I recently pulled this off of flyshop.com, flyfisherman magazine's on-line site.
December 15, 2003
Group Calls for Menhaden Conservation
National Coalition for Marine Conservation plan is backed by anglers and Conservationists
The National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC) will go before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission when it meets in New York this week and present a new plan to conserve menhaden, one of the most important prey fish on the east coast. Citing the diminished ecological role of menhaden caused by overfishing in Chesapeake Bay - in particular the threat it poses to the sustainability of the hard-won recovery of striped bass (rockfish) - NCMC will ask the Commission's Menhaden Management Board to begin immediately the process of amending the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden.
"We believe, as do other fishing and conservation organizations along with thousands of anglers, that there is a danger to striped bass and other key predators if we continue to harvest menhaden the way we do," warns NCMC president Ken Hinman, who also serves as a member of the ASMFC's Menhaden Advisory Panel. "We are urging the Commission to amend its coast-wide management regulations to change the way we fish for menhaden, in a way that respects its role in the food chain, before an ecological crisis occurs."
The harvest of the small but nutritionally-rich menhaden, a stock found from Maine to Florida, has become more and more concentrated within Chesapeake Bay. Since 1997, 58% of the entire east coast catch (by weight; nearly 70% by numbers of fish) has been taken from waters of the Bay. Abundance of juvenile menhaden, fish less than 3 years of age that are of prime forage size, has been in decline since 1990.
Meanwhile, adult striped bass, whose diet historically has consisted of 70-80% young menhaden, are exhibiting signs of malnutrition, with many fish carrying only a fraction of the body weight typically found in healthy fish. Up to half the Bay's stripers are infected with mycobacteria, a chronic wasting disease that scientists believe is stress-related and could be linked to malnutrition and/or poor water quality. The disease, rare in wild fish, first appeared in 1997 and has been increasing in frequency and severity ever since. It now has been detected in the coastal population.
In fact, overfishing in the Chesapeake, which produces nearly half of each new generation of menhaden for the coastwide stock and up to 90% of migratory striped bass, endangers stripers and other predators (bluefish, weakfish, waterbirds) throughout their range. Anglers up and down the coast sacrificed for more than a decade to restore the once depleted rockfish. NCMC is coming to this week's meeting armed with strong support from anglers.
On Wednesday, NCMC will present the ASMFC board, which consists of representatives from every east coast state, with a petition signed by thousands of striped bass fishermen from New England to Florida who feel large-scale netting of menhaden in the Chesapeake must be curtailed. The petition was circulated as part of NCMC's "Save the Stripers" campaign, the grassroots portion of NCMC's effort to conserve menhaden. The campaign has also received wide support from numerous fishing clubs, tournaments, striped bass web sites, tackle shops and marinas. In addition, NCMC will be joined in New York by regional and national fishing and environmental groups also requesting action by ASMFC to protect and preserve menhaden's critical role as forage for a wide range of predators and as important filter feeders of bay and coastal waters.
NCMC is urging the interstate fisheries panel to begin at once amending the menhaden management plan to:
Make preservation of an adequate supply of menhaden as forage for predators and as a critical filter feeder of coastal waters, on both a coastwide and regional (e.g., Bay-wide) basis, the primary plan objective.
Incorporate the results of numerous independent studies that indicate a diminished role for menhaden in the ecosystem into the menhaden stock assessment.
Add a new definition of "ecosystem overfishing" that accounts for ecological linkages and includes biological reference points and triggers for management action.
Establish a conservative, precautionary total allowable catch that provides a suitable buffer against ecosystem overfishing, with appropriate measures to control the harvest of immature menhaden and disperse effort away from nursery areas, such as Chesapeake Bay.
"Anglers and conservationists have raised concerns about the menhaden situation for at least the last seven years. Meanwhile, the amount of menhaden that can be taken from Chesapeake Bay remains unregulated, as does the composition of the catch (size/age)," points out NCMC's Hinman. "We need to act now to prevent overfishing of menhaden, by implementing risk-adverse policies, at least until we have the answers to some increasingly disturbing questions - questions that won't go away until they are addressed in a well-defined, informed and comprehensive manner."
If the ASMFC responds, as it should, by setting into motion the plan amendment process in 2004, the public will have the opportunity, as it should, to review along with fishery managers the options for taking an ecosystem-based approach to managing the menhaden fishery.
The National Coalition for Marine Conservation, celebrating 30 years in 2003, was founded by conservation-minded anglers. The NCMC is dedicated exclusively to conserving ocean fish and their environment. The organization was a major player in the return of striped bass. In 1977 NCMC held a workshop laying the groundwork for the Interstate Striped Bass Management Project; in 1980, organized a national conference that influenced adoption of the first Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan; and in 1984, lobbied successfully for the federal Striped Bass Conservation Act.
Since 1997 the conservation group has spearheaded efforts to incorporate predator/prey relationships into fisheries management; served on the National Ecosystems Principles Advisory Panel which submitted a Report to Congress calling for a change to ecosystem-based fishery management; in 2000, NCMC published its influential report, "Conservation in a Fish-Eat-Fish World."
I can assume BENTROD is totally against this, so there is no need for his comment. All others please sound off.