Menhaden: Overfished or bad research?
REEDVILLE, Va., -- April 1, 2013 -- A new scientific study released February 1
on the status of menhaden along the Atlantic coast has resulted in more
questions than answers on whether the species are overfished—a claim
that led to a decision last December by the Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to slash the allowable catch by 20%.
The new restriction forced Omega Protein of Reedville, one of the area’s
largest employers with a $15 million payroll, to cut two fishing
vessels and 50 positions, according to the company’s director of fishing
operations, Monty Diehl.
Was the ASMFC decision to impose restrictions too hasty?
During the December meeting, it was the contention of
a majority of commission members that menhaden are being overfished
while other members questioned the reliability of the data being used.
They asked the commission not to rush into imposing restrictions but to
wait for a thorough study.
“The commission was under a great deal of pressure
from sport fishing and environmentalists,” said Diehl. But the truth is,
only a 2008 study showed overfishing, and by just 0.4%, while
subsequent studies have been erratic, he said.
The February 1 report by ASMFC’s Technical Committee
questioned if current methods of measuring menhaden stock are reliable
based on the fact that only one major fishery, Omega Protein, remains on
the East Coast.
“The Technical Committee said, ‘We do not trust our
model. We need to develop a new model,’” said Diehl. The committee did
several sensitivity studies in January, one showing the stock is
overfished while a newer study model shows it was not. “Scientists are
saying ‘We can’t say that its overfished.’ This should bring into
question if the (ASMFC) board members knew then what they know now,
would they have made a 10% cut rather than 20%? There is a huge
difference between the two models,” Diehl noted.
Read the full story at The Rappahannock Record