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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 #9

Reviewing the outcome of the Menhaden Management Board meeting in May, something struck me as unusual and caused me to do a little research. Following the report of Dr. La Tour, Technical Committee chairman, there were a number of questions posed by various commissioners. Among them were ones directed to why recruitment continued to be so low and was that related to abundance which in turn is influenced by mortality. Dr. LaTour's reply was that they(technical committee) could not find any correlation between mortality and recruitment. He further explained that reproductive success seems to be more influenced by environmental conditions. Since spawning takes place off shore the resultant larvae are transported into major nurseries such as Chesapeake Bay by tides and winds. These are random actions, not predictable and not manageable. Subsequent discussion among commissioners indicated they had concluded that mortality, especially caused by fishing, was not an important factor in recruitment. If so, there is a serious misconception which could lead to faulty decisions.

Just because the scientific community cannot find a link between fishing mortality and recruitment it doesn't translate to the view that fishing mortality is not important. On the surface, a plot of abundance vs. recruitment indicates both move in the same direction, ie. both decline. The recruitment curve is more ragged, due no doubt to the environmental factors previously noted. Also noted is that fishing mortality (at least from the directed fishery) has been relatively stable over the last decade while recruitment declines.

An unknown quantity in this comparison is the mortality by predators but it is believed to have increased substantially due to programs to increase predator stocks both in finfish and birds. It could be postulated that if mortality data were available and factored into these comparisons the picture might look a lot different The lack of data for all the creatures consuming menhaden is one of the most glaring shortcomings in the evaluation of sustainable abundance.

Since abundance is the major issue with respect to menhaden and since mortality (by whatever means) is certainly a factor in abundance, an F based reference point seems appropriate. Commissioners need to establish a target for abundance and then determine what level of mortality will permit the restoration of the stock to that level over a given time frame. Since we cannot determine which factor, recruitment or mortality, is the dominant factor in abundance and since directed fishing mortality is the only one manageable this real time experiment needs to be undertaken. We have little information on how these various factors interact at higher levels of abundance and it is unlikely that we will know by simulation exercises. There is no painless solution to the issue of menhaden abundance.

Previous Menhaden Articles:

Menhaden Muddle #33
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE MENHADEN BOARD

Menhaden Muddle #32
WHAT'S UP WITH OMEGA PROTEIN?

Menhaden Muddle #31
MORE VIEWPOINTS ON MENHADEN ECONOMICS

Menhaden Muddle #30
THE OUTFALL FROM BEANTOWN

Menhaden Muddle #29
ANOTHER INCONVENIENT TRUTH

Menhaden Muddle #28

Menhaden ALERT

End Overfishing of Menhaden

Menhaden Muddle #27
NEXT MOVES ON MENHADEN

Menhaden Muddle #26
A CRITIQUE...

Menhaden Muddle #25
SOME MANAGEMENT MEASURES FOR CONSIDERATION

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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