Employees at Prospect Harbor’s Stinson Sardine Cannery, the last sardine cannery in Maine and the United States, learned this week that they will be out of a job after April 18.

Bumble Bee Foods announced Feb. 17 it will close Stinson within 60 days. The plant currently employs 127 full- and part-time workers.

In a press release, Bumble Bee blamed the closure on continuing reductions of total allowable catch of herring in New England. The New England Fishery Management Council reduced the overall level of the allowable herring catch by 36 percent, from 165,000 metric tons for the 2007 to 2009 period to 106,000 metric tons for the 2010 to 2012 fishing seasons.

Sardines are juvenile herring. Stinson produces Beach Cliff brand canned sardine and herring products.

The affected workers include 12 salaried and 115 hourly positions, some of the latter of which are seasonal.

Some employees have been with the plant for decades. One has been with Stinson for 54 years.

Melody Kimmel, Bumble Bee’s spokeswoman, flew from the company’s headquarters in San Diego, Calif., to Prospect Harbor this week.

“This decision is not a reflection of their performance,” said Kimmel, calling the staff “outstanding.”

“We’re doing what we can to help people in this transition,” she said.

The company is working with the Maine Department of Labor to find retraining and job search opportunities for employees. The company is providing severance packages for all employees, including those with less than a year of service.

Bumble Bee took over Stinson in 2004. At that time, the allowable herring catch was 180,000 metric tons, a figure that has fallen to half for 2010. Last year, Stinson produced 30 million cans of sardines. The fish travel in huge schools and live in the cold waters of the open ocean ranging from Greenland to North Carolina.

Sardines have been canned in Maine for more than 100 years. Stinson got its start in 1927, when Cal Stinson Sr. founded the original Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor. The company grew to become the largest packer of canned sardines and herring in the United States.

The NEFMC based its determination of the allowable catch level on the lack of certainty about how abundant the herring stock is, on projections showing the stock will decline over the next few years, and on the possibility that heavy fishing in some areas of the Gulf of Maine could be depleting the inshore spawning stock components, specific areas in which herring produce enormous quantities of eggs. Herring is also an important prey species in the ecosystem.

The herring cutback is also a source of concern for lobster fishermen, who fear there may be a shortage of lobster bait.