Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Considers Menhaden R - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Considers Menhaden Regulation Changes

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Menhaden (Photo: WBOC) Menhaden (Photo: WBOC)

FISHING CREEK, Md.- Life is about to possibly get easier for menhaden fisherman in Maryland.  Menhaden, a popular bait fish, are regulated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, or ASMFC.  Several years ago, an ASMFC report indicated that the menhaden stock was being overfished.  However, a report that came out a year ago pulledshowed that the fishery was in fact strong.  The ASMFC is now undoing some of the regulations it passed to protect the species.

It has been years since the ASMFC said that menhaden over fishing was occurring.  One lawsuit and several years later, watermen are still feeling the effects of the regulations put in place to protect the species.

"When they cut us 20 percent, some of our buyers went to alternative bait like razor clams and the price of bait went up.  They went somewhere else so it has really hurt our industry.  We can't sell as much as we were before," said Boo Powley, a fifth generation waterman.

Many watermen also had to scale back their operations, but now the ASMFC is trying to make it easier for the watermen.  In the past, once the annual allotment of menhaden was met, watermen would then switch over to a by-catch, which limited them to only 6,000 pounds of fish per day per boat.  That may sound like a lot, but Powley says that's not the case.

"They give us 6,000.  It takes me 4,000 just to untie the boat to pay the crew and the fuel costs.  That's not including the nets, copper, and other expenses," said Powley.

In the past few years, watermen would take two boats, with one license holder per boat.  That allowed them to catch 12,000 pounds.  Now, the ASMFC is allowing those two license holders to be on one boat, allowing for 12,000 pounds per boat.

"They are giving something back, but they were a lot quicker to take it than to give it back.  They are admitting their mistake, but it's taking too long for them to give it back," said Powley.

The ASMFC says the report showing over fishing wasn't wrong, but the newer report took more into account which gave a more accurate read on the menhaden stock.

Public comments are accepted until 5 p.m. July 11.  Send comments to mware@asmfc.org - Subject line: Draft Addendum I

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