Osprey Concerns Spur Renewed Discussion of Chesapeake Bay Menhaden Management at ASMFC

The effects of the Chesapeake Bay menhaden fishery on osprey sparked discussion at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board’s April 30 meeting.  

Based on recent scientific data and citizen concerns, Maryland’s delegation, which includes CBF’s Maryland Executive Director Allison Colden, requested the Board be briefed on the latest data on osprey abundance, nesting success, and when and where osprey spend time and nest in the Chesapeake Bay.  

The request aims to help gather initial information to ensure that menhaden can play their critical role in the Bay’s food chain. The presentation is expected to occur at ASMFC’s summer meeting from August 6 to 8.  

Osprey nests in parts of the lower Chesapeake Bay were failing at the highest rate ever recorded last year, according to data released in July 2023 by the College of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology. Similar concerns have also been noted in Maryland.  

Osprey abundance is tightly linked to menhaden abundance. The ASMFC’s ecosystem models indicate that osprey and other fish-eating birds are the most sensitive species to changes in menhaden fishing - even more so than striped bass, the species that serves as the basis for the Commission’s current management.  

Menhaden, due to their high oil content, are the target of a major industrial fishery in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay. More than 70% of the total harvest of menhaden coastwide is harvested by Ocean Harvesters, formerly Omega Protein, for reduction into other commercial products. 

While the ASMFC currently considers how the menhaden fishery affects the food supply for striped bass, existing reference points do not explicitly take into account impacts to birds or marine mammals that feed on menhaden.  

Unfortunately, a key opportunity to better understand the connections between menhaden and its predators in Chesapeake Bay was missed when a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee unanimously pushed consideration of House Bill 19 into 2025.  

HB 19, introduced by Delegate R. Lee Ware, would have funded a robust study of the population of menhaden. The subcommittee’s vote in January followed state-led efforts by a broad group of stakeholders, which included Ocean Harvesters, to develop a suite of priority research recommendations to determine the health of the menhaden population in the Bay.  

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Executive Director Chris Moore issued the following statement: 

“Following recent discouraging setbacks for menhaden conservation, the ASMFC can take an important next step for ecosystem-based management of the menhaden population and fishery. Obtaining additional information about the forage needs of avian predators such as osprey will continue our efforts to manage menhaden based upon an ecosystem approach. CBF hopes these efforts will be complemented by full funding and implementation of the menhaden study developed by Virginia.”    

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Maryland Executive Director Allison Colden issued the following statement: 

“Menhaden play a key role in the Bay’s food chain, but there is a critical data gap in understanding the needs of predators in the Chesapeake Bay. By considering impacts to other species of concern like osprey, the ASMFC is on a path toward more holistic management of the menhaden fishery.” 


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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