Menhaden are flourishing

Is menhaden overfished? The company that does most of the fishing says no

A recent column by Chris Dollar ("Outdoors: The more menhaden the better," Dec. 3) cites claims from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that the current management of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay has left the stock running low. The column also echoes the foundation's position that the menhaden harvest cap should be lowered. The science suggests the opposite to be the case.

In 2012, based on fears of overfishing, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission implemented a menhaden quota. Soon after the quota was implemented, scientists found the concerns of overfishing were misplaced. Further research found that menhaden are prospering coastwide. In fact, the ASMFC declared conclusively that menhaden are neither "overfished nor experiencing overfishing."

The ASMFC has recently expressed its confidence in the health of menhaden by voting to raise the coastwide quota by 6.45 percent. This decision was backed up by a commission analysis based on nearly 9,000 simulations that found that an increase in the menhaden quota would have an almost zero percent chance of leading to overfishing.

In the column, the argument for the implementation of an "ecosystem-centered" model of management for menhaden is presented as having the approval of "nearly all the major conservation and sportfishing groups." Such a system is currently being developed by the ASMFC, but does not yet exist. While ideal in practice, the concept is, at this time, impossible.

The simple truth is this: Menhaden in the Chesapeake and coastwide are healthy, well-managed, and sustainable. There is no need for a harsher quota.

Ben Landry, Reedville, Va.

The writer is director of public affairs for Omega Protein Corp.

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