Maine eyes new controls for key bait fishing industry

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers are considering new controls for an important bait fishing industry in the state.

Maine’s catch of menhaden has swelled in recent years. That is partly because they’re used as bait for lobster traps. Herring, another popular bait fish, hasn’t been as available recently because of tighter fishing quotas.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources has asked the Maine Legislature to pass a bill that would allow fishermen to obtain a commercial menhaden license only if they’ve held it in one of the last six years and caught at least 25,000 pounds of the fish in one of those years. The Legislature’s Committee on Marine Resources passed an amended version of the proposal on Tuesday.

The committee included an amendment to allow fishermen one more year to catch the 25,000 pound limit, the Bangor Daily News reported. State fishing regulators want to limit licenses because they feel too many fishermen are harvesting menhaden, and that has raised the possibility of overfishing.

Maine fishermen represent a small piece of the coastwide menhaden fishing industry. The fish are subject to large-scale fishing because they’re used for products such as animal feed, fertilizer and dietary supplements.