Federal regulators’ rejection of a plea from herring fishermen Thursday could lead to a shortage of lobster bait this fall, critics of the decision said.
The New England Fishery Management Council, meeting in Portland, voted 10-0 against an emergency request to increase the amount of haddock that herring fishermen can catch incidentally on Georges Bank.
The regulators said haddock is too valuable to New England’s struggling groundfishermen to allow herring trawlers to catch more than the 179 metric tons they will be allowed in the year from May 1 to April 30, 2015.
“That’s their lifeboat,” said Thomas Dempsey, a council member from Massachusetts.
Herring fishermen have already caught about 5 percent of their cap, and with the heavy summer fishing season ahead, representatives of the industry said most of the region’s herring fleet could be sidelined as early as September.
That would remove 7,700 metric tons of herring from the market in September alone, said Mary Beth Tooley, a lobbyist for the Rockland-based O’Hara Corp., which owns two herring vessels.