I was just reading today in Forbes that there’s a proposal to limit the harvest of herring in the Northeast over the next three years by about a 3rd. This could be another hard blow to lobster fishermen, who have already hit by historically low lobster prices over the past two years. As the article states:
Lobster fishermen fear there could be a shortage of bait for their traps next year under a proposal to sharply cut the herring catch in the Northeast.
Lobster bait, which often takes the form of herring, is critical to lobster fishing and one of the fishermen’s key expenses. Even as far back as 15 to 20 years ago, when I was fishing in the summers with my father, we sometimes struggled to get a healthy supply of bait for a good price.
Back then, we’d go to Lubec to pick up our bait straight from a canning factory. My father built a big fiberglass box which filled the back of our pickup truck and that’s how we transported the bait. My mother would drive the pickup down to Lubec and back it under a big shoot that came out of the side of the canning factory. Then the factory workers would open the shoot and the bait would come spilling out into the back of the truck. The seagulls would be circling around like mad and my mother always said it reminded her of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds.” Once many years ago, when we had difficulty getting bait from Lubec, my father and I took our boat over to Grand Manan, I Canadian island about an hour’s boat ride from Cutler and filled the whole stern of the boat up with bait.
In the past 10 years or so, we’ve arranged to have bait delivered directly to our wharf, which makes things a lot easier. The bait comes on a big eighteen wheeler and is stored in big plastic exactor boxes (the blue box in the picture). We then move the exactor boxes around with a fork lift which saves a lot of heavy lifting on the part of the fishermen. While this approach has saved some of the manual work on our end, price continues to be an issue. I wonder what methods the fishermen will need to resort to in the coming years if there bait shortages become a real issue.