Menhaden Management Finally Begins
ASMFC Takes First Steps to Rebuild Menhaden Forage Base
ALEXANDRIA, VA – For the first time ever, the Atlantic
States Marine Fisheries Commission took steps to rein in the industrial
harvest of menhaden and begin the process of managing the menhaden
fishery. If adopted, the measures proposed today by the Menhaden
Management Board would lead to a reduction of menhaden harvest in both
the reduction and bait fisheries.
“After years of inaction, this is an excellent first step toward
recovering a critical forage base,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic
States Fisheries director. “This action is significant, simply because
the science on menhaden as a vital forage base is improving, and it is
the science that is now driving this process. Some folks will feel that
the proposals today do not go far enough, but it is imperative to point
out that although this does not get us across the plate, it does get us
in scoring position.”
The latest menhaden stock assessment showed the stock was undergoing
overfishing and abundance estimates were at the lowest level ever
recorded. Current science indicates that the menhaden spawning stock
biomass is at about 9 percent of a stock that is not subjected to any
fishing pressure. The Menhaden Management Board voted to start an
addendum that would increase the spawning stock biomass to15 percent.
“That would end overfishing, cause about a 10 percent reduction in
landings, and potentially increase spawning stock by more than 50
percent,” said Brame.
These are interim measures that will likely be in place for three to
five years until a Multi-Species Virtual Population Analysis can be
conducted, which will require stock assessment updates on bluefish,
striped bass, weakfish and menhaden stock.
“When that analysis is conducted, it is very possible we will have a
much better idea of the population of menhaden needed to fully serve as
the critical forage base for those popular sport fish,” said Brame. “The
picture is constantly evolving, and we appreciate that the Menhaden
Management Board worked to develop a suite of management options to use
in the interim that will begin rebuilding menhaden.”
The draft addendum will be developed over the summer to be approved
for public comment at the ASMFC’s August meeting. Public hearings will
be held along the entire Atlantic seaboard this fall, with final action
at the ASMFC’s November Annual Meeting in Massachusetts. If adopted,
management restrictions could be in place for the 2012 fishing season.