Smart Menhaden Management – Option E


Menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea” due to its unique ability to convert plant matter into protein.

It is then appropriate that menhaden could be the first species managed with a holistic approach utilizing Ecological Reference Points that recognize the value of menhaden to the ecosystem as a piece of a puzzle instead of the narrow “human use criteria” used now to manage our fisheries. Most anglers know menhaden are an important bait for stripers, bluefish, and albies. Also, more menhaden means cleaner water as they filter 4 gallons a minute or a million gallons in 180 days!

Please take the time to be informed and express your opinion. Write a letter or attend the Public Hearing this Wednesday at 6 PM in the Corliss Auditorium at the URI Bay Campus. Call the shop if you have questions.

We agree with RISAA that now is the best time to establish and utilize Ecological Reference Points to manage menhaden – “the most important fish in the sea.”

It should be recognized that Rhode Island DEM has advocated for and lead the research to support this approach. They need a clear and consistent voice from Rhode Islanders to help push for coast wide implementation. Please support Option E.


  • In May of 2015, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission initiated Amendment 3 to the menhaden management plan to establish ecological management, and to review and possibly update state-by-state quota allocations. Since then, ASMFC staff, scientists, and advisors have been developing and reviewing a range of ecological models and management strategies.

  • Last winter, the ASMFC provided a Public Information Document to allow stakeholders to provide input into the Amendment.  In August of 2017, the Menhaden Management Board voted to seek public comment on Draft Amendment 3. The ASMFC is seeking input on this amendment until October 20, 2017.

  • You can comment in person at an upcoming hearing in your state or through written comments submitted to: with the subject line Draft Amd. 3.

  • This is the last opportunity for the public to influence Amendment 3 before the commission votes on the plan in November. These talking points do not address every issue included in the amendment for which the commission is seeking input, but highlights the most important ones for conservation of menhaden.
  • It is critical that the ASMFC establish interim ecological reference points – that account for the hugely important role menhaden play in coastal ecosystems – now, and not to further delay their implementation. This amendment is a historic opportunity to protect menhaden.
  • The current allocation of menhaden gives more than 85% of the fishery to Virginia, leaving all of the other east coast states to fight for the rest. This is inherently unfair and unprecedented in fisheries management. It makes no sense to continue with such an inequitable system.


ISSUE: Reference Points

The ASMFC is presenting five options for managing menhaden. Option A is using single-species management, i.e. the status quo, and Option B is waiting until a technical committee finishes menhaden-specific ecological reference points. Options C, D, and E would manage menhaden under scientifically appropriate rules for managing forage fish until the technical committee is finished, which could be years down the line. Now is the best time to establish reference points through Option E

  • Ecological management is right for menhaden, and Issue 2.6, Option E is the best solution now.
    The current approach that ASMFC uses for setting catch limits is wrong for menhaden, because it ignores their importance to the ocean food web and for other fisheries. The time has come to move away from “single species” management and adopt an ecosystem approach. The best available science supports Option E: managing to a target of 75 percent of the total menhaden biomass before largescale fishing.  It is crucial for a key forage species like menhaden to be managed to maintain the population at the target level so menhaden can fulfill their role in the ocean food web, thus ensuring the population will never drop below the overfished threshold of 40 percent. Science tells us that this amount would vastly reduce the impact of fishing on menhaden predators, and help menhaden continue to expand back into the northern and southern extents of their former range; while still providing ongoing substantial yields to fisheries.
  • Most menhaden predators are in decline. Atlantic predators of menhaden like striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, cod, king mackerel, cobia, osprey, and humpback whales [focus on species important to you] are struggling. Increasing the abundance of menhaden will help ensure these predators have enough food to achieve management goals for these species and the commercial and recreational fisheries that depend on them. The sole purpose of Option E is to enable the menhaden population to continue to grow to a high level and recover its historic geographic range from Maine to Florida to provide for predators, fisheries, and ecosystem services.
  • A recent study evaluating ecosystem reference points for Atlantic menhaden strongly validates the point that striped bass fishermen have long known: more menhaden fishing, means fewer striped bass!


  • Conservation will benefit everyone. Ecological management of menhaden and effective conservation will improve the productivity of this resource over time, increasing menhaden’s value to every state and stakeholder through improved recreational fishing, commercial fishing and seafood industries, and wildlife and tourism businesses that all depend on an abundance of menhaden.
  • Options A and B are unacceptable. Option A would continue to manage menhaden as a single species. Option B would wait until the commission finishes menhaden-specific reference points. There is sound science behind the idea of managing menhaden with a generic rule for forage fish until these specific reference points are developed, which could take years until they’re developed.
  • The gains seen in menhaden distributions in the last few years must be protected with the use of interim reference points. Now is the right time to put reference points into place through Option E.
  • Even under interim reference points, menhaden must be managed conservatively to 75% B0.

RISAA has all the resources to further educate you here. 

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

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