Public comment will be accepted until Oct. 24th (next Tuesday). Please submit comments to email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Draft Amd. 3.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 7 p.m.
45 Elwyn Road
Monday, Oct. 2, 2017 at 6 p.m. (note earlier start time)
Thayer Public Library Auditorium
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.
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.