WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / August 3, 2020 / As the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) considers whether to adopt Ecological Reference Points for Atlantic menhaden at its Summer Meeting this week, a new scientific analysis confirms that current management is working, and that the fishery has a minuscule impact on the overall menhaden population.
The review, conducted by prominent fisheries scientist Dr. Steve Cadrin of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth at the request of the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCEMFIS), found that 99.5 percent of menhaden born each year are left in the water, where they serve as forage for other species and fulfill other ecological roles. Just 0.5 percent of menhaden are harvested by either the reduction or bait fishery.
Especially notable in the review's findings was the fact that the menhaden fishery harvests very few menhaden under the age of 2, which are the ages at which menhaden are most likely to be consumed by predators. The fishery also rarely harvests older fish that are important for menhaden spawning.
Analyzing a decade's worth of the most recent data, from 2008-2017, the review indicated that current menhaden harvest levels are extremely precautionary, and that current management is already doing a good job of protecting the ecosystem.
"This review confirms that menhaden management is working for the fishery, the resource, and the environment," said Wayne Reichle, President of Lund's Fisheries, a Menhaden Fisheries Coalition member based in Cape May, New Jersey. "The Commission should consider these results while they debate Ecological Reference Points, and before they consider any adjustments to the current menhaden harvest levels."
In addition to demonstrating the minimal impact of the fishery on the larger menhaden population, the report also noted that the overall biomass for menhaden is "almost the highest on record," while similarly noting that fishing mortality is "much less than historical levels, much less than the management reference points, and much less than the rate of natural mortality," part of a trend towards lower mortality and higher biomass that began in the 1990s.
The healthy indicators for the menhaden fishery are in stark contrast to other species, specifically striped bass, which are considered to be overfished. Based on the available evidence from the most recent menhaden assessment, it is unlikely that current issues facing striped bass are a result of insufficient menhaden, given the near-historically high levels of menhaden abundance and low levels of fishing mortality.
The menhaden fishery is also certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, the preeminent fisheries sustainability certification body.
Dr. Cadrin's review is part of an overwhelming body of evidence that the menhaden fishery is sustainable and current menhaden management is successful. The Commission should not forget this success as it considers the fishery's future.
About the MFC
The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition (MFC) is a collective of menhaden fishermen, related businesses, and supporting industries. Comprised of businesses along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition conducts media and public outreach on behalf of the menhaden industry to ensure that members of the public, media, and government are informed of important issues, events, and facts about the fishery.
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SOURCE: Menhaden Fisheries Coalition