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Ecological reference points to be adopted for Atlantic menhaden

Friday, August 7, 2020

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission decided to adopt Ecological Reference Points (ERPs) for Atlantic menhaden. Omega Protein supports the decision and looks forward to working with the commission and its staff on further developing the ERP model and identifying future harvest levels for the fishery.

“The ERP working group has worked for many years to develop the ecosystem model, and we will continue to support its development as the model's accuracy and reliability improve over the next few years. It is now the responsibility of the commission to accurately estimate the populations of both menhaden and its predators and then make fair and equitable management decisions based upon the model's findings,” the company said.

The best available science shows that current management is already doing much to ensure that menhaden meets ecological needs. A recent study by Steve Cadrin of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that 99.5% of menhaden born each year are left in the water to serve as forage for predators and meet other ecosystem roles, with only one half of one percent harvested by the fishery. The latest commission stock assessment further confirms that menhaden is not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring, with menhaden biomass near record highs. The fishery is also certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

“All these positive indicators should not be surprising, as the menhaden fishery has been operating at the levels suggested by the ERP model for the past two decades. However, the commission will also likely need to control fishing on predator stocks, as many key species are currently overfished. This could result in harvest reductions for predator species; the commission cannot rely on the availability of menhaden alone to rebuild these predator stocks,” Omega Protein said.

As recognized at the commission meeting and in peer reviews by the Center of Independent Experts, having menhaden in the water at any abundance level is not guaranteed to help predator species reach their target biomass levels. In fact, expert scientists have stated that a moratorium on all menhaden fishing would not enable some predators to reach their target biomass without harvest reductions.

 

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