DURHAM, N.H. -- Atlantic coastal states from Maine through North Carolina have scheduled hearings to gather public comment on Draft Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The New Hampshire hearing will take place on Monday, October 15, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the Urban Forestry Center, 45 Elwyn Road in Portsmouth, N.H. For more information on the hearing, contact New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Marine Division Chief Doug Grout at 603-868-1095.
The Draft Amendment presents a suite of options to manage and monitor the Atlantic menhaden stock in both the short and long-term. These include options to end overfishing; change the biomass reference points to match the fishing mortality reference points; and establish a specification process to set and allocate total allowable catch (TAC), including procedures to close the fishery when a certain percentage of the TAC has been projected to be landed. It presents accountability measures to address quota transfers, rollovers, and overage payback, as well as options to allow for a specified amount of the TAC to be set aside for small scale fisheries and episodic events. To address monitoring and data collection needs, the Draft Amendment also presents options for timely quota monitoring and the collection of biological data through catch sampling.
The Draft Amendment responds to the findings of both the 2010 benchmark stock assessment and the 2012 stock assessment update that indicate the stock is experiencing overfishing, but may or may not be overfished, depending on the reference points chosen. The stock is not overfished based on the current reference points used in the most recent assessment. Given that the stock is experiencing overfishing, the Draft Amendment's immediate goals are to take steps to end overfishing and manage Atlantic menhaden not only as a fishery, but as a critical ecosystem component. However, uncertainties in the 2012 stock assessment update make it difficult to quantify the level of reductions needed to meet those goals. Therefore, the Draft Amendment includes a range of harvest reductions from 0 - 50% from current harvest levels. The broad range of potential harvest reductions and allocation scenarios enables the Board and the public to consider management options beyond the historical allocations and traditional quota setting approaches to best manage this fishery. The Technical Committee plans to address the issues with the stock assessment in the next benchmark assessment, currently planned for 2015.
Final action on the Amendment is expected to occur in December; information on that meeting will be announced once it has been finalized. Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Amendment either by attending state public hearings or providing written comment. Draft Amendment 2 is available on the Commission website at http://www.asmfc.org
under Breaking News or by contacting the Commission at 703-842-0740. Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on November 16, 2012, and should be forwarded to Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703-842-0741 (FAX) or email@example.com
(Subject line: Draft Amendment 2).