The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on Friday approved an amendment that will reduce the total allowable catch of Atlantic menhaden by 20 percent beginning in 2013. The commission also adopted new biological reference points for biomass based on maximum spawning potential.
According to a news article in The Washington Post, hundreds crowded the meeting room in Baltimore to watch as the commission voted 13 to 3 for the amendment. Conservationists have long been concerned that this vital forage-fish species was on the brink of collapse from overfishing. Menhaden and their oil are used for many commercial purposes around the world.
The stock has shown a dramatic decline, the article states — from 90 billion fish that were one year old or younger 50 years ago to 18 billion that same age in 2010.
The amendment allocates the catch on a state-by-state basis, calculated by landings history from 2009 to 2011. Allocation will be revisited three years after implementation, the ASMFC says. The amendment also allows transfer of quota between states.
The 2013 quota is set at 170,800 metric tons, which is a 20 percent reduction from the average of landings from 2009 to 2011 and about a 25 percent reduction from 2011 levels.
“Given the stock is experiencing overfishing and is most likely overfished based on the newly adopted reference points, it was incumbent upon the Board [ASMFC] to reduce landings in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource and the fisheries that depend on it,” Chair Louis Daniel of North Carolina said.