I attended the ASMFC Menhaden Management Board’s meeting the other day and I will say this, I am very disappointed in the outcome. In fact I am embarrassed by the outcome, Delaware in particular helped by voting for this bad decision. Months ago I had meetings with our governor and other state officials and I was given the impression Delaware would be standing up for the fish, not getting on the bandwagon to increase the total allowable catch by an extra ten percent above the status quo. Originally we were voting in favor of a twenty percent increase, which blew my mind, right then I knew we (Delaware) would not be supporting any protections or BERPS. We are allotted less than one percent of the total allowable catch (TAC), but our vote would have been very helpful to set a new precedent for forage species. I am seeing a lot of the same sentiment online from my angling friends up and down the coast. To say this meeting was a circus would be an understatement. Seriously, these folks (ASMFC reps) are patting themselves on the backs because they think they accomplished something and all they did was the exact opposite that the public wanted. To add insult to injury they even increased the existing TAC by ten percent. Over 150,000 public comments supported option E to amendment 3, to create BERPS to protect a forage fish that has a huge benefit and impact on our environment. The public was ignored.
Many people were at this meeting that took time off their jobs and lives to attend, and they all walked away shaking their heads in disbelief. I constantly tell people they should attend meetings on the state level to make a difference, this showed me that no matter public opinion or outcry, it is ignored. Very few state representatives were in favor of option E, despite what their own constituents desired. The most outspoken representative was John McMurray from New York, a charter captain that totally gets why we need better protections for the forage species. He was one of the few that spoke up about just that, other than that I heard a lot of representatives that didn’t understand the intent of option E. How can you be on this board if you don’t understand the options, or show up and not know and have to have them explained to you the day of the hearing? This has been discussed for close to a year if not longer.
Now what really scares me is what will happen to future decisions for other fish species, such as striped bass, eels, bluefish, etc. We already saw how the summer flounder was done for the benefit of New Jersey. Red snapper could go the same way in the gulf with the latest decisions. It is mind-boggling that a group that is supposed to protect and mange our fish have blatantly blown it. This is the same board that told us to reduce the striped bass catches to increase the populations. Which was great, but how are the fish supposed to eat if we do not reduce the catches of the very fish they feed on and protect them better? This was one of the reasons that protection of forage fish came into play, to feed the ever-increasing populations of predators. Save the food for the predators so they can thrive and multiply. I am just at a loss of words because I could spend hours typing up a rant on this entire two days wasted at the ASMFC.
The live coverage from the webinar are at the following links, if you would like to hear for yourself how this all went down. It was a long drawn out meeting with poor jokes and banter when people should have been seriously considering the fact they were in the process of making a historical and necessary decision.
November 13, 2017 Audio – https://youtu.be/0ksEjrOTLh0
November 14, 2017 (morning) Audio – https://youtu.be/MC2rOPvpETI
November 14, 2017 (afternoon) Audio – https://youtu.be/tt6kzGa6kZs
If you want some more references on how the public and environmental groups feel read these articles. One quotes Omega Protein … “Monday’s decision was cheered by representatives of Omega Protein Corp., whose fleet of vessels based in the Northern Neck town of Reedville catches most of the menhaden netted along the Atlantic. “It’s a good day for Omega,” said Ben Landry, a spokesman for the Houston-based company.” https://pilotonline.com/news/local/environment/big-change-for-a-little-fish-menhaden-board-says-not/article_fc438171-2538-5548-b09a-7800ef605faf.html
“This is one of those events that will cause the public to lose a lot of faith in this management process,” said David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland. “When you have that kind of public outcry and a growing realization that intense local harvest of the forage base is impacting the health of other species in Chesapeake Bay, one of the largest estuaries in the world, and still nothing changes, it leaves the public feeling completely shut out of the management process.” https://www.sportfishingmag.com/atlantic-menhaden-board-makes-incorrect-decision-with-vote
A friend of mine once said … If humans would just back off the oceans for a few years, everything could bounce back and fast. That is so true, yet we never allow that to happen.
What this all boils down to is we are just going to have to push more and get louder.
From the ASMFC press release …
Table 1. Amendment 3 allocation percentages based on a 0.5% fixed minimum during the 2009-2011 timeframe.
|Potomac River Fisheries Commission||1.07%|
Finally, the Amendment reduces the Chesapeake Bay cap, which was first implemented in 2006 to limit the amount of reduction harvest within the Bay, to 51,000 mt from 87,216 mt. This recognizes the importance of the Chesapeake Bay as nursery grounds for many species by capping recent reduction landings from the Bay to current levels.