Disaster-level instability in the Atlantic herring industry has prompted the federal government to give $11 million to commercial fishermen and shore-side infrastructure in four states.

A scientific assessment in 2020 found that herring are overfished, and quotas for the fish were reduced dramatically. The federal government declared a “fishery disaster” in November, clearing the way for assistance.

Atlantic herring are vital because they’re used as bait by commercial lobstermen – who’ve been plagued by a bait crunch for years – as well as for food.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Thursday that the herring industry in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island will get the assistance. More than $7 million is allocated for Maine.

Raimondo said the assistance “will help affected fisheries and communities recover from disasters and make them more resilient to future challenges.”

New Hampshire is set to receive about $600,000 of the assistance. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said the decline of Atlantic herring has been an economic hardship for coastal communities in her state.

The loss of the fish has “devastated our fishing industry, particularly since Atlantic herring are used as bait for lobster and tuna fishing industries,” she said.

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