On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, Maryland’s top elected Leaders – Governor, President of the Maryland Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates – joined the Co-Chairs of the bi-partisan Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in formally requesting the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to reduce the harvest of menhaden. Cited in this joint statement were warning signs pointing to the ecological depletion of what Dr. H. Bruce Franklin calls in his “knock out fish story”, The Most Important Fish in the Sea.
“The warning signs are there and they are alarming” stated Delegate Peter Murphy from Charles County, Maryland. “Imagine the multi-million dollar rippling effect with a collapse of this fishery? Menhaden not only filter 4-5 gallons of nutrient-laden water a minute, but they are forage for striped bass, the prize of our recreational fishing community.“ Echoing his concerns was Delegate David Rudolph from Cecil County, Maryland. “What happens to any living resource when its food supply dwindles? Our State Fish (striped bass) depend on menhaden for sustenance and their numbers – the lowest in 50 years according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation – hover today around 8% of what used to be 70% of their diet. The prospects are bleak, something needs to be done.” Delegates Murphy and Rudolph are sponsors of legislation intended to reduce Maryland’s market share of menhaden by-products.
“The intent of our joint statement to ASMFC is a plea to mitigate the industrial exploitation of a resource that can no longer survive against spotter planes and trawlers” commented Senator John Astle, Co-Chair of the bi-partisan Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus. “We know we are only one voice on ASMFC, but Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay is the spawning ground of 75% of the East Coast’s population of striped bass. Starving fish do not reproduce very well and ultimately die.”
The sportsmen of Maryland realize their obligation to become better organized and more vocal on behalf of the menhaden fishery. “We view the March 22nd letter to ASMFC as an overdue rallying cry” stated David Sutherland, Chairman of the bi-partisan Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation. “Clearly, we must strengthen our message and our approach. Menhaden are too important for all of us not to be fully engaged and we trust ASMFC will do the right thing by reducing the industrial harvesting. Some may say we acted too late, I say our timing couldn’t be better.”
The non-partisan Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation – in partnership with the bi-partisan Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus within the Maryland General Assembly – works on behalf of current and future generations of Maryland sportsmen by helping conserve, promote and protect Maryland’s unique open space lands, wildlife and habitat, but also by safeguarding their traditional rights to hunt, fish, trap and enjoy the lawful use of their firearms.