Atlantic menhaden need fishery management plan set by Bay Program

In the November Bay Journal, Derek Orner provided a comprehensive summary of Atlantic menhaden management, including some of the issues surrounding this ecologically and economically important marine species. His commentary omitted several important points that need to be brought forward.

While the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has overall management authority for Atlantic menhaden, each state has the right to establish regulations, within their waters, that meet or exceed the ASMFC Fishery Management Plan. The Chesapeake Bay Program has stated that it will provide FMPs for all ecologically and economically important species in the Bay, but has not established a FMP for menhaden.

The importance of this omission is apparent when you realize that the ASMFC manages the Atlantic menhaden without current consideration of its ecological importance and as a total stock that does not address regional or state conditions in their management efforts.

The Chesapeake Bay is experiencing a long-term recruitment failure, which may ultimately reduce the spawning stock biomass to unacceptable levels. This recruitment failure coupled with the menhaden reduction industry’s concentration on the harvest of immature menhaden in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay, has resulted in serious health issues for striped bass and lost opportunities for improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

There is no scientific data to support the assertion that predation is responsible for the downtrend in recruitment. In fact, the life cycles of predator species, such as striped bass, and Atlantic menhaden would indicate predation on juvenile menhaden should only be a major factor starting during the fall migrations, well after all data collection for age 0 menhaden indices has taken place.

Atlantic menhaden recruitment failure in the Bay may be attributed to unfavorable environmental conditions. The ASMFC Atlantic Menhaden Board has not implemented any scientific investigations to identify the cause of this recruitment failure, which may have serious repercussions for marine resources along the entire Atlantic coast.

Fishery management is a slow process and changing traditional management methods is even slower. Mr. Orner states, “The various management entities have a long way to go before moving away from single-species plans.” Coastal Conservation Association Maryland’s concern is that menhaden, striped bass and the Bay may not have time for these agencies to go a “long way.” We encourage the Chesapeake Bay Program to establish an Atlantic Menhaden FMP and to begin immediate efforts to identify the cause of menhaden recruitment failure in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sherman Baynard
CCA MD Fisheries Committee

Let’s add common sense to menhaden equation

I was rather upset to see the publication of Derek Orner’s commentary in the November Bay Journal, which stated that “Atlantic stock is not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring.” It said, but provided no data, that the overall spawning stock biomass is above the threshold. I offer a personal observation that differs.

For the last three years, my wife and I have taken a week’s vacation in September, running our boat from Deal (south of Annapolis) to Norfolk and back. Each time, the trip south has been favored with light winds (It is a powerboat.) and fair sky.

From Deal to Smith Point, the Bay is alive, countless schools of fish creating the small surface ripples that a fisherman notices and lots of birds swirling over schools where rockfish and bluefish are actively feeding.

At the Virginia line, the scene changes to a dead zone that one used to associate with areas of heavy industrial pollution before the Clean Water Act rejuvenated our waterways.

The reason is the menhaden fishing fleet working out of Deltaville. Each year, I counted 10 large boats, most close to 100 feet in length with four or five aircraft, cleaning out all of the menhaden from the mouth of the Potomac down to the Rappahannock.

Geography should make this area, where the Potomac enters the Bay, the most fertile in the Bay. Yet the charter fishing fleets work only above and below this area — no use fishing in the dead zone.

To say that eliminating the primary bait for large fish from the heart of the Chesapeake is not overfishing is exactly the same as the waterman logic that says the Bay oyster was destroyed by disease, after all of the beds had been destroyed by dredging, and that the blue crab will not join the oyster in extinction in another two or three years of uncontrolled crabbing.

Overfishing destroyed the rockfish. The proof is not some calculation of biomass or data that is really not understood. The proof is that the fishing moratorium restored it. Let us substitute a little common sense in lieu of this biological sophistry.

John Walsh
Arlington, VA

Composting toilets help to lighten nutrient loads

I want to express my appreciation for Dr. Kent Mountford’s article on outhouses. I always enjoy his historical explorations, but the need to reduce nutrient loadings to surface water highlights the importance of composting toilets for today’s world. Dr. Mountford provided references to a few commercial composting toilets. More information on composting toilet design and use is available in two excellent publications:

I find the Bay Journal valuable and instructive because it shows what tremendous effort and expense are necessary to restore water quality after it is seriously degraded.

I farm oysters on Willapa Bay in Southwest Washington, where we still enjoy good water quality. I also participate in efforts by my community and the shellfish industry to reduce pesticide use in the watershed, control erosion, reduce nutrient loading to surface water and generally prevent problems before they become expensive liabilities.

For the past 10 years I’ve volunteered as coordinator for the Willapa Water Trail, encouraging non-motorized recreational boating that is compatible with the high-quality water needs of shellfish farming.

I have also designed a portable solar outhouse for use at campsites around Willapa Bay, and sell the plans as a fund raiser. The proceeds are used to purchase materials for volunteers to build composting toilets.

Introducing the public to the benefits of composting toilets at recreational sites can open the door for the use of more composting toilets in residences.
Thanks for a great publication; keep up the good work.

Larry Warnberg