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Menhaden Muddle Series

By Charlie Hutchinson

The Menhaden Muddle Series is a collection of writings by Charlie Hutchinson, member of the Dorchester County chapter of the MSSA. Charlie began writing a series of articles designed to gain attention and put an end to the devastation of the atlantic menhaden by the reduction fishery. Charlie has published many of these articles and several more in local and state papers. Charlie is MSSA's lead on the menhaden issue and the menhaden muddle series explains the MSSA's position as well as what needs to be done to restore and sustain a healthy menhaden fishery.

Menhaden Muddle #11

Generally the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) does not get involved in allocation issues. While they direct overall policy, such as setting harvest limits, it is left up to the individual states to develop and implement regulations that conform to the ASMFC rules. That may not be so easy with respect to menhaden.

The acknowledged need for new management methods, described as revised reference points, comes about by the recognition that the stock is at an unacceptably low level To rebuild the stock to an acceptable level will require a reduction, probably severe, in the harvest. There are two components to the removals. First, the directed fisheries for bait and reduction, for which data exists which defines the volumes they represent. Second is mortality (generally classified as natural mortality) generated by all the predators. Here data is sketchy at best so this components volume is largely unknown.

All fifteen states share in the bait fishery and in natural mortality, but only one state (Virginia) participates in the reduction industry. Of this directed or measured mortality roughly 80% is thru harvest for reduction. This leads to the possibility that 80% of the reduction in harvest would come from the industrial fishery. The balance could be shared equally (percentage wise) among the states participating in the bait fishery. Obviously the heaviest burden would fall on Virginia due to the location of the industrial fishery. Depending on the size of the cut in the overall harvest the continuation of the reduction operation may be in jeopardy. That in turn may mean some loss in employment in a period of economic instability. The severity in the reduction in employment is dependent on the severity of the cut in harvest and the point at which the reduction operations are no longer profitable. However if the present trend is allowed to continue unchecked, the economic penalty will go far beyond the reduction industry. It will affect the entire east coast and the numbers impacted will be much higher This situation makes for a very difficult decision by the Management Board. It is not likely that a decision will be made at the meeting scheduled for August 3 because the ramifications of the choices to be made will not have been evaluated by then.

What will be necessary to be considered in the decision process? For the most part the biological information normally used to determine fishery regulations will not be the determining factor: economics will, coupled with the values associated with menhaden. There are a substantial number of people who believe that the predators should be given first priority for the consumption of menhaden. There are those directly or indirectly involved in the commercial side of menhaden consumption whose livelihoods will be adversely impacted by a reduction in harvest. Finally, and what is no doubt the largest group, those who just don't care. A study of those factors was initiated three years ago by the state of Virginia and is underway. It appears that the results will be available this fall but not in time for the August meeting .The Board for the first time is going to have to step out of the comfort zone of a biological basis for management into the real world of economic factors which is new ground for them. It is way overdue.

Previous Menhaden Articles:

Menhaden Muddle #33

Menhaden Muddle #32

Menhaden Muddle #31

Menhaden Muddle #30

Menhaden Muddle #29

Menhaden Muddle #28

Menhaden ALERT

End Overfishing of Menhaden

Menhaden Muddle #27

Menhaden Muddle #26

Menhaden Muddle #25

Menhaden Muddle #24
ASMFC'S Challenge

Menhaden Muddle #23
ASMFC'S Dilemma

Menhaden Muddle #22

Menhaden Muddle #21

Menhaden Muddle #20

Menhaden Muddle #19

Menhaden Muddle #18

Menhaden Muddle #17

Menhaden Muddle #16
What would Izaak do?

Menhaden Muddle #15

Menhaden Muddle #14

Menhaden Muddle #13
Menhaden Unmuddled?

Menhaden Muddle #12
What's next for Menhaden Management?

Menhaden Muddle #11

Menhaden Muddle #10

Menhaden Muddle #9

Menhaden Muddle #8

Menhaden Muddle #7

Menhaden Muddle #6

Menhaden Muddle #5

Menhaden Muddle #4

Menhaden Muddle #3

Menhaden Muddle #2

Menhaden Muddle #1

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