Text Size: A  A  A

Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management

Atlantic menhaden are managed on a coastwide basis. Data on the rate of removal due to fishing, including harvest, discards, and bycatch, are used to determine if overfishing is occurring for the coastwide population.


Atlantic menhaden play an important ecological role in the Bay. They are food for top predators such as striped bass. The Chesapeake Bay is an important nursery area supporting juvenile menhaden that will contribute to the overall Atlantic coast adult Atlantic menhaden stock.

Atlantic menhaden are managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) using a coastwide total allowable catch (TAC) that is allocated among coastal states based on average state landings from 2009 through 2011.  In order to determine if the coastwide population is overfished, ASMFC uses biological reference points (targets and thresholds) for fishing mortality (F). Fishing mortality is the rate of removal of fish from the population due to fishing, including harvest, discards, and bycatch.


The coastwide fishing mortality target is 0.62 and the threshold is 1.34. There is no specific Chesapeake Bay fishing mortality target for Atlantic menhaden because the species is managed as single stock unit from Maine to Florida, including the Chesapeake Bay.

Long-term trend (1955-2011)

Fishing mortality peaked in 1965 with a value of 6.84. The lowest fishing mortality value of 0.92 was in 1960.

Short-term trend (2002-2011)

In the last decade, fishing mortality was the highest in 2011 with a value of 4.5. It was the lowest in 2005 with a value of 1.4.

Change from previous year (2010-2011)

Fishing mortality increased from 2.81 in 2010 to 4.5 in 2011.

Additional Information

Atlantic Menhaden Management

Biological reference points (targets and thresholds) based on fecundity and fishing mortality rates are used to assess the coastwide stock status.  The latest Atlantic menhaden stock assessment concluded that overfishing is occurring, but it is unclear whether the stock is overfished. Sensitivity runs of the Statistical Catch-at-Age (SCA) model used in the most recent assessment produced some conflicting results with regards to overfished status. The next benchmark stock assessment is currently underway and is scheduled for review at the end of 2014.

The Atlantic menhaden fishery provides fish meal, fish oil and bait for other fisheries along the Atlantic Coast. Most Atlantic menhaden landings in the Chesapeake Bay occur in Virginia. The coastwide TAC is allocated to Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions as follows:

  • Virginia: 85.32 percent
  • PRFC: 0.62 percent
  • Maryland: 1.37 percent

Atlantic Menhaden Historic Population Trends

Atlantic menhaden stocks were drastically reduced in the 1960s, leading to the closure of many Atlantic menhaden reduction factories. As population size decreased, the age structure also changed. Fish older than age 3 were scarce or non-existent in many areas along the Atlantic coast.

The population began to recover in the early 1970s, and catches continued to improve into the early 1980s.

ASMFC Menhaden Information: http://www.asmfc.org/species/atlantic-menhaden

Source of Data

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)

Related Indicators

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved