By Charlie Hutchinson
The November 8 ASMFC meeting in Charleston did not produce the expected results (i.e. no addendum to the menhaden fishery management plan). The primary reason given was that during the work to determine new reference points, it was discovered that an error was made in the 2009 stock assessment. Simply put, mortality was underestimated thus stock abundance was overestimated. Both factors result in the stock level being worse than reported. Consequently there should logically be more concern about changing management methods.
Reports were given by both the Menhaden Technical Committee and the Multispecies Technical Committee. Both were asked when they could deliver the information asked for at the August meeting. Dr. Latour stated that the Menhaden TC could deliver new reference points for the March meeting including the effects of each on the level of the corresponding reduction in harvest. Dr. Cieri said that the Multispecies TC might be able to respond by September of 2011.
The Board exhibited considerable frustration that they were not getting the information they needed in a timely fashion. A vote was taken as to whether drafting an addendum should proceed in March 2011 or wait for September, when perhaps additional information would be available. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of acting in March.
I recommended involving the Committee on Economic and Social Sciences in the decision process. Assurances were made that such an inclusion would occur. Further, the Chair said that it was time now to start discussing how the Board would go about managing under new regulations including getting involved in the allocation issues. The fact that six months will elapse between the March and September ASMFC meetings sparked the chairmans proposal to get a head start on management options.