Political pressure affected quota decision, menhaden industry group charges

Published on
November 16, 2017

A day after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to raise the catch limit on Atlantic menhaden by eight percent, a trade group claimed on Wednesday that the commission let political pressure affect not only that raise but how quotas were allocated across member states.

The commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board approved an amendment to raise the total catch limit to 216,000 metric tons. However, in doing so, it gave each member state a minimum share of 0.5 percent. While those shares seem small for states that do not have an active menhaden fishery, the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition said it will have a significant impact on the two largest fisheries, Virginia and New Jersey.

Virginia received an allocation of 78.66 percent, while New Jersey got 10.87 percent. No other state received more than 1.27 percent of the allocation.

“The creation of a system allowing non-fishing states to ‘horse-trade’ allocation, the ‘taking’ of quota from some to give to others, and the arbitrary moving of quota from the marine ingredients fishery to the bait fishery constitute inappropriate intrusions into the market economy, our members say,” the coalition said in a press release issued late Wednesday afternoon.

The coalition said a 20 percent increase, which would have raised the catch limit to 240,000 metric tons, would have allowed all the states that sought an increase – such as Maine, Rhode Island and New York – to receive one without infringing on Virginia and New Jersey’s share. 

In addition, the coalition said “the best available science” would have allowed the commission to raise the limit to 314,000 metric tons with just a slight risk of overfishing. 

Commission officials have not yet responded to SeafoodSource’s request for comment.

On Tuesday, after the commission approved what Board Chair Robert Ballou called a “modest” increase, the coalition thanked the ASMFC for following the “best available science” in setting reference points.

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