FUTURE BRIGHTENS FOR MENHADEN AND COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS
On December 14th, conservation of Atlantic menhaden finally entered the 21st century. A fishery that eluded catch limits for decades, even as menhaden numbers declined, now has a new abundance target that's four (4) times the current population and a coastwide catch limit, reduced by 20% from recent levels, to get menhaden started on the road to recovery.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission took this historic action through Amendment 2 to its interstate menhaden management plan, adopted at a special meeting last Friday in Baltimore. The purpose of the amendment, approved by a solid majority of the Menhaden Management Board (representatives of 15 east coast states, the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), is to increase menhaden abundance and availability as forage. Louis Daniel, chair of the menhaden board, told an audience of about 200 fishermen and environmentalists that they took the action "to address the ecosystem services provided by Atlantic menhaden" as well as "to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource and the fisheries that depend on it."
"The future of Atlantic menhaden and our coastal ecosystem just got a lot brighter," said National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC) president Ken Hinman, who was in Baltimore for the meeting along with executive director Pam Lyons Gromen. "As we restore menhaden numbers, we will be providing badly needed food for a long list of wild animals, from striped bass to humpback whales, predators whose supply of prey has dwindled, stifling their ability to sustain healthy populations."
NCMC's consistent presence at the ASMFC over the last ten years, demanding new ecological goals for menhaden and substantial cutbacks in catch to increase the forage base, was instrumental in moving the commission to finally change its management strategy while provoking an unprecedented groundswell of public support for menhaden conservation among fishing and environmental groups. Now, with new catch limits to be implemented in 2013 to achieve new ecosystem-based goals, our hard work is paying off. Our thanks to all of you who supported us and worked along with us in this important campaign!