**Public Comment period for Addendum V
open until 5:00 pm EST on November 2, 2011
If you care about menhaden, striped bass, bluefish, bluefin tuna, osprey and other seabirds, whales, the health of east coast estuaries like Chesapeake Bay, or the future of Atlantic fisheries in general, you now have an opportunity to support conservation measures that would restore menhaden to its rightful place as “the most important fish in the sea.”
On August 2nd, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted to send a range of options for rebuilding menhaden out for public comment. Draft Addendum V to the Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management Plan, approved by an overwhelming majority at the 15-state commission’s summer meeting, raises the overfishing threshold while proposing new rebuilding targets, all of which will substantially increase menhaden abundance.
The public has an opportunity to weigh in on these so-called “reference points” at hearings all along the east coast this fall, as well as through written comments. The ASMFC will formally adopt the new population targets and fishing limits in November, after which it will develop appropriate management measures, e.g., quotas and allocations, for review and adoption in early 2012.
“It’s an historic moment and it’s been a long time coming,” says Ken Hinman, president of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC). “Finally, the ASMFC is recommending strong action to end years of depletion, action that will revive the heartbeat of the east coast food web.”
Hinman testified for NCMC at the August meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, after working for months with commissioners and the Menhaden Plan Development Team to include conservative rebuilding targets as options in the draft addendum.
The addendum sets a new overfishing threshold of 15% of the spawning potential of an unfished population (or MSP), which would be about double the current threshold. Years of heavy exploitation, primarily by the reduction fishery operated by Virginia-based Omega Protein, have reduced the menhaden population’s productivity to a dangerously low 8% of its potential, according to a 2010 stock assessment. Most importantly, the addendum proposes that management measures be implemented to achieve target levels of either 20%, 30% or 40%MSP, with the higher targets more in line with the standards set for other key forage fish.
“The public now has a chance to give its support to the most conservative rebuilding options being considered,” says Hinman. “An opportunity like this, one that could have such far reaching effects for so many species, doesn’t come along often.”
Two Ways to Take Action: