Friday, May 30, 2014

Watermen Lose Menhaden Suit

A judge in Dorchester County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the state in a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources that concluded on Wednesday.

While Judge David B. Mitchell said the evidence the plaintiffs produced in the trial “clearly addresses the economic impact” and establishes their dissatisfaction with 2013 menhaden regulations, he said, “Their responsibility is to show, as we mentioned earlier, that the state exceeded its legislative mandate and it’s a violation of the Constitution and that the process of the state adopting these regulations is flawed.”

“Their case is still lacking the ability to sustain their burden placed upon them by the law,” Mitchell said about the plaintiffs just before ruling in favor of DNR.
. . .
Lewis argued outside of trial that menhaden, which DNR calls a migratory fish, shouldn’t be treated as a coastwide species in Maryland, which was deduced through his and other watermen’s observations while working on the water.

Lewis said the Chesapeake Bay has its own spawning stock of menhaden, meaning, for the plaintiffs in the case, the ASMFC passed down regulations that are arbitrary for Maryland.

“They’re regulating it coastwide, and we’re saying that we have a local stock that don’t migrate out into the ocean,” Lewis said. “We’re saying we have a local population here that spawns, lives year-round right here, which would make it a unique situation on the coast, and they’re trying to adopt coastwide regulations and adapt them to an inland fishery.”
That's certainly a novel approach. It's pretty well established that the majority of Menhaden present in the Bay in summer migrate to the warmer waters of the coast in winter. From
Found inshore in summer, but at least some moving into deeper water in winter. Adults are found in near surface waters, usually in shallow areas overlying continental shelf, in greatest abundance immediately adjacent to major estuaries. Juveniles are also generally pelagic, with smallest size groups farthest up river. Form large and very compact schools, both of juveniles and adults. Migrate north - south; also in and out of bays and inlets. Feed by filtering phytoplankton (diatoms) and zooplankton (small crustaceans, annelid worms and detritus). High water temperatures apparently limit breeding. Spawn probably all year; nursery areas in estuaries. Larvae are pelagic, probably spend about a month in waters over continental shelf, entering estuarine waters at about 10 mm and larger. 
But even if true, I would argue that the need for protection for a local, Chesapeake Bay population would be even greater than for a pan-coastal population, as it would be more impacted by local over-fishing.

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