Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Menhaden Lose Battle Over Ecological Value

Fishery managers reject - for now - bid to manage menhaden for their ecological value
East Coast fishery managers Monday rejected a proposal backed by conservation groups to start setting harvest limits for Atlantic menhaden based on their role as food for other fish and wildlife, not merely their commercial value.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission received nearly 160,000 public comments, more than 99 percent of which urged it to adopt the new harvest guidelines, or reference points, that would take the ecological role of the fish into account when setting catch limits. If adopted, the guidelines would almost certainly have required a reduction in the current coastwide menhaden catch limits of 200,000 metric tons.

While menhaden are not considered overfished — their abundance appears to be increasing along the East Coast, scientists say — conservation groups contend that current management does not adequately account for the importance of the small, oily fish as a food source for marine mammals, many birds, and a host of other fish, such as striped bass.

But critics — which included ASMFC’s own scientific advisors, as well as the commercial menhaden industry — said the reference points under consideration were based on studies of other species in other places and may not be applicable to menhaden.

The ASMFC has assembled a panel of scientists which is working to produce its own recommendations, tailored specifically to menhaden, which will take into account the fishes’ role as a food source. Those recommendations are not expected to be ready until 2019, though, and efforts in the past to account for the ecological role of menhaden have failed to meet deadlines.
Well, that was quick. Maybe next time.

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