Menhaden Math Doesn’t Add Up

Proposed commercial harvest increase jeopardizes menhaden plan


Many places along the coast are seeing more menhaden than they have in years, and it’s a wonderful sight.

After decades of managing this important forage base as simply a feedstock for a single industrial harvester, managers cut harvest by 20 percent and agreed to manage menhaden as a critical forage base for the entire marine ecosystem. It was a sea-change in attitude and a true victory for conservation.

However, the tools to properly manage menhaden properly are still under development, and already there is serious talk of an increase in commercial harvest. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Menhaden Management Board will address the issue at their Oct. 26 meeting in Maine.   Some Board members have been discussing a possible “compromise” to increase the TAC for 2017 6.5 percent, to an even 200,000 metric tons of menhaden.  Others will be seeking even larger increases.

Those states on the outskirts of menhaden’s geographical range have only just begun to see the return of a healthy forage base. However, those gains will be jeopardized so that just two states can reap the vast majority of the increase in commercial harvest – see table below.

Instead of awarding the states with the old allocations based on poor data, managers should work through reallocation in Amendment 3, and find a proper ecosystem-based management plan before awarding more quota on bad information, especially when the largest level of harvest is concentrated at the entrance to the largest estuary on the Atlantic coast, the Chesapeake Bay.

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