Gansler requests protections for Atlantic menhaden

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday asked the interstate agency that manages the fishing of Atlantic menhaden to increase protection for the fish, which scientists say is an integral part of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering updates to its management plan for the menhaden and Gansler submitted comments to the commission requesting that the threshold for overfishing be nearly doubled from the current rate.

"The Commission's interstate fishery management plan … for the menhaden has so far failed to adequately protect the menhaden fishery, particularly from overfishing," Gansler said in his comments. "Despite menhaden's historic decline, the Commission has allowed menhaden to be fished down to 8 percent of their maximum spawning potential."

Gansler proposed that the threshold be increased to 15 percent of the species' maximum spawning potential.

The population of Atlantic menhaden has decreased by 88 percent since 1985, according to a statement Wednesday from Gansler's office.