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CONTACT:
      Doug Grout, NHFG: 603-868-1095
      Tina Berger, ASMFC: 202-289-6400   
      November 18, 2011

New Fishing Limits Proposed to Promote Higher Abundance of Menhaden on Eastern Seaboard

DURHAM, N.H. -- The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board has approved Addendum V to Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The Addendum establishes a new interim fishing mortality threshold of 15% and target of 30% (based on maximum spawning potential, or MSP), with the goal of increasing abundance, spawning stock biomass and menhaden availability as a forage species.

To implement the new fishing mortality reference points, the Board has initiated development of an amendment to establish management measures for all fishing sectors and gear types. The percent of harvest reductions associated with the new reference points, as well as an implementation process and timeline, will be identified in the Draft Amendment.

"We believe that, by taking this action, we will see higher abundance of menhaden in the future, providing more food for predators like striped bass, bluefish and tuna, as well as an increased supply of menhaden for use as bait by lobster harvesters and recreational fishermen," said Doug Grout, Chief of Marine Fisheries at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and New Hampshire's Administrative Commissioner to ASMFC.

The ASMFC Commissioners representing New Hampshire -- Doug Grout, Dennis Abbott, Ritchie White and State Representative David Watters -- took a lead in developing the Addendum by making the motion to establish the new overfishing threshold, as well as by voting for Addendum V.

Action was needed because the most recent peer-reviewed stock assessment for menhaden indicated that overfishing was occurring, and the peer review panel recommended implementing more conservative reference points that determine when overfishing is occurring.

The current overfishing reference point equated to a maximum spawning potential (MSP) of 8%.  With the Commission's approval of Addendum V, the new overfishing threshold of 15% MSP would result in a near doubling of the current population of menhaden. 

To bring the fishery under the new threshold and out of a status of "overfishing," harvest will need to be reduced by 23% over 2010 levels. In establishing a target of 30% MSP, the Board went further and set a goal of reducing harvest by 37% over 2010 levels, thus reducing the chance that overfishing would occur in the future.

The Commission will now undertake development of a new Amendment to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden to reduce the harvest to the target level. The first step in the amendment process will be the development of a Public Information Document (PID), which will contain preliminary discussions of biological, environmental, social and economic information, fishery issues, and potential management options for action.

The Public Information Document also provides for public input about changes observed in the fisheries; actions that should or should not be taken in terms of management, regulation, enforcement, and research; and any other concerns about the resources or the fisheries. A Draft PID will be presented to the Board at the Commission’s winter meeting in February 2012. For more information, please contact Toni Kerns, Senior Fishery Management Plan Coordinator for Management, at 703-842-0740 or tkerns@asmfc.org.

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