WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / July 28, 2021 / After years of spreading misinformation and false claims about the Atlantic menhaden fishery, Menhaden Defenders has begun promoting the same falsehoods about the menhaden fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. In a transparent fundraising and membership ploy, Menhaden Defenders is promoting a crisis with the populations of both Atlantic and Gulf menhaden that simply does not exist.
A recent petition from the group claims that menhaden fishing in the Gulf and Atlantic has been 'operating with little to no oversight from government officials over the past decades.' This is blatantly untrue. Both fisheries are closely monitored and tightly regulated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) in the Atlantic and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC) in the Gulf, as well as by individual states.
Regular assessments commissioned by the ASMFC and GSMFC and led by scientists at NOAA Fisheries indicate that both menhaden populations are thriving, and that the menhaden fishery is harvesting sustainably. Neither species is overfished, nor are they experiencing overfishing - this has been true for decades. While Menhaden Defenders continues to spread false information to its members that current menhaden management is putting the species at risk, no credible science supports their claim.
Above and beyond the assessments of U.S. fisheries managers, the menhaden industry voluntarily sought certification of both the Atlantic and Gulf menhaden fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - the gold standard for fisheries sustainability around the world. Following a years-long evaluation process, both fisheries were certified sustainable in 2019. The MSC concluded that the menhaden fishery has a minimal environmental footprint on the ecosystem and an effective management system that respects regional, state, and national laws. During this process, opponents raised objections like the ones Menhaden Defenders continues to spread today, and these objections were soundly rejected by an independent adjudicator.
Menhaden management is more cautious than it has ever been. In the Atlantic, menhaden landings are near historic lows, with a smaller percentage of the menhaden population being harvested than at any point in the last 60 years. At current harvest levels, there is a zero percent chance that menhaden will be overfished. The ASMFC has also implemented ecological reference points - a move the industry supported - to take into account menhaden's role as forage for predators like striped bass. However, Atlantic menhaden experts have stated emphatically that even if menhaden fishing was completely eliminated, this alone would not allow striped bass to reach its target biomass without some reduction in striped bass fishing.
Additionally, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that further restrictions on forage species like menhaden would have little if any benefit for their predators. A recent study published in Conservation Biology concluded that, in well-monitored fisheries, adopting extra-precautionary catch limits on forage species like menhaden is unlikely to result in higher predator populations.
Similarly, a 2017 study, published in Fisheries Research, found increases in predator populations were not correlated with increases in forage abundance, forage species are affected much more by the environment than fishing, and predators target small forage fish that are generally unaffected by fishing.
These studies indicate that the real impact of the restrictions proposed by Menhaden Defenders would be felt economically rather than biologically. Menhaden Defenders is in essence supporting the loss of good-paying, mostly minority, American fishing jobs along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.
The menhaden industry is committed to ensuring the continued sustainability and successful management of both Atlantic and Gulf menhaden, which has provided for generations of U.S. fishermen and seafood processors. By following the science and working closely with fisheries managers, our industry is well-positioned to continue providing for generations of Americans to come.
About the MFC
The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition (MFC) is a collective of menhaden fishermen, related businesses, and supporting industries. Comprised of businesses along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition conducts media and public outreach on behalf of the menhaden industry to ensure that members of the public, media, and government are informed of important issues, events, and facts about the fishery.
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SOURCE: Menhaden Fisheries Coalition
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