In 2010, the ASMFC released a new stock assessment for menhaden, showing that the menhaden population had declined significantly in the last 25 years. This was followed by an independent peer review panel’s recommendations that new, more conservative population targets and fishing limits were imperative to protect the menhaden stock. Both ASMFC scientists and a body of independent experts agreed that significant changes must be made to the management of Atlantic menhaden to end overfishing and ensure that the population is sustainable. In November 2011, the ASMFC finally took the first steps toward initiating these changes:
November 2011: The ASMFC passed an historic motion to end overfishing and restore the Atlantic menhaden population. They finalized new reference points (safe fishing levels) on paper, but delayed action on implementing a cutback in harvest.
February 2012: The ASMFC approved a public information document asking for feedback on how and when to cut back to the fishery to meet the new safe fishing levels adopted in November. According to the ASMFC, the new reference points were meant to “increase abundance, spawning stock biomass, and menhaden availability as a forage species.”
May 2012: The ASMFC voted to move ahead with the public information document, opening a public comment period. The Technical Committee began meeting about a new stock assessment for menhaden that would update the benchmark assessment that had been released in 2010, showing a huge decline in the menhaden population.
August 2012: The Commission approved a series of options from the public information document to include in draft Amendment II to the fishery management plan for menhaden. When approved, Amendment II will officially cut back the allowable harvest and allocate the total allowable catch between the bait and reduction fisheries. At the August meeting, the ASMFC also released the results of the new stock assessment, which showed that menhaden were still experiencing overfishing.
October and November 2012: Public Hearings are currently being held in states up and down the coast. These hearings give the public the opportunity to comment on how much the fishery should be cut back, how the new catch limits should be apportioned between the bait and reduction fishery, the timeline for rebuilding the fishery, and how reporting requirements should be strengthened.
December 14th 2012: At a meeting in December in Baltimore, the ASMFC is scheduled to finalized Amendment II, with cutbacks to take affect during the 2013 fishing season.