NH: New fighing limits proposed to promote higher abundance of Menhaden on eastern seaboard

DURHAM, N.H. — The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board has
approved Addendum V to Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery
Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The Addendum establishes a
new interim fishing mortality threshold of 15% and target of 30%
(based on maximum spawning potential, or MSP), with the goal of
increasing abundance, spawning stock biomass and menhaden
availability as a forage species.

To implement the new fishing mortality reference points, the
Board has initiated development of an amendment to establish
management measures for all fishing sectors and gear types. The
percent of harvest reductions associated with the new reference
points, as well as an implementation process and timeline, will be
identified in the Draft Amendment.

“We believe that, by taking this action, we will see higher
abundance of menhaden in the future, providing more food for
predators like striped bass, bluefish and tuna, as well as an
increased supply of menhaden for use as bait by lobster harvesters
and recreational fishermen,” said Doug Grout, Chief of Marine
Fisheries at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and New
Hampshire’s Administrative Commissioner to ASMFC.

The ASMFC Commissioners representing New Hampshire — Doug
Grout, Dennis Abbott, Ritchie White and State Representative David
Watters — took a lead in developing the Addendum by making the
motion to establish the new overfishing threshold, as well as by
voting for Addendum V.

Action was needed because the most recent peer-reviewed stock
assessment for menhaden indicated that overfishing was occurring,
and the peer review panel recommended implementing more
conservative reference points that determine when overfishing is
occurring.

The current overfishing reference point equated to a maximum
spawning potential (MSP) of 8%. With the Commission’s approval of
Addendum V, the new overfishing threshold of 15% MSP would result
in a near doubling of the current population of menhaden.

To bring the fishery under the new threshold and out of a status
of “overfishing,” harvest will need to be reduced by 23% over 2010
levels. In establishing a target of 30% MSP, the Board went further
and set a goal of reducing harvest by 37% over 2010 levels, thus
reducing the chance that overfishing would occur in the future.

The Commission will now undertake development of a new Amendment
to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden to
reduce the harvest to the target level. The first step in the
amendment process will be the development of a Public Information
Document (PID), which will contain preliminary discussions of
biological, environmental, social and economic information, fishery
issues, and potential management options for action.

The Public Information Document also provides for public input
about changes observed in the fisheries; actions that should or
should not be taken in terms of management, regulation,
enforcement, and research; and any other concerns about the
resources or the fisheries. A Draft PID will be presented to the
Board at the Commission’s winter meeting in February 2012. For more
information, please contact Toni Kerns, Senior Fishery Management
Plan Coordinator for Management, at 703-842-0740 or
tkerns@asmfc.org.

 

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