January 13, 2017 — THE PILOT gets one thing absolutely right in its Dec. 28 editorial on menhaden management (“Let scientists manage menhaden approach”): Menhaden is important to the Chesapeake Bay, and the species and the fishery that depend on it deserve proper management.
Unfortunately, the editorial’s proposals are based on a flawed and incomplete understanding of menhaden science and management.
The Pilot urges fisheries managers at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to adopt ecosystem-based reference points as it considers Amendment 3 to the Menhaden Fishery Management Plan.
While almost everyone supports ecosystem-based management in the long run, no such system is ready to be implemented. The ASMFC’s best fisheries scientists are currently developing new ecological reference points specifically for menhaden, which are expected to be completed in the next few years.
In the meantime, fisheries managers should not reach for unproven, improper management practices when they lack the necessary science to guide the process.
In supporting new reference points, the editorial offers an ill-informed indictment of the current management approach, calling it a “tragedy of the commons.” But the ASMFC’s latest stock assessment found that menhaden fishing mortality is at its lowest level on record — hardly the “tragedy of the commons” that The Pilot suggests.