Wednesday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Advisory Board added an “ecological reference point” for menhaden. Board Chairman Spud Woodward noted that this is “a paradigm shift in management,” one that looks beyond the abundance and death rate of a single species to take into account the role it plays within the broader marine ecosystem.
The introduction of the ecological reference point will become an important factor used by the ASMFC when it sets menhaden catch limits for the next two years, a decision it’s slated to make in October.
Industry is on board with the change. The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition offered support for the ecological reference points “provided they are considered and utilized flexibly.” The members also in the same letter urged the board to consider maintaining the status quo when it comes to catch limits.
Menhaden serve as a significant food source for other fish, including rockfish.
The new approach passed by the board Wednesday brings that predator-prey relationship into decision-making by tying the ERP to maintenance of the striped bass population, which is uniquely sensitive to menhaden fluctuations.