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Rebuilding Menhaden Will Provide Significant Benefits for Recreational Fisheries

American Sportsman's Association Press Release
Alexandria, VA – During its November meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted by an overwhelming margin to approve a new fishing target level for menhaden in an effort to increase its abundance and its availability as a forage species for striped bass, bluefish, Atlantic tuna and other important saltwater species. The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) applauds the commission for taking this critical step to conserve menhaden which could reduce harvest of this important, but declining, forage fish by up to 37 percent. Menhaden stocks have declined 88 percent over the last 25 years and are at their lowest abundance in recorded history.

"The sportfishing industry and the thousands of anglers and recreational fishing-dependent businesses thank the commission for taking this important step in conserving menhaden," said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy director. "The commission recognized both the impact that menhaden have on the ocean ecosystem and the impact they have on the numerous fisheries that depend on them for survival."

Leonard further noted, "Termed 'the oceans’ unlikely hero' by noted historian and author H. Bruce Franklin, menhaden have shaped America’s national—and natural—history. While many saltwater anglers on the East Coast might not realize it, their fishing success is dependent on menhaden because these small forage fish support many of the Atlantic’s most important recreational fisheries."

The commission has regulatory oversight of menhaden harvest and other fisheries in state waters from Maine through eastern Florida. The current benchmarks used by the commission show that the menhaden stock is undergoing overfishing, and overfishing has occurred in the menhaden fishery in 32 of the last 54 years. Nearly all of the commercial menhaden harvest is caught by Omega Protein Corp., headquartered in Houston, Texas, which factory processes the hundreds of millions of pounds of menhaden caught annually primarily for fish meal and oil. Menhaden oil is used in animal feed, dietary supplements and a variety of other commercial products.

"While the target selected by the commission was slightly lower than the level ASA recommended, this still represents a major step in managing menhaden for their role in the food chain, as opposed to simply as a reduction fishery," said Leonard. "More conservative fishing levels are critical as the commission moves towards a new multi-species management approach for menhaden, which will take several years to develop. ASA urges the commission to move swiftly to put appropriate regulations for menhaden into effect as soon as possible."

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