ASMFC Set to Advance Menhaden, Sport Fish Conservation

This week, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will meet to discuss implementation of the menhaden Ecological Reference Points (ERPs), which would represent an important first step toward true ecosystem-based management of our fisheries resources. On July 27, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joined a coalition of recreational fishing conservation organizations on a letter to the ASMFC Atlantic Menhaden Management Board in support of establishing Ecological Reference Points (ERPs).

Currently managed as a single stock like many other marine fish species, menhaden are an essential source of forage for many predatory fish, sea birds and marine mammals. However, the single stock approach does not account for how many menhaden should be reduced from the harvestable quota to ensure enough remain as prey for recreationally important species, like striped bass, bluefish and weakfish.

Menhaden are also an important commercial species. The vast majority of menhaden in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are industrially harvested for use in various products – including fish oil, animal feed, and cosmetics, to name a few – by using highly effective methods, while a smaller percentage of the commercial harvest is used for bait in other commercial and recreational fisheries.

“If the ERPs are incorporated into menhaden management, they would represent a significant step forward in the use of a science-based approach to try to account for the value of menhaden to the Atlantic Coast marine ecosystem,” said CSF Fisheries Policy Director Chris Horton. “These ERPs have been talked about and in the works for about a decade. Like with any new management technique, there will likely need to be future refinements, such as evaluating localized depletions if fishing effort is focused in too small of an area, but we’re thankful for this first step and encourage the swift adoption of the ERPs by the ASMFC.” 

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