State management body prepares to defend forage base conservation measures
Coastal Conservation Association applauds the efforts of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to force the State of Virginia to comply with the provisions of Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management Plan. While an immediate finding of Virginia to be out of compliance with the plan was delayed to the Commission’s August meeting, a motion to send a letter to Virginia’s Governor and General Assembly urging compliance in the strongest possible terms was adopted unanimously, with the federal services abstaining.
Several board members justifiably expressed disappointment with Virginia’s stance, but were willing to provide Virginia’s new administration with more time to comply. CCA encourages the ASMFC to continue to hold Virginia accountable for the proper management of the menhaden resource and, in particular, the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay harvest cap of 51,000 metric tons.
“While not as strong an action as they might have taken, the Board did make it clear they were not satisfied with Virginia’s inaction,” said Richen Brame, CCA regional fisheries director. “This is a fair step given the situation but it should be made absolutely clear that the ASMFC will not stand by and allow a state to simply disregard provisions of a duly approved and adopted management plan.”
When it was passed late last year, Amendment 3 was expected to usher in a new era of menhaden management by taking into consideration its critical role as a keystone prey species in Atlantic marine and estuarine systems. However, early this year the Menhaden Management Board (MMB) delayed an opportunity to guarantee the ecosystem role of menhaden despite more than 150,000 public comments in support. Lowering the Chesapeake Bay harvest cap on menhaden from 87,000 to 51,000 metric tons is the sole remaining important conservation outcome from Amendment 3. Virginia’s General Assembly has expressed its intention to allow its commercial menhaden harvesters to exceed the cap, although the industry has not yet done so.
“We support the ASMFC’s action and hope Virginia will agree to reasonable regulation of the menhaden reduction industry in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Brame. “If they do not, the ASMFC must find them out of compliance and recommend the Secretary of Commerce intervene and take action to enforce the regulations.”