By Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press • December 6, 2017 3:57 pm Pat Wellenbach | AP | BDN

Pat Wellenbach | AP | BDN

FILE– In this Feb. 23, 2012 photo, herring are unloaded in Portland, Maine. The New England Fishery Management Council is considering several possible new rules for fishing herring, which are an important part of the ocean food web, from everything from lobster to whales. Public hearing are expected to be held early next year with a final decision later in 2018. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

PORTLAND, Maine — Federal fishing regulators are considering changing the way they manage one of the largest fisheries on the East Coast to better account for its impact on the environment and other industries.
The regulatory New England Fishery Management Council has released a group of alternatives for how it could change management of Atlantic herring. The small, schooling fish are harvested from Maine to Florida and are used for fish oil, food for humans and bait for fishermen and lobstermen.
The proposed rules are focused in part on the issue of potential “localized depletion,” which is a controversial subject in the fishery. Some environmentalists, members of other fisheries and ecotourism businesses claim that intense concentrations of herring boats can negatively impact the marine environment by reducing availability of other species.
Atlantic herring are a key piece of the ocean food web, and their availability is important to everyone from whale watch boat captains to tuna fishermen.
“Some people do not think we have localized depletion, and others think we do,” said Janice Plante, a spokeswoman for the fishery management council, adding that news rules “might change where they catch this fish.”
The proposed changes could alter when and where fishermen are allowed to pursue herring and what kind of gear they

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