Fishery management allows for increased menhaden catch
Dan Radel, 5:34 p.m. EDT May 5, 2015
In a decision that appears to have given some satisfaction to fishermen and environmentalists, fishery managers decided to increase the coastwide catch of menhaden by 10 percent.
It comes two seasons after decreased catch limits were imposed on the fishery by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — the body that manages the fishery. That was the first time any catch limits were placed on menhaden.
"The past couple of seasons have been difficult for many in the fishery, including our purse seiners, gillnetters, poundnetters and shoreside businesses," said Greg DiDomenico, of the Garden State Seafood Association and member of the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition. "Today's decision doesn't make us whole, but it puts us back on the right course with potential for additional increases based on sound, science-backed management."
The ASMFC voted to increase the total allowable catch to 187,880 metric tons for 2015 and 2016, up from 170,800 tons.
In 2012 the ASMFC reported the stock of menhaden — or bunker, as many fishermen call them — was experiencing overfishing and instituted a 20-percent coastwide reduction of the harvest.
Earlier this year however, they reversed their opinion based on the 2014 stock assessment. They found the fish's spawning stock was near record levels and above historic averages.
A technical committee was tasked to develop harvest scenerios which, the ASMFC voted on today at their Spring meetings.
Environmental groups urged the ASMFC to not make any large increases to the total allowable catch to the oily baitfish, which plays a critical role in the marine food chain.
Joseph Gordon, manager of northeast U.S. Oceans for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said large increases would be a risky idea that could cut short the menhaden recovery underway.
The ASMFC also adopted a fishery management plan that will develop ecological reference points and allocations which Gordon called a “wise choise” to develop a modern, big picture approach to managing the menhaden.
“This will not only help keep striped bass, whales, seabirds, and other menhaden predators healthy, it will also support the interests of thousands of anglers, birders, and business owners from Maine to Florida,” Gordon said.
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