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June 30, 2017

Baitfish are back — and lobstermen are breathing easier

Peter Van Allen
Fishing boats use seine nets to catch pogies near Sturdivant Island earlier this month. Pogies are a key baitfish used in lobster traps.

After last year's shortage of the baitfish used for lobster traps, Maine lobstermen are breathing a sigh of relief this year.

Pogies, herring and alwives have been more readily available in Maine waters, Pat Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, told the Portland Press Herald.

Last year, the lobster industry was forced to buy pogies and other baitfish from fishermen as far away as New Jersey, creating an extra layer of cost that eventually was passed onto wholesale buyers and consumers.

This year, herring cost about 60 cents a pound, which is less than lobstermen paid last year for bait, but still not the 18 cents paid in 2015, Keliher told the newspaper.

"I won't say we're in great shape, but we are in a heck of a lot better shape than we were last year," Keliher said.

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