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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Atlantic Menhaden Board Wants to Increase Numbers and Spawning Stock

ASMFC Atlantic Menhaden Board Initiates Addendum to Increase Abundance and Spawning Stock Biomass

Arlington, VA – The Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board initiated a draft addendum proposing an interim biological reference point of 15% maximum spawning potential (MSP) with the goal of increasing abundance, spawning stock biomass, and menhaden availability as a forage species. The MSP approach identifies the fishing mortality rate necessary to maintain a given level of stock fecundity (number of mature ova) relative to the potential maximum stock fecundity under unfished conditions. In this case, a 15% MSP would equate to a fishing mortality rate threshold required to maintain approximately 15% of virgin stock fecundity. The current MSP level is 9%. The draft addendum will also include a suite of management measures to achieve 15% MSP.

At the same time, the Board placed a high priority on continuing work on developing ecosystem reference points using a multispecies modeling approach (MSVPA). Ecosystem reference points are expected to address the forage needs of menhaden’s predator species such as striped bass, weakfish, and bluefish. This work is anticipated to take a few years.

The Board received an update on the revised 2009 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment, which finds the stock is not overfished but is experiencing overfishing in 2008. Given the current overfishing definition, which sets the fishing mortality rate (F) target at 0.61 and the F threshold at 1.25, this is the first time overfishing has occurred since 1998 (see figure on next page). F in 2008 (the latest year in the assessment)is estimated at 1.26. This change in stock status is a result of a corrected error in the code of the stock assessment model. No other significant changes in estimated stock trends were identified in the stock assessment. The Board accepted the corrected stock assessment for management use.

The Board will review and consider approval of the the draft addendum for public comment at the Commission’s Summer Meeting in August. If approved, the draft addendum will be released for public comment in late summer, with state public hearings occurring throughout early fall. Final Board approval of the addendum could happen in November at the Commission’s Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

For more information, please contact Toni Kerns, Senior FMP Coordinator, at tkerns@asmfc.org or 703/842-0740.

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