ARCHIVE | March, 2011

Menhaden Management Finally Begins

ASMFC takes first steps to rebuild menhaden forage base

ALEXANDRIA, VA – For the first time ever, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission took steps to rein in the industrial harvest of menhaden and begin the process of managing the menhaden fishery. If adopted, the measures proposed today by the Menhaden Management Board would lead to a reduction of menhaden harvest in both the reduction and bait fisheries.

“After years of inaction, this is an excellent first step toward recovering a critical forage base,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic States Fisheries director. “This action is significant, simply because the science on menhaden as a vital forage base is improving, and it is the science that is now driving this process. Some folks will feel that the proposals today do not go far enough, but it is imperative to point out that although this does not get us across the plate, it does get us in scoring position.”

The latest menhaden stock assessment showed the stock was undergoing overfishing and abundance estimates were at the lowest level ever recorded. Current science indicates that the menhaden spawning stock biomass is at about 9 percent of a stock that is not subjected to any fishing pressure. The Menhaden Management Board voted to start an addendum that would increase the spawning stock biomass to15 percent.

“That would end overfishing, cause about a 10 percent reduction in landings, and potentially increase spawning stock by more than 50 percent,” said Brame.

These are interim measures that will likely be in place for three to five years until a Multi-Species Virtual Population Analysis can be conducted, which will require stock assessment updates on bluefish, striped bass, weakfish and menhaden stock.

“When that analysis is conducted, it is very possible we will have a much better idea of the population of menhaden needed to fully serve as the critical forage base for those popular sport fish,” said Brame. “The picture is constantly evolving, and we appreciate that the Menhaden Management Board worked to develop a suite of management options to use in the interim that will begin rebuilding menhaden.”

The draft addendum will be developed over the summer to be approved for public comment at the ASMFC’s August meeting. Public hearings will be held along the entire Atlantic seaboard this fall, with final action at the ASMFC?s November Annual Meeting in Massachusetts. If adopted, management restrictions could be in place for the 2012 fishing season.


South Atlantic Council Votes Down Catch Shares

Anglers applaud decision to terminate catch share development in Amendment 21

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA – Recreational anglers are applauding the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s decision today to “terminate all work relative to catch share development in Amendment 21,” the Comprehensive Catch Share Amendment. In a motion by Council member George Geiger of Florida, the Snapper Grouper Committee yesterday voted to remove catch shares from Amendment 21, setting up today’s action by the full Council. The decision is good news for recreational anglers who have been fighting the concept of catch shares as a one-size-fits-all solution to fishery management problems.

“There are so many other things for federal managers to be focusing on other than a controversial management scheme like catch shares,” said Chester Brewer, chairman of CCA’s National Government Relations Committee. “This action by the South Atlantic Council signals that NOAA should stop the rush to embrace catch shares and reconsider its priorities.”
Catch share programs set a biologically based annual catch limit for a fish stock and allocate a specific portion of that catch limit to entities, such as commercial fishermen, cooperatives or communities. Unfortunately, in fisheries where there is a large and growing recreational sector, catch shares maximize benefits to the commercial fishing industry while ignoring the participation and beneficial economic impacts of recreational fishing. CCA has engaged in a multi-tiered strategy to lessen the recreational sector?s exposure to the negative impacts of catch share programs.

“Proper management of the recreational sector should be a top priority for the Congress and for NOAA Fisheries – not catch shares,” said Brewer. “We need more frequent stock assessments, development of fishery independent data and improved recreational catch data for federal fisheries. We are very pleased that South Atlantic Council members decided to remove catch shares as a management option in this Amendment and we hope that other Councils will follow their lead.”

The catch share concept has not disappeared entirely from the South Atlantic Council’s menu of options, as work will continue on catch share development for the golden crab and wreckfish fisheries, both exclusively commercial. “We still have a lot of work to do on catch shares, but this is a step in the right direction,” said Brewer.

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