On Monday, November 13th, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will meet for 2 days in Baltimore and decide whether or not to adopt an ecosystems approach to conserving menhaden beginning next year, or stick with the status quo while they study the issue for a few more years.
An unprecedented number of citizens of the East Coast — More than 150,000 – and more than 80 fishing and environmental organizations told the ASMFC that the status quo is not an option. An astounding 99.3 percent of those who commented on Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden urged the commission to amend its fishing rules to leave 75 percent of the un-fished population of menhaden in the water as forage for dependent predators – larger fish, birds and marine mammals – up and down the Atlantic Coast.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, given the overwhelming public support for new ecological standards for menhaden now, as exhibited at hearings in every state on the East Coast and in voluminous written comments, the ASMFC has an obligation to abide by the wishes and desires of the public when it supports a legitimate management approach that is viable for menhaden, based on sound science with the support of fishery ecologists and biologists, and ready for use now.
As the ASMFC Menhaden Management Board convenes Monday to decide the future of menhaden and so much more, the world will be watching. Let’s hope they do the right thing.
Ken Hinman is president of Wild Oceans, an independent non-profit founded by fishermen in 1973, and is in his 40th year working professionally to conserve marine fish. A co-author of the Ecosystem Principles Advisory Panel’s 1999 Report to Congress, Ecosystem-Based Fishery Management, he has served on the Atlantic Menhaden Advisory Panel since 2004.