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DMR Home > Species Info > Herring > Fishery Description

 Atlantic herring illustration by Roz Davis Designs, courtesy of the DMR Recreational Fisheries program and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund    Maine's Atlantic Herring Fishery   Atlantic herring illustration by Roz Davis Designs, courtesy of the DMR Recreational Fisheries program and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund

Fishery Management

Recent and Historical Maine Atlantic Herring Landings

Fishery Description

The Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is the most important pelagic fishery resource in the state of Maine, and is the primary bait used in Maine's valuable lobster fishery.  It is also an important forage species for predators such as seabirds, marine mammals, and a variety of larger fish species.  Maine landings of this species were about 43,000 metric tons in 2011.

In the past when there were many herring canneries in Maine, herring were harvested primarily in “fixed” gear (weirs and stop seines) close to shore and catches were dependant on schools of juvenile herring (sardines) swimming into the gear or into a bay or cove where they could be “shut off.”  Today, the fishery is almost exclusively a “mobile” gear fishery. Fishermen in larger boats pursue herring to offshore fishing grounds, using sophisticated electronic equipment to locate the fish and purse seines and mid-water trawls to catch them.

The Department of Marine Resources is responsible for monitoring the status of the Maine herring fishery and works in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service to assess the status of the U.S. Atlantic coast herring stock, which extends from Virginia to New Brunswick. DMR biologists process herring samples obtained from the commercial fishery and compile landings and catch statistics provided by the fishermen and the herring industry. This information is combined with trawl survey abundance indices to estimate stock size and to provide advice for management purposes.