Scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute are gearing up for a major acoustic survey of herring stocks along the coast of Maine. The study is being launched in collaboration with ten Maine lobstermen distributed up and down the coast from Kittery to Cutler. Most herring research to date has focused on offshore areas. This project will mark the first comprehensive look at inshore herring.
Herring is a key food source for cod, seabirds, tuna, and whales. Understanding its abundance is essential to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. The research is also critical to the lobster industry, which relies on herring for bait. Total allowable catch for herring in this area has been reduced in recent years, but decisions have been based on limited data.
Patrice McCarron of the Maine Lobstermen's Association said: "Herring has long been the most important source of bait for Maine lobstermen. The acoustic survey will provide vital information to aid managers in protecting the long-term sustainability of the stock without imposing unnecessary economic harm in the short-term."
Led by GMRI Ecologist Graham Sherwood, scientists are working with lobstermen (including Sheldon Pope, pictured at right with UMaine master's student Katie Wurtzell) to outfit vessels with acoustic equipment to scan for herring. The lobstermen will spend one night per week surveying the zones along Maine's coast from August through November, which is spawning season for herring. Results will be analyzed and shared to inform future management decisions.
The project is supported by the Maine Technology Institute, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Northeast Consortium.