The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) increased by 20% the coastwide quota for Atlantic menhaden. The new Total Allowable Catch was unanimously voted and it will reach 233,550 tonnes. Omega Protein supported the decision.
The evidence-based decision continues the ASMFC’s strategy of conservatively managing the Atlantic menhaden stock by providing a large buffer to ensure the target harvest rate is not exceeded. Despite the frequent demands from recreational fishing and environmental groups for a quota reduction or moratoriums, the ASMFC’s decision accurately reflects the fact that the Atlantic menhaden population is healthy, and that its fishery, which is also certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, is being managed sustainably.
The most recent menhaden stock assessment, released only three months ago and consistent with previous ASMFC, confirmed that the stock continues to not be overfished and that overfishing is not occurring. The menhaden is the first East Coast species to be managed considering ecological data collected about both the environment and predator species’ needs.
The references, which were heavily advocated for by the same groups that have traditionally pushed for quota cuts, are part of a move towards ecosystem-based management of menhaden. According to the stakeholders, a quota increase is fully compatible with these reference points and this new management approach.
“This increase in the menhaden quota is supported by all of the available science on menhaden,” said Ben Landry, director of public affairs for Omega Protein. “The commission made the right decision to support the future of the fishery and sent a strong signal that the ASMFC is going to follow the best available science.”
However, Omega Protein is disappointed by the commission’s decision to not consider any landings history before the 2018 fishing season in setting its quota. The company intends to continue to work collaboratively with the ASMFC to ensure Atlantic menhaden conservation and support the local fishery. The commercial menhaden fishery first began in Virginia in 1878 and is economically essential to Virginia’s Northern Neck, thus Omega Protein reported that expanding the menhaden fishery in other states could affect the existing fisheries.