The Atlantic States Marines Fisheries Commission released Draft Amendment 2 of its long-anticipated menhaden fishery management plan Friday, offering a "suite of options" to manage and monitor the stock and opening the door to public comment.Uh, you're supposed to be the expert, but if it were me, I'd like the see most of the Chesapeake Bay Menhaden population reserved to feed the predators that form the recreational fishery that, well, I enjoy, and that brings an enormous recreational and economic value to the Chesapeake Bay region.
"The document essentially asks the public, 'How would you like the Atlantic menhaden fishery to look in the future?'" said Michael Waine, fishery management plan coordinator. "How would you like us to manage it?'"
According to ASMFC scientists, Menhaden were overfished commercially for most years between 1954 and 2008, and too many are still being taken to sustain a healthy population, based on a benchmark assessment in 2010. The fishery is at roughly 8 percent of its normal population, the assessment concluded.So why, a year after the first planned decrease in the Menhaden harvest on the Atlantic coast, do we have so little data? Shouldn't we be working towards getting data to back up, adjust or refute the previous plan?
The immediate goal of the draft plan is to take steps to "end overfishing and manage Atlantic menhaden not as a fishery but as a critical ecosystem component," the commission stated.
Stock data from its 2012 stock assessment update was unclear, the commission said, so coming up with hard numbers to meet such reductions is difficult. The new draft plan offers the option of leaving current harvest levels in place or cutting them by up to 50 percent. There's been a cap in place on menhaden fishing on the Chesapeake Bay since 2007 as a conservation measure.
Environmentalists and commercial fisheries are at odds over the possibility or amount of harvest reductions. "The population of menhaden is at its lowest point on record," said Chris Moore, Hampton Roads senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "If we keep continuing as now, we can't expect anything but the population to go down."
Omega Protein spokesman Ben Landry cautioned against making menhaden management decisions based on unreliable data, especially since he said deep cuts in harvesting could shutter the plant.Here we are a year later with the same old same old argument.