The latest Atlantic menhaden stock assessment by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) reports that Atlantic menhaden is healthy, not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring. This assessment was completed using new ecological reference points and standards that account for the needs of predator species when determining menhaden’s sustainable status.
In the past, single-species stock assessments that found menhaden to be healthy and not overfished were criticized by some for not taking into account interdependencies between species. The ASMFC’s ecosystem-based reference points were developed over the years, with support from industry, recreational fishermen, and environmental groups, to move away from managing species in isolation and consider the needs of predator species and the ecosystem as a whole.
Two years ago, the consideration and adoption of these ecological reference points were publicly praised by numerous sportfishing and conservation groups. Today, using these stricter standards that incorporate the forage needs of predators, the new assessment has found that the menhaden fishery is sustainable, and that menhaden fishing does not negatively affect predator populations, according to ASMFC.
Despite this scientific finding, recreational special interest groups are continuing a campaign to end the menhaden fishery in the Chesapeake Bay, ASMFC said.