by Charlie Hutchinson
Well, the March 22 meeting of the Menhaden Management meeting has come and gone. The results are a mixed bag, there are pros and cons. Much of what I write here are my personal views regarding the cons. On the plus side the Board agreed to create an addendum to the fishing plan to go to public comment for a reduction in harvest that would increase the number of breeding age menhaden from the present level of 9% of an unfished stock to 15%. That certainly is a positive action where inaction has been the norm for years. The board also directed the Technical Committee to develop reference points embracing Multi Species technology. This would be expected to provide better management tools to satisfy predator requirements. All the above sounds pretty good, but put under a microscope there are some managerial flaws
First, the Commission failed to do what they said they would do when they said in their public discourse that the addendum under consideration would include a range of options. Further they said they would explain what each of the options meant in terms of reduced harvest. All of this so the public would understand what the various reference points meant in practical terms. Instead, the final motion would create an addendum with a single goal of increasing the breeding stock to 15% of an unfished stock. Pretty autocratic don’t you think? . Further, to make things more difficult, there was little explanation furnished that would define what the anticipated reduction in harvest would have to be to attain the desired increase in breeding population. I’ve seen some articles indicating that the reduction in landings would be about 10%. That’s not much of a gain in biomass. What they did say was that it would be a gain in breeding stock of upwards of 70% Again, failure to put the technical jargon in a form where non technical people who have to make decisions or who are requested to make recommendations on what they want done with THEIR RESOURCES seems to be deliberate obfuscation.
Finally I’d like to comment on the “long Range” view. An old management trick is to set a goal so high that failure to achieve is written off as excusable. The objective of ecological standards would be to provide information to describe how much or many forage fish would be required to satisfy all the predators. The Technical Committee Chair responded to a question as to which of the various techniques would best serve an objective where satisfaction of predator requirements was the primary goal. He replied that the technical community would favor the multi species approach. I guess I would too if I were a marine biologist/technician because it offers endless research possibilities—ie. employment .That sarcasm having been said, the likelihood of any near term(5 years or less) viable program is most unlikely .The data on ocean predator finfish,let alone birds and mammals doesn’t exist. Given the economic climate for both public and private funding it is not likely that funding for the necessary research will be forthcoming.
So in sum, it is this writer’s opinion that once again the can has been kicked down the road. Once again the commission has evaded any significant changes for the menhaden stock. Either they are just inept as managers or they are slick enough to hoodwink the public again.
To rectify this will require a massive effort on the part of the public and quickly.