ASMFC Takes First Step to Reduce Menhaden Harvest

Menhaden in the hold of a commercial fishing vessel. Photo/NOAA

“Now, the hard work begins.” That was the assessment of Lynn Fegley, a Maryland fisheries biologist just moments after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday, August 3, to send a suite of 5 options to protect menhaden and rebuild the population out for public comment.

The 5 options range from maintaining the status quo—an action that would almost certainly continue overfishing—to reducing the harvest by as much as 45 percent from 2010 levels.

“We got what we wanted. Now the public will have a chance to do something for menhaden,” said Ken Hinman of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation. “They’ve given us the opportunity to put a lot more menhaden back into the water.”

Menhaden, a small, oily fish, is a primary food for striped bass and other fish. About 40 percent of the East Coast population comes from the Chesapeake Bay and about 80 percent of the coast’s striped bass start their lives in the same waters. Menhaden have been overfished in 32 of the last 54 years. The stock is at its lowest point in recorded history.

“Draft Addendum 5,” as the document is called, will be coming soon to a public hearing room in states from Maine to Florida. The vote to send it on its way was 15 in favor (including Maryland), one opposed (Virginia) and one abstention (the Potomac River Fisheries Commission).

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