Menhaden Fisheries Coalition Analysis: Environmental NGOs Miss the Mark, Misinform on Atlantic Menhaden Assessment

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The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition has released a new analysis alleging misleading and misinforming coverage by leading environmental organizations of the 2015 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment.

The Coalition urges the ASMFC to use the results of this assessment to set new, scientifically-backed harvest levels, that would reverse some of the economically-harmful cuts that the Commission implemented in 2012.

Prominent environmental groups are spreading erroneous and incomplete criticisms of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) 2015 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment, widely regarded as the most accurate menhaden assessment in recorded history, according to an analysis released today by the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition. Specifically, the Coalition calls out environmental groups who have been critical of the 2015 assessment’s handling of ecosystem-based management, while having previously been vocal in their support of what the Coalition notes as an objectively inferior and less accurate 2012 assessment. The ASMFC will consider setting new catch limits based on the results of the most recent assessment at its meeting next Tuesday in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition, which represents over 90 percent of menhaden fishermen, related businesses, and supporting industries up and down the Atlantic coast, details in its report how these criticisms that the 2015 assessment does not take an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management are incomplete and inaccurate. It notes that, contrary to assertions from prominent environmental groups, who claim that the ASMFC makes no consideration in its assessment for the needs of predators, the 2015 menhaden assessment does include estimates of natural and predation mortality. These estimates have undergone peer review and approval and are thus still the best information available on menhaden’s interactions with predators. This information has been publically available from the ASMFC, but, as the analysis notes, has remained conspicuously absent in most assessment criticisms.

The Coalition also reports on the difficulties that fisheries managers face in establishing true Ecological Reference Points (EPRs) and transitioning to ecosystem-based management. Specifically, they note that the ASMFC has concluded that any ERP would require “additional technical work and additional peer review” before they can be ready as a viable option for fisheries managers, and the fact that the data from the single-species 2015 assessment is the best data the Commission has heading into its May meeting.

The analysis concludes by noting that, until the Commission can complete the extensive process of designing, approving, and implementing ERPs and an ecosystem-based assessment, the results of the single-species 2015 assessment is the best information available on which to base management decisions. The Coalition states that this is especially true given that reforms and revisions made to the ASMFC assessment model make the 2015 assessment the most complete and accurate ever conducted. The Coalition urges the ASMFC to use the results of this assessment to set new, scientifically-backed harvest levels, that would reverse some of the economically-harmful cuts that the Commission implemented in 2012.

About the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition
The Menhaden Fisheries Coalition is a collective of menhaden fisherman, related businesses, and supporting industries. Comprised of over 30 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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Robert Vanasse
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