The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission took and an unprecedented step in early November by voting for the first time in history to reduce the commercial harvest of menhaden.
Menhaden is a critical forage species in the Atlantic and the decision was made in an effort to increase its abundance and availability as a forage species for striped bass, bluefish, Atlantic tuna and other important saltwater species.
Nearly all of the commercial menhaden harvest is caught by Omega Protein Corp., headquartered in Houston, Texas, which factory processes the hundreds of millions of pounds of menhaden fish meal and oil for animal feed, dietary supplements and other commercial products.
Menhaden stocks have declined 88 percent over the last 25 years and are at their lowest abundance in recorded history.
“The most critical thing is the debate over whether or not to manage menhaden at all, is over,” said Richen Brame, CCA Atlantic Fisheries director. “It took a very long time and a lot of work by many, many groups, but the ASMFC did the right thing.”
The move was applauded by conservation, industry groups and anglers who for years had campaigned limits on the diminishing link in the food chain.
“The sportfishing industry and the thousands of anglers and recreational fishing-dependent businesses thank the commission for taking this important step in conserving menhaden,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy director.
During the public comment period leading up to this vote, the ASMFC received almost 92,000 comments, the overwhelming majority of which were in favor of reductions in menhaden harvest by the greatest amount available.