Statement to ASMFC on Behalf of the Menhaden Coalition

The letter below was read at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting on August 3, 2010 in Alexandria, VA.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished commissioners:

I’m Jerry Benson, and I’m speaking on behalf of 34 organizations whose members are alarmed at the precipitous decline in the population of Atlantic menhaden. These 34 organizations represent over 545,000 members. They consist of anglers, conservationists, concerned citizens, and businesses … both large and small.

According to the ASMFC’s latest assessment, the coastal population of menhaden has declined 88% in the last 25 years to its lowest point in over 50 years. Many researchers have expressed concern that such a profound reduction in a key forage stock threatens the ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic. In addition to the fish, bird, and marine mammals that rely on menhaden for survival, how many other species are impacted as a result of predators being forced to turn to alternative prey? Our marine resources do not exist in a vacuum. Their interdependencies must be acknowledged and accounted for through multi-species fisheries management.

Many believe that Striped Bass is one of the species already adversely impacted by the lack of Menhaden. This places at risk coastwide recreational and commercial fisheries, which contribute thousands of jobs to the economy.

Those of you in this room share a profound responsibility. You hold in your hands the future of vast and vital public resources. Unfortunately the story of fisheries management has not always been a happy one. Not because managers did not have the facts needed to manage, but because they lacked the will to act.

Unfortunately for the resources, and the public, the penalty for inaction has usually proven to be much more costly than the price of timely action.
We implore you not to allow time consuming processes to stand in the way of protecting the public’s marine resources. We ask that you take expedited action to restore the depleted population of Atlantic menhaden to a level consistent with the needs of the ecosystems.  Thank you.

Jerry Benson
Vice President – Coastal Conservation Association Virginia

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