The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) is currently confirming eligibility for disaster relief funds for Atlantic herring harvesters who have been impacted by a substantial decline in the spawning stock biomass and resulting quota reductions for the important lobster bait fishery.
The funds, totaling $7 million, were appropriated by the US Congress in 2022 following a request submitted by Maine Governor Janet Mills to the Secretary of Commerce in 2020 in which she highlighted significant declines in spawning potential and resulting quota reductions for Atlantic herring.
Funds, which will be issued by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, will be available for vessels that historically participated in either the federal or state waters fishery.
Relief funds will be issued to eligible harvesters who have reported landings of 2,000 pounds or greater in any single year from 2014 to 2019.
To be eligible, recipients must either have held a 2022 federal Limited Access Atlantic Herring permit or have been licensed by the Maine Department of Marine Resources to participate in the state waters herring fishery in 2022.
For federal permits that have changed hands in the 6-years from 2014 to 2019, the most recent permit owner would be eligible if all criteria are met.
Federal permit owners who took possession of a permit within the 6-year period (2014-2019) and who can provide documentation of permit ownership for calendar year 2022, would be the eligible recipient. However, federal permit holders who took ownership of a permit in 2022 would not be eligible because they would not be able to demonstrate landings in the 6-year period.
Federal permit holders and state license holders may be excluded from eligibility if they have any state or federal landings reporting deficiencies or inaccuracies from 2014 to 2019.
Any conviction for a violation of state or federal commercial fisheries law may also exclude participants from eligibility. DMR will review instances of license or permit holders who have been convicted of herring violations to determine if the violation should disqualify those individuals from eligibility.
License or permit holders subject to pending litigation for violation of state or federal fisheries laws will have funds placed into an escrow account until the conclusion of the case, at which point DMR will determine those individuals’ eligibility to access the funds.
Maine has identified 22 potentially eligible federal permit holders and 16 state license holders. Each eligible recipient will receive a minimum of $15,000 plus an additional share of the total available funds based on their landings from 2014 to 2019.
All identified applicants have been notified of their estimated award and have received an application form. Applicants will need to independently confirm their landings information for the period from 2014 to 2019.
Completed applications must be received by DMR no later than May 12, 2023.
Anyone who did not receive a letter and application in the mail who believes they are eligible according to the criteria specified, may contact DMR at DMRPolicy@maine.gov for evaluation.
Once all applications and appeals have been evaluated, DMR will calculate final awards and provide information to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Further questions may be addressed to DMRPolicy@maine.gov.