Menhaden Receive Groundbreaking Protection

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted unanimously on August 5 to improve management strategies for Atlantic menhaden, by requiring consideration for the baitfish’s impact on fish, birds and marine mammals up the food chain.

The adoption of this new ecological management system considers the needs of predator species, and will begin the process of allowing fish such as striped bass and bluefish to meet population targets. Menhaden is the first fishery on the East Coast to shift to an ecosystem management approach.

“This landmark decision represents a new era in fisheries management,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We are grateful for the Commission’s support of comprehensive strategies that support the entire Atlantic ecosystem. This decision will spur healthier menhaden and game fish while supporting the recreational fishing economy along the eastern seaboard.”

The Commission worked for over a decade to vet several ecosystem models that led to the development and implementation of key ecological reference points for Atlantic menhaden. The selected model includes important predator species such as striped bass and bluefish, as well as alternative prey such as Atlantic herring. Ultimately, these reference points can be used to set quotas that will help ensure enough menhaden are left in the water to help stocks of other fish rebuild from overfished conditions.