Getting tough on Atlantic menhaden catch limit
The Secretary of Commerce agreed with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) ruling to leave move Atlantic menhaden in the water in the Chesapeake Bay. Fish conservationists have long said Atlantic menhaden, a primary forage fish for striped bass, bluefish, tuna, whales and birds like osprey, need to be plentiful enough to fulfill their role as forage. They claim too few Atlantic menhaden in the water leads to a food shortage in the Chesapeake Bay for other species, like striped bass that have become sick in the past due to malnutrition. Simply put there has not been enough food for striped bass and other species to feed on in the Chesapeake where the striped bass have historically spawned.
The ASMFC received notification last week that the Secretary of Commerce concurs with their finding that the Commonwealth of Virginia is out of compliance with Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. Specifically, the Commonwealth has failed to implement the 51,000 metric ton Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery cap (cap).
In accordance with this finding, the Secretary has declared a moratorium on the Atlantic menhaden fisheries in Virginia waters, effective June 17, 2020. In order to avert the moratorium, the Commonwealth must effectively implement and enforce the cap prior to June 17.
“I am grateful for the Secretary’s support of the Commission’s fisheries management process and, in particular, our efforts to manage Atlantic menhaden, an important forage species, in a precautionary manner,” stated ASMFC Chair Patrick C. Keliher of Maine. “The Secretarial backstop is a key provision of the Atlantic Coastal Act.”
NOAA Fisheries letter transmitting its determination of noncompliance, stated, “NOAA Fisheries also finds that this management measure is necessary for the conservation of the menhaden resource. The best available information shows that menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay are an important component of the overall health of the stock, and further that their role as forage for predator species in the Chesapeake Bay is critical to the marine environment.”
Climate change waterfront bill passes House
A bipartisan measure to help protect working waterfronts against climate change and incompatible development pressures passed the U.S. House last week by a vote of 262-151, with 34 Republicans voting in support.
The measure, introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, D-1st District, would provide $24 million in federal grants and loans to states, which could allocate funding to municipalities, nonprofits and fishing co-ops for projects that preserve or improve working waterfront infrastructure. If approved by the Senate, it also would create a task force at the Commerce Department charged with identifying threats to working waterfronts, including climate change and marketplace pressures.
Bluefish regulations approved for 2020
Recreational Atlantic bluefish regulations for 2020 have been approved by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (Commission) from Florida to Maine. So these are the regulations that apply to anglers in MA, CT and RI.
The approved regulations are three fish/person/day for private anglers and five fish/person/day for for-hire fishermen. The 2020 regulations represent a substantial reduction compared to the federal 15-fish bag limit that has been in place since 2000.
The Commission’s actions are final and apply to state waters (0-3 miles from shore), while the Council will forward its recommendation for federal waters (3-200 miles from shore) to the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Administrator for final approval.
The most recent operational assessment of the Atlantic bluefish stock concluded that the stock is overfished but not experiencing overfishing. The new Recreational Harvest Limit (RHL) of 9.48 million pounds is an 18 percent decrease compared to the 2019 RHL.
Although the Council’s Bluefish Monitoring Committee recommended a coastwide 3-fish bag limit, the majority of comments from the public and Bluefish Advisory Panel (AP) members expressed opposition to this option, noting that it would have severe economic consequences for the for-hire sector, which was only responsible for 3.6 percent of coastwide landings from 2016 to 2018. Additionally, AP members and the public emphasized that these proposed reductions come at a challenging time for for-hire stakeholders as they are also facing new restrictions on striped bass, black sea bass, summer flounder, and scup.
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at email@example.com or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.