LINTHICUM, MD – On Nov. 14, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board approved Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Menhaden Interstate Fishery Management Plan.
AMD 3 was initiated in 2016 to address menhaden’s role as forage fish through use of ecological reference points (ERPs).
However, until the Biological ERP Workgroup completes the modeling process necessary to establish menhaden-specific ERPs, three interim ERPs were proposed based on existing guidance for forage fish as a whole and using a precautionary approach. (See CFN, Oct. 2017).
Atlantic menhaden are not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring. The 2017 stock assessment update indicates that the stock is healthy and increasing in abundance in the northern range.
It was that increased abundance that led to several members of the public and the board to suggest that there was an overall shift north, allowing states without historic landings and quota entry into the fishery.
But many board members were concerned about the economic impacts on existing ports of changing to a precautionary approach for establishing the total allowable catch (TAC) without a clear need for it.
The board voted 15-5 to continue with the existing single-species method of determining TAC until staff has completed its analysis.
Representatives from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania voted against the motion, preferring to use a 75% fishing mortality (F) target and 40% fishing mortality threshold.
The board then discussed at length whether to set the 2018-2019 TAC at its current level or to increase it over time, under alternative risk scenarios.
In the end, the TAC was set at 216,000 mt, an 8% increase over the 2017 TAC of 200,000 mt and the lowest possible increase with a zero percent risk of causing overfishing.
“Through adoption of Amendment 3 and the setting of the 2018 and 2019 TAC at a risk-adverse level, the board has demonstrated its continued commitment to manage the menhaden resource in a way that balances menhaden’s ecological role with the needs of its stakeholders,” board chair Robert Ballou of Rhode Island said.
“While the board’s action was not supported by the majority of public…
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