Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins are calling on the federal government to provide disaster assistance to the state's herring industry in the wake of what they call the fishery's failure.
The herring population off New England's coast has nosedived in recent years, and federal regulators have drastically reduced commercial catch limits by more than 80 percent. That has driven prices for the vital food-chain fish ever higher, and sent lobstermen scrambling for alternatives to what had been their go-to bait.u.s.
Earlier this month Mills asked the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to formally declare the regional fishery a failure, and this week Collins backed her up. In her letter, Collins says it is unclear how the industry will survive without immediate financial assistance.
The value of herring landed at Maine ports dropped from more than $14 million in 2016, to just $4 million last year, according to the state's Department of Marine Resources. With Congressional approval, a fishery disaster declaration could lead to grants, job retraining and low-interest loans for affected businesses.