Atlantic menhaden are managed as a single unit from Maine to Florida. The rate of menhaden fishing mortality—which includes fish removed for harvest, as bycatch and as discards—in relation to a target and threshold is used to determine whether overfishing of the coast-wide population is taking place. In 2013, menhaden fishing mortality was estimated to be 0.22. This value is below the 1.26 threshold and 0.38 target, and overfishing is not occurring.
Atlantic menhaden are critical to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The fish filters pollutants out of the water and is a source of food for striped bass and other species. The Bay provides a nursery to young menhaden, supporting the juveniles that will join the Atlantic coast’s adult menhaden stock.
Menhaden are harvested commercially for bait and for an industry that uses them to produce fishmeal and fish oil. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) 2014 Benchmark Stock Assessment, the menhaden population along the North Atlantic coast is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.
Because Atlantic menhaden are managed as a single unit from Maine to Florida, there is no Chesapeake Bay-specific target for menhaden fishing mortality. The coastwide target is 0.38 and threshold is 1.26.
Long-term trend (1955-2013)
While Atlantic menhaden fishing mortality was high in the late 1950s, it has remained below the 1.26 threshold since 1963 and below the 0.38 target since 2002.
Short-term trend (2003-2013)
Atlantic menhaden fishing mortality reached its lowest point in the past decade with a value of 0.21 in 2008 and 2009. It reached its highest point (while remaining below the target and threshold) in the last decade with a value of 0.30 in 2010 and 2011.
Change from previous year (2012-2013)
Between 2012 and 2013, Atlantic menhaden fishing mortality fell from 0.26 to 0.22. The 2013 value is below the 1.26 threshold and 0.38 target, and overfishing is not occurring.
Atlantic menhaden management
Atlantic menhaden are managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The ASMFC has placed a cap on the amount of menhaden that can be harvested from the Chesapeake Bay, allocating its coast-wide total allowable catch (TAC) on a state by state basis. Most menhaden landings in the region occur in Virginia. The coast-wide TAC is allocated to Bay jurisdictions as follows:
Indices of relative abundance for adult and juvenile menhaden were updated for the ASMFC’s 2014 Benchmark Stock Assessment using fishery-independent survey data from the Atlantic coastal states. Targets and thresholds for fishing mortality and population fecundity (a measure of reproductive capacity) are used to assess the status of the coastal stock. According to the 2014 Benchmark Stock Assessment, Atlantic menhaden are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC)