Commission Seeks Input on Atlantic Menhaden Allocation

The public comment period has closed.  The ASMFC Atlantic Menhaden Management Board is scheduled to meet on November 9 to select final options and consider final approval of Addendum 1.  Thank you for your support!

Voice Your Support for Options that Best Conserve Menhaden

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)  is seeking public input on potential changes to the commercial allocation and the catch accounting of Atlantic menhaden.  Draft Addendum 1 to Amendment 3 of the Atlantic Menhaden Interstate Fishery Management Plan is out for comment until September 30.  Wild Oceans and our allies are advocating for options in the addendum that promote conservation and a more equitable distribution of the menhaden resource, and we need your voice!

Because of the work of many dedicated groups and individuals, the Atlantic menhaden fishery is now managed using ecological reference points designed to account for menhaden’s importance as forage, especially for its main predator, striped bass.  In recent years, the menhaden stock’s biomass has risen, and its distribution has expanded, resulting in a significant increase in availability in New England state waters.  The new addendum seeks to address these changing dynamics of the menhaden fishery.  

How Atlantic menhaden biomass is distributed and fished along the coast are important considerations for sustaining predators, including recovering populations of striped bass and bluefish, that depend on the availability of various year classes of menhaden (and other forage species) throughout their range.  The menhaden fishery should be distributed throughout the species’ known geographic range, not concentrated in the middle of its range, especially in and near the Chesapeake Bay, the most important menhaden nursery along the coast.  Yet currently more than 78% of the coastwide quota is allocated to Virginia with the lion’s share of Virginia’s allocation going to the industrial reduction fishery that operates in bay waters.  We support options that allocate a greater share to northern states and that best align with the availability of the resource.

The addendum also proposes an option to close what we believe is a serious loophole in the menhaden plan.  Currently, menhaden landed as incidental catch or under a small-scale fisheries provision do not count against the TAC.  Landings in these categories increased by over 200% from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019.  Last year, incidental catch and small-scale landings amounted to 13.2 million lbs.  An option in the addendum would close this loophole by ensuring that all landings are evaluated against the TAC.

In addition to selecting final options for Addendum 1, the ASMFC Atlantic Menhaden Management Board is scheduled to set the coastwide TAC for the 2023 through 2025 fishing years, and it is considering raising the TAC based on a new single-species stock assessment that shows that the biomass has increased above the target level.  However, the ecosystem-based stock assessment that informs the ecological reference points (ERPs) has not been updated, and important information about the current state of predators and the forage base is not taken into account.  For example, Atlantic herring, a primary alternative prey species to menhaden, is now overfished at just 21% of the target biomass.  Within the ecosystem, the depletion of Atlantic herring has likely had wide-ranging effects on both prey and predators, and these impacts will continue as the herring stock slowly rebuilds.  We are advocating for the TAC to remain at the current level until the ERP assessment is updated.

Read our comment letter to the ASMFC.

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