Delaware Chapter asks ASMFC for stronger menhaden protections
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club is deeply concerned about the status of Atlantic menhaden. This fish was at one time considered among the most abundant off the coast of eastern North America. However, commercial fishing for Atlantic menhaden peaked in 1956 at 586,373 tonnes[i] and the current benchmark assessment shows menhaden to be hovering at a historically-low level of abundance.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s 2011 Stock Assessment shows that the primary fishing pressure on Atlantic menhaden is the purse-seine fish reduction industry, and that the majority of fishing is occurring in the Chesapeake Bay.[ii]
The current practices of menhaden fishing are not sustainable. The continuation of intensive menhaden fishing in the purse seining fish reduction industry places menhaden at a very real risk of catastrophic collapse.
The Sierra Club is concerned about the changes caused in the biological composition of marine ecosystems by commercial fishery practices. Long-term ecological health and sustainability of aquatic biodiversity must take precedence over short-term economic considerations. All parties, commercial and recreational fishers, consumers, environmental groups, governmental regulators, and the general public, must move towards a policy of recovering depleted fisheries stocks and developing a sustainable fishery management regime.
Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club asks that Delaware’s Commissioners to the ASMFC:
- use the precautionary principle when making decisions to protect the biodiversity and integrity of the coastal and ocean ecosystems;
- advocate for the transformation in the management of fisheries from a species or species complex basis to an ecosystem approach which addresses the impacts of fishing on non-target species and changes in biodiversity of the marine food web as a consequence of harvesting fish; and
- take steps to insure that the Atlantic Menhaden population is able to recover. Coast-wide management throughout the menhaden’s range should be implemented to restore the menhaden population. Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden must include enforceable annual quotas and monitoring to insure accountability. The menhaden fishery should close when the limit is reached.
[i] FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2010. Global Capture Production. Global Statistics Collections. Rome: Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.
[ii] ASMFC, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. 2011. Stock Assessment Report No. 10-02: Atlantic Menhaden Stock Assessment and Review Panel Reports. Pages 134-136, 139-140.