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.
CCA is the largest marine resource conservation group of its kind in the nation. With almost 100,000 members in 17 state chapters, CCA has been active in state, national and international fisheries management issues since 1977. For more information visit the CCA Newsroom at www.JoinCCA.org.