Herring cover the bottom of a barrel at a bait dealer in Portland, March 18, 2019. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Interstate fishing managers have approved new protections for an important species of small fish that they hope will help reverse an alarming trend in the fish’s population.

An arm of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is implementing protections to help Atlantic herring, which are schooling fish that are important commercially and a key part of the ocean’s food chain. They’re also important as lobster bait, a key industry in Maine.

[Bait crisis could take the steam out of Maine’s lobster industry this summer]

The panel said the changes mean the fishery will close in the inshore Gulf of Maine when a lower percentage of the population of herring is spawning, and the closures will last longer. The commission said changes are necessary because an assessment of the herring stock showed the population was down over the past five years.

States must implement the changes by Aug. 1.

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