(ALEXANDRIA, VA)—Chesapeake Bay Foundation Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough issued the following statement after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Menhaden Board meeting this morning. The Board postponed a decision on a proposed increase to the 2017 menhaden harvest cap until the ASMFC's annual meeting in late October.
"The Management Board should maintain the status quo for another year when it meets this fall. Now is not the time for an increase in the menhaden harvest cap. We risk causing serious harm to this critical fish population just as it is recovering.
"No new data has come out since the Board's decision last year to up the quota by 10 percent. There were troubling signs in the previous assessment, which showed that the total coast-wide number of menhaden was very low despite gains in larger menhaden.
"The Board needs to stay focused on the new management plan for the menhaden fishery it is developing for 2018. The plan, known as Amendment 3, will factor in menhaden's important role as food for striped bass, bluefish, osprey, and other species. There will also be a new scientific assessment of the menhaden population in 2017 that will provide a stronger basis for Board decisions.
"Additionally, the new plan will revisit how to best allocate the menhaden harvest among Atlantic coast states and between the bait and reduction fisheries. The current plan allows one company to take 80 percent of the coastwide catch, while most states and their fishermen have one percent or less.
"We hope that the Board will stay on track to address these issues during the next year through the development of its new management plan with the benefit of the latest science."