May 4, 2015
Bay Foundation: Don't Raise Menhaden Catch Quotas without Ecological Safeguards
(RICHMOND, VA)—Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Senior Scientist Chris Moore issued the following statement regarding possible changes to coast-wide menhaden harvest quotas by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Menhaden Management Board. The Board, which meets Tuesday, May 5, in Alexandria, VA, is considering increasing 2015 catch quotas based upon a recent stock assessment that found the coast-wide menhaden population is larger than earlier thought. CBF, however, is concerned that because the recent stock analysis was a "single-species assessment," it does not fully account for menhaden's ecological value as an important forage fish for striped bass, bluefish, ospreys, eagles, marine mammals, and other species.
"Although CBF is encouraged by the recent stock assessment, the results are actually mixed. The assessment found that total biomass is at an acceptable level but that overall menhaden abundance is at levels lower than when the fishery was declared overfished in the 1960s. And numbers of prey are what matters to predators.
"There is still important work to be done by ASMFC to ensure menhaden can fulfill their critical role as forage fish in the coastal and Chesapeake Bay food web. CBF strongly recommends that ASMFC take no action to increase harvest quotas until ecological reference points are adopted or other measures taken that ensure menhaden's ecological role is safeguarded."