An interstate fishing council has extended some of Maine’s emergency Atlantic herring restrictions to Massachusetts to try to close a loophole that threatened to derail the summer supply of lobster bait.

On Wednesday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted 2-1 to cut the number of days that herring boats can land fish each week within its jurisdiction from five to two, with Maine and New Hampshire representatives voting in favor of the landing day reduction and Massachusetts voting against it. Under its emergency rules, Maine had already cut its landing days down to two in an attempt to prolong the availability of fresh herring throughout the lobster season, but boats that fished that area could still land for five days if they sailed to a Massachusetts port such as Gloucester.

Maine regulators are trying to balance the lobster industry’s demand for fresh bait now, when season is just beginning but offshore herring is in short supply, with its need for fresh bait through the end of summer, when the inshore summer herring quota is in danger of running out. While lobstermen don’t like a bait shortage at any time, the industry is supporting Maine’s herring restrictions to make sure there will still be fresh bait available when they need it most.

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