Machiasport, U.S.A. – The Maine Department of Marine Resources has approved Cooke Aquaculture USA to sell whole blackbelly rosefish in the state to be used as lobster bait, it was announced Wednesday.
The blackbelly rosefish bait got the approval for use on June 28. The supply will come from the South Atlantic waters off of Uruguay. Cooke will harvest it and freeze them at sea as a whole fish within hours to maximize the product quality, the company said in a release.
The company has a subsidiary in the South American country called Cooke Uruguay, in addition to its presence in nearby countries on the continent.
Cooke said there are plenty of blackbelly rosefish in the Atlantic Ocean and that they’re from the same scientific classification as the more familiar Atlantic redfish, which lobstermen already often use for bait.
“We believe this is a solution to address concerns from the lobster fishery on the challenges they are currently facing on account of bait shortages,” said Glenn Cooke, CEO of the Cooke Inc. group of companies, in the release. “We operate alongside lobster fisherman in coastal communities in the states and hope this new option for safe, clean bait will benefit our colleagues in the lobster fishery.”
Cooke’s supply is expected to help address Maine lobstermen’s challenge of finding bait due to decreasing herring quota and its impact on access to supply.
The New England Fishery Management Council said in June that the quota for herring caught off the coast of New England will be reduced in the next two years, further affecting the current bait shortages.
Cooke is inviting local bait dealers to contact the company to set up a supply chain.
“Lobstering is an important part of the communities where we operate. Lobster fisherman are our friends, neighbors, and in many cases, family. When we learned about the bait shortage and its impact on the lobster industry in Maine, we began to explore possible solutions,” Cooke said.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources issued the rosefish approval following an evaluation by the bait review team, set up to make sure the biosecurity of proposed bait species.
“We’re very pleased by the collaborative approach Cooke and the state took to help deal with the challenges that the lobster fishery has been facing related to securing bait,” says Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “This is a very promising solution to a serious issue, and we look forward to seeing it in use in Maine.”
Nearly 3,800 of Cooke’s employees work in the U.S., and Cooke Aquaculture USA has over 200 Mainers working at its facilities in Machiasport.