Commission restricts Atlantic menhaden catch

On Friday the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted on Draft Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic menhaden, which outlined a number of new regulations on the species. The ASMFC, comprised of representatives from 15 coastal states, took the action during a commission meeting in Baltimore, Md.

“Today the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission listened to the science and the public in taking a historic step to end overfishing of Atlantic menhaden and to begin to rebuild the population of this important little fish,” said Peter Baker of the PEW Environment Group. “By adopting the first coastwise catch limit on this fishery, the commission has begun to reverse the 90 percent plunge in the menhaden population over the past three decades. Sound science clearly calls for leaving more of these fish in the water to fulfill their ecological role. More menhaden means more food for ocean wildlife, from seabirds to whales and popular game fish such as striped bass.”

A new total allowable catch (TAC) limit, along with regulations to achieve it, will help ensure that the Atlantic menhaden biomass rebuilds and stays at desired sustainable levels.

The amendment establishes a 170,800-metric ton total allowable catch (TAC) beginning in 2013 and continuing until completion of, and board action on, the next benchmark stock assessment, scheduled for 2014. The TAC represents a 25 percent reduction from 2011 levels and a 20 percent reduction from the average of landings from 2009-2011. The ASMFC had also adopted new biological reference points for biomass based on maximum spawning potential (MSP), with the goal of increasing abundance, spawning stock biomass and menhaden availability as a forage species.

“The board has made a conscious decision to address the ecosystem services provided by Atlantic menhaden,” said Louis Daniel, chairman of the ASMFC board. “Given the stock is experiencing overfishing and is most likely overfished based on the newly adopted reference points, it was incumbent upon the board to reduce landings in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource and the fisheries that depend on it.”

Atlantic menhaden are harvested for use in fertilizers, pet food, cosmetics and for use in fish protein pills. One company, Omega Protein, is historically responsible for harvesting about 80 percent of all Atlantic menhaden. Commercial bait fishers also harvest the species for use as bait in lobster pots and for use by recreational anglers to catch game fish such as striped bass.

Industry processors and recreational anglers and environmentalists weighed in with the ASMFC and put political pressure on legislators. “We and other fishing associations sent representatives to Baltimore Friday to make sure the council knew just how important a healthy Atlantic menhaden biomass is to environment and recreational anglers,” said Steve Medeiros, president of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association.

Lubchenco leaving NOAA helm

Marine scientist Jane Lubchenco, the head of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced today that she will leave that job at the end of February. She plans to “return to my family and academia” in Oregon, she said in a message to NOAA staff members.

Ms. Lubchenco was one of President Barack Obama’s first scientific appointments, and her joint Senate confirmation hearing with presidential science adviser John Holdren gave the position an unusually high profile.

Helping family in need

The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in conjunction with the R.I. Party and Charter Boat Association (RIPCBA) and the Narragansett Department of Parks and Recreation, helped turn a recent scientific fish monitoring survey into a recreational fishing experience for a family in need.

Working with principal marine biologist Jason McNamee of DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, John Rainone of RIPCBA and Steven Wright and Tom Tessitore of the Narragansett Department of Parks and Recreation, a tautog collection survey took place on the morning after Thanksgiving. A family from the Narragansett Parks and Recreation assistance program was chosen to participate in a free tautog fishing trip aboard Captain John Rainone’s L’il Toot charter boat. While the family had an opportunity to enjoy a fun day of recreational fishing for tautog, they also helped collect 31 fish ranging from 10 to 22 inches in length for DEM’s monitoring program. Nicole Travisono, a principal biologist for Fish and Wildlife, was onboard to coordinate the scientific collection.

“Sometimes hard work is a lot of fun. In addition to the scientific benefits, the collaboration provided this Narragansett family — a father and two boys, aged 7 and 9 — an opportunity to take part in a fun-filled day of fishing on a charter vessel and to bring home some freshly-caught fish,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “While they were out in the state’s waters, they also saw dolphins — another highlight of their fishing trip. And, I bet this special project deepened their appreciation for the variety of marine life in our seas. All in all, the effort provided a boost to our science and a good day all around.”

Capt. Dave Monti has been fishing and shellfishing on Narragansett Bay for more than 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Your fishing photos in jpeg form, stories, comments and questions are welcome. Visit Capt. Dave’s No Fluke website at www.noflukefishing.com or e-mail him at dmontifish@verizon.net.

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