Managers vote to reduce menhaden quota by 10 percent
At their meeting on October 20, the Atlantic Menhaden Management Board approved a 10% reduction of the menhaden quota for the 2021 and 2022. Several fishing and boating organizations voiced support for the decision as a step toward improved management of menhaden, while also encouraging additional harvest cuts in the future. Atlantic menhaden are a primary food source for numerous sportfish populations, especially striped bass.
The harvest reduction comes in response to a recent fundamental shift in Atlantic menhaden management. In August, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) unanimously adopted a new ecological management system that considers the needs of predator species and is set up to specifically help rebuild the striped bass population and fishery.
“In order to have a high likelihood of rebuilding striped bass, the fishing mortality for striped bass and menhaden must each be maintained at their target levels,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “Last year, ASA supported ASMFC’s decision to control fishing mortality for striped bass to its target level, and this decision sets us on the path toward achieving the needed reductions in menhaden harvest to achieve its ecosystem reference point target level.”
“[ASMFC] took an important step in curbing harmful menhaden reduction fishing, something recreational fishing and conservation groups have been working on for more than 20 years,” said Whit Fosburgh, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s important to note that the commission’s own science showed that an additional cut is needed to give striped bass a 50 percent chance of meeting target goals. Therefore, additional harvest cuts will likely be needed to ensure the long-term recovery and health of striped bass and other important sportfish. The TRCP will continue to work to implement additional measures to guarantee there are enough menhaden in the Atlantic Basin to serve the critical role of forage as well as improve water quality.”
“This important first step by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to put science-backed limits on menhaden harvests will help support the entire ecosystem of prized sportfish that our industry’s boaters and anglers count on,” said Adam Fortier-Brown, Government Relations manager for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “While more may need to be done in the future, this significant improvement to fisheries management will allow our community to work with ASMFC to continue to reduce fishing mortality, and steward our whole marine ecosystem well into the future.”
“Given the importance of menhaden to the Atlantic Coasts largest recreational fishery, it is concerning that the board set upcoming quotas at levels that include more risk than sound ecological management suggests,” said David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland. “While more fish will be left in the water for predators next year, managers should be concerned over the near-failure of recruitment of striped bass that was recently reported in the Chesapeake this year, and not lose site of the vital connection that harvest levels of menhaden have to the future of striped bass.”