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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 #8

I thought that the Menhaden Muddle series of articles would cease with #7. Apparently there is more work to be done. At the ASMFC May 6 meeting of the Menhaden Management Board they decided that new reference points were necessary to provide more protection for menhaden, The motion for their action was initiated by the state of Maine although it is clear that Maryland was heavily involved in formulating the motion. The motion includes the following:

  1. Technical Committee to develop alternative biological reference points, if possible, for the August 2010 meeting.
  2. Reference points to include protection for spawning stock biomass
  3. Multispecies Committee to work with the Technical Committee to account for predation in the new reference points.
  4. New reference points to consider those currently employed for other stocks of pelagic forage fishes.
It is clear that the Board recognizes the present fishery management methods for menhaden are not working. Their solution is to raise the bar as to what are acceptable abundance levels for a forage species. While this is going in the right direction, there are a host of obstacles to overcome. An attempt will be made here to outline what some of them are.

First, the Technical Committee is being asked to develop new standards in 90 days which reflect predator needs. The facts are that the data does not currently exist to include a much more representative group of predators. There would be a lot of research required over a fairly long time frame (years) and many dollars which are not easily obtained. The Technical Committee has an easy way out on the Boards request as it is simply not possible to do this kind of work in the short term.

If the experience of other fisheries for forage fish is utilized as the basis for setting abundance and mortality criteria it is likely that the Technical Committee would reject this approach as lacking scientific basis. In effect they would put the ball back in the Management Boards court by indicating that this approach is clearly not in their purview, but they could evaluate the effects for the Board of a decision of this type .A white paper outlining how this methodology can be used was submitted over a year ago by the National Coalition for Marine Conservation .Thus far it appears to have been ignored.

Assuming that new reference points are created, by whatever means, by the nature of what they are to include it would be inevitable that the stock would be considered overfished. That determination would require remedial action. The only way to rebuild the stock is to reduce the harvest. If the decrease is significant, and it would have to be to make any headway in a reasonable time frame, the next issue is how to implement the change. This will be a very contentious issue particularly for the reduction industry since they are responsible for +/- 80% of the harvest. This kind of decision making will not be easy and one wonders if the Management Board is up to the challenge.

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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