In this Aug. 15, 2018, file photo, a lobster walks by a lobster trap on the ocean floor off the coast of Biddeford, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

AUGUSTA — Maine officials want to close a lobster bait fishery to newcomers while they develop new management, licensing and an enforcement plan.

Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher will present a plan to freeze the fishery at its current size for two years to state lawmakers on the Marine Resources Committee in February, the Portland Press Herald reported.

“Closing fisheries is kind of a radical step and a dangerous step because it eliminates diversity,” Keliher said. “We’re not saying close it in perpetuity. Close it to see if there is a different approach here that would allow us to get both enforcement and reporting back under control.”

The commissioner said the 2018 menhaden season was challenging because of the sharp reduction in the herring quota spurred growth in the menhaden fleet. The demand resulted in 50 new boats rushing to satisfy the nearly $500 million lobster industry’s need for substitute bait.

The state received its 2.4 million pounds of menhaden quote in June, before the lobster season began. State regulators said they would like to have bait landings occur when the lobster fishery needs them and not earlier.

Watch: The Maine lobster industry

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