Managers vote to reduce Atlantic menhaden quota by 10 percent
A coalition of angling and tackle groups offered cautious support for this week’s vote by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board to reduce the Atlantic menhaden quota by 10 percent, establishing a quota of 194,400 metric tons for the 2021 and 2022 fishing seasons. Atlantic menhaden are a primary food source for numerous sportfish populations, especially striped bass.
The harvest reduction comes in response to a recent fundamental shift in Atlantic menhaden management. In August, ASMFC unanimously adopted a new ecological management system which considers the needs of predator species and is set up to specifically help rebuild the striped bass population and fishery. Yesterday’s quota decision on menhaden is especially important to the sportfishing and boating community because it represents a follow through on the commitment by ASMFC to implement this new ecological management system.
“Given the importance of menhaden to the Atlantic Coasts largest recreational fishery it is concerning that the board set upcoming quotas at levels that include more risk than sound ecological management suggests,” said David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland. “While more fish will be left in the water for predators next year, managers should be concerned over the near-failure of recruitment of striped bass that was recently reported in the Chesapeake this year, and not lose site of the vital connection that harvest levels of menhaden have to the future of striped bass.”
“In order to have a high likelihood of rebuilding striped bass, the fishing mortality for striped bass and menhaden must each be maintained at their target levels,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “Last year, ASA supported ASMFC’s decision to control fishing mortality for striped bass to its target level, and this decision sets us on the path toward achieving the needed reductions in menhaden harvest to achieve its ecosystem reference point target level.”
Several recreational fishing and boating organizations recently sent a letter to ASMFC urging the adoption of a conservative coastwide total allowable catch that will help rebuild the iconic striped bass fishery.
“The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission took an important step in curbing harmful menhaden reduction fishing, something recreational fishing and conservation groups have been working on for more than 20 years,” said Whit Fosburgh, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s important to note that the commission’s own science showed that an additional cut is needed to give striped bass a 50 percent chance of meeting target goals. Therefore, additional harvest cuts will likely be needed to ensure the long-term recovery and health of striped bass and other important sportfish. The TRCP will continue to work to implement additional measures to guarantee there are enough menhaden in the Atlantic Basin to serve the critical role of forage as well as improve water quality.”
“This important first step by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to put science-backed limits on menhaden harvests will help support the entire ecosystem of prized sportfish that our industry’s boaters and anglers count on,” said Adam Fortier-Brown, Government Relations manager for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “While more may need to be done in the future, this significant improvement to fisheries management will allow our community to work with ASMFC to continue to reduce fishing mortality, and steward our whole marine ecosystem well into the future.”