New England fishermen upset over menhaden catch hike

Published on
October 28, 2016

Commercial fishermen in New England are upset with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) despite their decision to raise the total allowable catch (TAC) by 6.45 percent for menhaden decision earlier this week.

Commercial fishermen were pushing the commission for a substantial catch increase of at least 20 percent, saying that recent studies showed there were plenty of menhaden in coastal waters, according to the Bay Journal.

Conservationists had urged the ASMFC to maintain the previous catch limit, since the organization had already raised the TAC 10 percent last year.

Three-quarters of all menhaden caught coastwide are netted by a fishing fleet owned by Omega Protein Corp., which processes them into meal and fish oil at a plant in Reedville, Virginia , the report said. The rest are caught by others for bait, and some argue the formula used to distribute those catches among coastal states and types of gear should be tweaked. While studies are under way to help address those issues, they won’t be ready until next year, the Bay Journal reported.

Meanwhile, the Commissions’ Atlantic Menhaden Management Board said it approved the (TAC) of 200,000 metric tons, because the increase has a “zero percent probability of resulting in overfishing,” the ASMFC said in a statement.

“Given the healthy condition of the resource, this modest increase provides additional fishing opportunities while the board proceeds with the development of Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan,” said Board Chair Robert Ballou.

In addiiton, the board approved the Public Information Document (PID) for Draft Amendment 3 for public comment. The PID presents a suite of tools to manage the menhaden resource using ecological reference points as well as options to allocate the resource among the states, regions and user groups.

“As the first step in the amendment process, the PID provides stakeholders with an opportunity to inform the Commission about changes observed in the fishery and provide feedback on potential management measures as well as any additional issues that should be included in the draft amendment.

The PID will be available on the commission’s website early the week of 31 October.

“It is anticipated that the majority of states will be conducting public hearings over the next couple months,” the commission said.

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