The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will face a test of its commitment this week to manage menhaden as a vital forage species when it decides to either increase commercial harvest or stay the course and allow conservation measures to restore menhaden to its full ecological potential. Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) is urging commissioners to avoid the impacts of “regulatory whiplash” and stay on the schedule previously established for the full restoration of menhaden to its ecological role throughout its range.
The ASMFC is meeting Aug. 2-4 — Tuesday through Thursday — in Alexandria, Virginia, and the meetings are open to the public. Anglers are encouraged to attend and voice their opinions on managing menhaden as a critical forage species rather than as a feedstock for industrial harvesters.
“In 2012, the ASMFC made a major decision to manage menhaden as part of an ecosystem rather than as a single species, which was a philosophical sea-change that is a major step forward for improving the marine ecosystem,” said Richen Brame, regional fisheries director for the CCA. “It takes time to develop the tools and processes to manage that way, and raising harvest limits now at the first signs of improvement in the population jeopardizes the entire process.”
In a letter to ASMFC commissioners, CCA wrote that any increase in quota in 2017 without an understanding of the impacts to the ecosystem is contrary to the commission’s commitment to manage menhaden based on its role as forage through Amendment 3. Furthermore, an increase will go primarily to Virginia and New Jersey, will not address shortages in the other states and in the bait market and will not sufficiently help those states that are exceeding their small menhaden allocation.
“Any attempt to alter the current allocation formula through an addendum for 2017 presupposes that such a formula could be easily agreed to,” Brame said. “We fear that this unnecessary deviation would further delay implementation of Amendment 3 to the menhaden management plan, which already considers new allocation schemes, but only after the much anticipated socio-economic study is completed. There simply is no new science to justify a catch increase and there are good reasons to be cautious.”
The meetings will be held at The Westin Alexandria, located at 400 Courthouse Square in Alexandria. Call (703) 253-8600 to contact the location or visit the ASMFC website for the meeting agenda.