In this July 8, 2015, file photo, herring are unloaded from a fishing boat in Rockland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Commercial fishing for herring will all but shut down in the inshore Gulf of Maine for about two months to help conserve the species.

Atlantic herring are an important bait fish that are harvested extensively off New England. The fishery has been limited by new restrictions in recent years because of concerns about the health of the fish’s population.

Interstate regulators said herring fishing will essentially be shut down in inshore areas off Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire until Sept. 30. They said that’s because fishermen are approaching their limits for the quota of the fish.

Herring are especially important as lobster bait. Fishermen sometimes caught more than 100 million pounds of the fish annually in recent history, but the fishery fell to less than 12 million pounds last year.

The fishing shutdown took effect on Aug. 3.