Dear Atlantic Menhaden Board Chair Robert Ballou, Commissioners, and Staff:
[Your comment will go here.]
I’m writing to urge the Atlantic Menhaden Board to support the adoption of "ecological reference points" in Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. I specifically support Issue 2.6 "Option E: BERP Workgroup Continues to Develop Menhaden-Specific ERPs with Interim Use of 75% Target, 40% Threshold." This option would allow managers to set a target to return the menhaden population to 75 percent of its pre-fished level, and also set a threshold, so that the population does not drop below 40 percent of its pre-fished level. This approach gives managers flexibility while conserving menhaden, providing for predator needs by leaving more forage in the ocean and ensuring that the population never gets too low, and helping to increase the productivity of our Atlantic coast ecosystems.
Conservation works. The recent recovery of menhaden is delivering widespread benefits, but the population remains far below historic levels. The species is still not abundant in the northern and southern extents of its former range, and many of its key predators, such as striped bass, remain in decline. The ASMFC should build on this success and not risk undermining the conservation gains made over the past several years.
Managing menhaden to secure their role as forage fish will enable the resource to continue to grow in value to recreational fishing, commercial fishing, and wildlife and tourism businesses, all of which depend on this important fish and its predators.
Amendment 3 also presents an opportunity to protect The Chesapeake Bay through a catch cap on the active reduction fishery in those waters. We recommend ASMFC adopt "Option B: Cap Set AT 51,000 mt" and "Sub-Option B: No Rollover of Unused Cap Permitted" to adjust the cap to better reflect recent landings, following a precedent set by ASMFC in its adoption of catch limits and subsequent adjustments, while protecting an important nursery for menhaden.
Amendment 3 is a historic opportunity to invest in the future of our Atlantic fisheries and benefit all stakeholders. Please adopt ecological reference points now by passing Issue 2.6, Option E, which is based on the best available science, provides for the needs of predators, and is the right way to manage this valuable public resource to benefit every Atlantic state from Maine to Florida.