On March 22nd the ASMFC Menhaden Management Board voted (15-1) to initiate Addendum V to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The intent of the addendum is to improve stock productivity and increase abundance from current levels, using a new overfishing threshold of 15% MSP (maximum spawning potential). The addendum will include a suite of management measures to achieve a new target reference point, which is as yet undefined. (Targets are typically set safely above the threshold level in order to minimize risk of exceeding it.)
Recognizing the Addendum is an interim action, the motion also tasks the Menhaden Technical Committee (working with the Multispecies TC) with continuing work on a multispecies (ecosystem) approach using the MSVPA as a priority. During discussion of the motion, the Management Board agreed on the need to establish ecosystem management goals to assist the TC in developing ecological reference points for long-term management of menhaden.
An amended motion to include in the Addendum a broader range of optional reference points – 15%, 25% and 40%MSP – failed in a close vote (6-8).
While we are disappointed the Board did not see fit to allow the public to consider and comment on the full range of more conservative options (which were included in the August 2010 motion), the Addendum initiated at this meeting could provide a number of conservation benefits for menhaden: 1) the first Atlantic coast-wide catch limits on a fishery that has grown in recent years outside Chesapeake Bay, where fishing has been capped since 2006; 2) an end to overfishing, which occurred in 2008 and in many previous years, under the old, inadequate reference points; 3) a sizable increase in spawning stock abundance, which could increase available forage for menhaden predators and improve chances for good recruitment under favorable environmental conditions; and 4) development of ecosystem goals for future management.
President, National Coalition for Marine Conservation