Category Archives: Legislation and Regulation

Pogie (Menhaden): Public Meetings on Fishery Management: Oct. 2nd and 3rd

Public comment will be accepted until Oct. 24th (next Tuesday).  Please submit comments to comments@asmfc.org.  It is important to protect this species from overfishing.

There are two important meetings coming up soon (early next week) about Atlantic Menhaden fishing regulations.  It would great if some club members can attend and represent the sport fishermen’s interests.  There are strong commercial interests in menhaden fishing, which stress the population and have severely reduced levels of this important bait fish that sustains populations of sport fish, including striped bass and bluefish.

We had a lot of pogies around this year.  Let’s keep it that way!

This picture is from club member Mark Gilday–a pogie caught in our area (Salisbury, MA) this summer.  We only see pogies in the Gulf of Maine when the stocks are protected to allow fish to live up to six years (old for a menhaden.) Older fish are bigger and migrate farther.  We saw menhaden this year because catch limits were imposed in 2012 to protect the fish.  Don’t let them catch all the young fish down south!

Public hearings on Menhaden (pogie) management

Public input requested on Draft Amendment 3 to the Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. Public comment will be accepted until 5 p.m. Oct. 20th and should be e-mailed to comments@asmfc.org with the subject line Draft Amd. 3.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 7 p.m.
45 Elwyn Road
Portsmouth, NH

Monday, Oct. 2, 2017  at 6 p.m. (note earlier start time)
Thayer Public Library Auditorium
Braintree, MA

Do not feel that you need to know all the information shown below to attend these meetings.  The important thing is to be present and to identify yourself as a sport fisherman and member of Plum Island Surfcasters.  This will encourage the ASMFC (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission) to take the recreational fishing interests into account.  We want healthy stocks of menhaden to support the striped bass population.

Background information:

Information below comes from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission:  Atlantic Menhaden

The menhaden fishery has two components:

  • Bait Harvesting (for crab, lobster, and hook & line commercial fishing)
  • Reduction Harvesting (for processing menhaden into fish oil supplements and fish meal for animal feed)

Those are the uses for commercial fishermen.  Harvesting live menhaden for sport fishing is not included in the above uses.

Commercial Harvests of Menhaden over the Years

The “Reduction Fishery” for menhaden began in New England in the 1800s.  Menhaden were plentiful in the Gulf of Maine up until the 1960s, at which time reduction factories in New England closed.  Menhaden stocks increased in the 1970s, but fell again in the 1990s. By 2006 only one “reduction plant” in Virginia (owned by Omega Protein) was still processing menhaden into fish oil and other byproducts.   As use of menhaden for “reduction” has declined, use as commercial bait has increased.

The menhaden population has improved in recent years (but not by a lot from my reading of the graphs below.)  In the first graph, the green area represents the total mass (weight) of fish in the population while the orange line represents the number of young fish that hatched and entered the population.  The second graph shows the total amount of eggs produced by menhaden that year.

  • Menhaden fisheries were not regulated until 2012, when a 20% catch reduction was imposed (see this article from National Geographic).
  • At that time (2012) the population was only 10% of what it had been in previous years.
  • In 2015, catch limits were increased by 10% (giving back half of the original reduction from 2012.)

Is it really time to let commercial fleets increase harvests when the population is still well below historical levels?

Here is a news article that nicely summarizes the politics involved.  Most of the “Reduction Fishery” catch goes to one company (Omega Protein) in Virginia that makes fish oil.  In 2012 catch limits were reduced (and jobs at Omega Protein were lost), which were followed by an increase in the menhaden population.  With that, there are more “old fish” (six years for menhaden) and old fish migrate farther north, coming up to the Gulf of Maine.  So Maine fishermen (and lobstermen) want to start harvesting the fish and using them for lobster bait.  But Omega Protein down in Virginia wants any increases in the allowable catch to go to them before any can go to new users–like commercial fishing in the Gulf of Maine.

While those interests fight it out, we need to emphasize that a healthy population must be maintained to support other species dependent on menhaden for food.

Here is an article from National Geographic in 2015, describing the results of the previous round of decisions on Menhaden catch limits.  It gives good background on the issues from a conservation perspective.

If you can attend either meeting, please do.  It is important to have recreational fishing interests represented to the commission.

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Beach Access: Mobi-Mats for Trails on Plum Island

Club members Susie McKay and I (Kathy Strauch) attended the site visit on July 30 to see what Newburyport is doing about beach access on the north end of Plum Island. (Thank Susie for getting me there; she was the driving force.) There was one man from MBBA, but I don’t know his name. Susie and I made sure to let people know that we represented Plum Island Surfcasters. Julie from the Newburyport city conservation dept. said that signs at the roads would mark each trail and state where the trail leads. Signs at the far end near the water would be smaller and would indicate where the trail would lead to along the road. I suggested reflective signs that would be easy to find in the dark with a flashlight and she agreed that would be a good idea.

Here is a handout from the city of Newburyport describing the problem and the trails:

We saw the new Mobi-Mats  on several of the trails (newspaper article at this link ). The mats currently only cover about 1/3 of the the trails. These are expensive mats and there is not enough money to do all the trails. Because they are so expensive and there is worry they would wash away in winter storms, the mats will be pulled up before winter and put back in spring. This should prevent sand build-up over the years. Without a covering of sand, the mats are much easier to walk on than loose sand, so that will be an encouragement to people to use the trails.  These mats are designed for handicap-accessible wheel chair traffic.   Pulling a wheeled cooler or a fishing gear cart will be much easier on the Mobi-Mats than on loose sand.

All the cross trails are not being cut off; some openings are being left. The rationale being that leaving the openings is better than having people demolish sections of the fence to keep using their favored trails.

As I was viewing and listening, I kept trying to think of how the fishing community could help the restoration effort and keep good relations with the town. As the mats are very expensive, I don’t think the club could help out directly. But maybe we could be advocates for using some of the fishing license fees for this. It seems to me that walking trails to get to the beach are just as important to fishermen as fishing piers and boat launches. I suggested this to both Julie and Sharif Zeid (city council member), who both liked the idea. Sharif Zeid mentioned that all the money they have for the project comes from one-time grants and there are no recurring funds for trail maintenance.

We may hear from the city about who to contact to lobby for fishing license money.

Kathy

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Beach Access: Second Site Visit on June 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Information comes from the

Newburyport Dune Restoration and Beach Access Improvement Project

The Project Team invites you to attend our second site visit to the north end of Plum Island on June 30th at 1pm. Thanks to funding from the MA Office of Coastal Zone Management and support from MA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, lots of work has occurred over the past several months to support this natural resource, enhance user experience, and protect public safety. This is your opportunity to see the work firsthand, ask questions, and provide feedback!

We have this information from the town of Newburyport:
“Regarding the site visit, we hope to lead a tour of the area in late June so folks can see the mobi-mats, signs, and beach access trail maps we’re creating. We’ll be available to answer questions in person and talk about the work that has occurred, the process we followed, and potential next steps”.

It is important that members of the fishing community attend and present our point of view.  Please make an effort to attend if you fish this area.

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