Recreational anglers have been advocating for more scrutiny over Atlantic menhaden, a key food source for such species as striped bass, prompting managers in the region to shift to a more wholistic management approach for the baitfish.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission yesterday voted unanimously to require consideration for menhaden’s impact on fish up the food chain.
After considering insight from recreational anglers, the commission adopted a new ecological management system that considers the needs of predator species, according to the American Sportfishing Association.
The new approach will begin the process of allowing fish such as striped bass to meet population targets, according to ASA. Menhaden is the first fishery on the East Coast to shift to an ecosystem management approach.
“This landmark decision represents a new era in fisheries management,” Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said in a statement. “This decision will spur healthier menhaden and gamefish while supporting the recreational fishing economy along the Eastern Seaboard.”
Atlantic commission chairman Spud Woodward called the change a “paradigm shift in management,” wherein the ecosystem as a whole is weighed in addition to the abundance of the single species, according to the Virginia Mercury.
Fisheries overseers have worked for more than a decade to vet various ecosystem models. The selected model includes predator species such as Atlantic striped bass and bluefish, as well as alternative prey, including herring.
“Today’s decision is a critical step toward acknowledging that forage fish like menhaden are ecologically important to recreationally important species like striped bass and bluefish,” said ASA government affairs vice president Mike Leonard. “A healthy Atlantic menhaden stock, and quotas that account for the needs of predators, is the science-based management we look for to help support a healthy ecosystem and the sportfishing opportunities it provides."