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Governor Ehrlich Supports Cap on Menhaden Fishing In Chesapeake Bay
ALEXANDRIA – Reaffirming his administration’s commitment to the Chesapeake Bay, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., today announced that Maryland has voted in favor of an addendum to the existing menhaden management plan of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) that would cap a purse seine fishery in Reedville, Va., at current levels, or an average of recent years. The vote was made by the Menhaden Management Board, of which Maryland is a member, at the winter meeting of the ASMFC being held this week in Alexandria.
“Maryland is committed to being a leader in menhaden management in the Chesapeake Bay as these filter-feeding fish are vital to its sustainability,” said Governor Ehrlich. “We are sensitive to the fact that a decision on menhaden must be based on balancing the needs of the Bay with those of industry and our sister state of Virginia, and remain confident that continued research will yield the most appropriate solution.”
ASMFC must implement the addendum, or amendment, to the existing management plan to implement a cap. This process will take approximately six months and involve public hearings and a decision by the Management Board at a subsequent meeting in summer 2005, as to whether a cap should be imposed. If implemented, a cap most likely would not go into effect until the beginning of the 2006 fishing season.
“The concerns of the recreational fishing community who fish for striped bass and the Chesapeake Bay Conservation organizations parallel ours and are supportive of our decision to vote for the cap on menhaden,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary C. Ronald Franks. “The cap is our best defense against ensuring that menhaden do not become over-fished in the coming year. However, right now, the data to support a long-term cap on menhaden is not available.”
Menhaden are filter-feeding fish that inhabit Atlantic coastal waters, generally from Florida to Maine, but they are more abundant (and more available to fishermen) in the Mid-Atlantic States from southern New England to North Carolina. Menhaden are not harvested for human consumption, but are industrially caught and reduced to fishmeal and fish oil that are used in animal foods, pharmaceuticals, and in recent years have been approved for human food supplements such as Omega 3.
For many years, menhaden have been the highest poundage landings of any fish species on the East Coast, predominantly by purse seines. Historically, they have been abundant in the Chesapeake Bay and are harvested by Maryland commercial fishermen (primarily in pound nets) for use as crab pot bait and for recreational fishing bait and chum. Menhaden spawn offshore in the mid-Atlantic and the larvae are transported into coastal estuaries such as the Bay where they spend their first year. After growing to several inches in length, they migrate to the coast each fall and become part of the coastal population. Menhaden are also a primary food source for striped bass.
The menhaden fishery is managed under a plan developed and adopted by the ASMFC, which represents all coastal states from Maine to Florida. Decisions on the fishery are made by a Menhaden Management Board comprised of all three Commissioners from each member state, supported by a Technical Committee with membership drawn from member States’ technical staffs, and federal experts. The predominant technical expertise is housed in a federal laboratory in Charleston, SC.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 446,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov