Vote for Menhaden, the Most Important Little Fish in the Sea!

In a landmark move last year, East Coast fishery managers—responding to a plea for action by more than 90,000 people like you—committed to advancing new protections for Atlantic menhaden. Now we need your help to make sure these plans become real improvements on the water.

Menhaden populations have plummeted 90 percent over the past 25 years and remain at an all-time low—just 10 percent of historic levels. Because these small fish are prey for larger animals, this decline threatens to disrupt coastal and marine food webs and affect the thousands of fishing, whale-watching, and bird-watching businesses that menhaden help support.

We need to leave more menhaden in the ocean to promote their recovery. There is no limit on the total amount of these fish that can be caught at sea. Every year, hundreds of millions of them are ground up to make fertilizer; fish meal for farm animals, pets, and aquaculture; and oil for dietary supplements.

Fishery managers need to hear from you! On Dec. 14, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will make decisions that are critical to the recovery of Atlantic menhaden and the ocean wildlife that depends on them for food. Let the commission know that it's time to bring the menhaden fishery into the 21st century.
Letter to Dr. Louis Daniel, vice chair, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Dear Dr. Daniel:

I am writing to urge the Menhaden Management Board to take immediate action to protect Atlantic menhaden from overfishing and restore the health of this important resource.

Menhaden are critical for ocean ecosystems and the economies of many East Coast states. They support thousands of commercial and recreational fishing jobs and tourism businesses that generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

I urge you to move forward with your commitments to increase the menhaden stock with strong final action on Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. In particular, I strongly support:

1. An enforceable, annual catch limit. The most important change that Amendment 2 must deliver is a coastwide catch limit with effective monitoring and accountability measures that will close fishing when the limit is reached (Section 4.2.1 Option B).

2. An emergency cut in catch. I support a precautionary approach that restores menhaden populations and productivity and stops the industrial depletion of this public resource. The best scientific information available shows that menhaden are in severe decline and that catch should immediately be reduced by half from recent levels if the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is to achieve its goal of restoring this forage fish (Section Sub-Option B.5).

3. Follow-through on the commitments made last November. The board must rebuild menhaden to the new management target within five years: 30 percent of the maximum spawning potential as adopted in Addendum V (Section 2.6.2 Option C). Maintaining the status quo (Option A) or waiting 10 years (Option D) is unacceptable, is not in the public interest, and runs contrary to the commitments made last year to restore menhaden within a reasonable period of time.

4. Adoption of new reference points for spawning biomass. The board must adopt a new definition of "overfished" for menhaden, consistent with the decisions made last November, in order to substantially increase the spawning population and provide more food for predators (Section 2.5 Option B).

Public concern for menhaden is exceptionally high. More than 90,000 people commented last November, urging immediate action to protect this vital link in the marine food web. Don't delay. The board must act now to reduce harvest and allow menhaden to resume its role as a major food source in the ecosystem.
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