to adjust to these drastic cuts. The MLA has expressed strong support to fishery managers for the NMFS alternative.


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