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Maine fishermen welcome higher quotas for menhaden, an affordable lobster bait

In Maine, menhaden are primarily used as lobster bait.
Murray Carpenter
Maine Public
In Maine, menhaden are primarily used as lobster bait.

Maine fishermen say a series of upcoming changes to the state's menhaden quota should bring more certainty to lobstermen and others who rely on the fishery as a source of affordable bait.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission sets a series of quotas for the commercial menhaden fishery in the Northeast.

Fishermen lobbied for a higher quota, as menhaden have become abundant off the Gulf of Maine. And lobstermen have come to rely on them as an affordable local source of bait.

Starting next year, Maine will be allotted nearly 5% of the total allowable catch, up from just a half-percent in previous years. The new allocation is based on the landings in Maine from previous years.

Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association, says it's a good start, but "doesn't go quite far enough in solidifying access to the fish that we need. Our fishermen catch a lot more than the just under five-percent that Maine is being allocated.

In each of the last four years, Maine has been allocated about 2 million pounds of menhaden, but has landed at least 20 million pounds each year by tapping unused quotas from other states.

The overall catch limit for the entire East Coast is also 20% higher than it was the previous year.