Forage Fish Conservation Takes Another Step Forward

Ken Hinman of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation has released the below summary of the ASMFC Menhaden Management Board’s meeting in Alexandria on Wednesday.
Progress on Menhaden, River Herring at ASMFC
New management measures to conserve Atlantic menhaden moved another step
closer to becoming reality on February 9th when the ASMFC’s Menhaden
Management Board approved a Public Information Document asking for public
comment on how and when to meet a new rebuilding target adopted last
November. The new population target, according to the Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission, will “increase abundance, spawning stock biomass, and
menhaden availability as a forage species.”
“The commission is so far keeping to its tight schedule to approve the menhaden
amendment this year and get new catch limits into place by the 2013 fishing
season,” says Ken Hinman, president of the National Coalition for Marine
Conservation (NCMC) and a member of the interstate Menhaden Advisory
Panel, “That’s important, because these new fishing limits are critical to restoring
menhaden as a forage species from Maine to Florida.” Striped bass, tuna and
osprey are just a few of the marine species that depend on menhaden as prey in
east coast waters.
Although the goal of restoring menhaden has been set, the Public Information
Document, or PID, will seek input from stakeholders on a wide range of
management issues to be addressed in Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery
Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. These include whether to reduce
fishing pressure immediately or phase the cutbacks in over time; the best means
of monitoring and counting catch and bycatch in both state and federal waters;
and potential measures for regulating the commercial and bait fisheries.
The ASMFC will meet in May to review submitted comments and identify the
measures to be included in Draft Amendment 2. The amendment, with specific
management options, will be approved in August for another round of public
comment and coast-wide hearings in the fall. The final amendment is slated for
adoption in late October.
NCMC will publish information on how interested fishermen and
environmentalists can review the PID and submit comments as soon as that
information is available.
In other action, the ASMFC’s Shad & River Herring Management Board, in
response to a request submitted by NCMC, agreed to provide updated
information on state river herring regulations, many of which have changed
significantly as a result of Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management
Plan for Shad & River Herring. Amendment 2 required states to close their
commercial and recreational river herring fisheries by January 1, 2012 unless a
sustainable fishery plan was approved by Board. The requirement also applies
to bycatch fisheries in state waters, when river herring are caught incidentally
along with a targeted species.
Most states have chosen to implement closures, including restrictions on ocean
bycatch landed within the state. Understanding these new regulations is
important as the public prepares to weigh in on river herring bycatch monitoring
and reduction measures proposed in the New England Fishery Management
Council’s Amendment 5 to its Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan and
the Mid-Atlantic Council’s Amendment 14 to the Mackerel, Squid and Butterfish
FMP.
Annual river herring losses due to bycatch in federally-managed fisheries are
thought to be between 2 and 5 million fish, but poor catch monitoring in high
volume trawl fisheries for Atlantic herring and mackerel prevents a more precise
estimate. Both council amendments are expected to be released for public
comment in the coming weeks. The NEFMC is expected to take final action on
Amendment 5 during its April meeting in Mystic, CT. Final action on
Amendment 14 is scheduled for the MAFMC June meeting in New York, NY.
To develop its comments on Amendment 5, the ASMFC formed a working group
comprised of representatives from its Shad & River Herring Management Board
and Atlantic Herring Section. NCMC Executive Director Pam Lyons Gromen is
the ASMFC Shad & River Herring Advisory Panel Chair and will serve on the
working group. The Shad & River Herring Board will deliberate on Amendment
14 alternatives at its next meeting in May.

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