Save the Bunker! and FOUR DAYS LEFT in the derby!
There are four days left in the derby. So far the bluefish category seems like a lock, but nothing is certain. I keep hearing of a 43″ bass caught by Jay, but still haven’t seen any pictures yet, though it was confirmed to me by several sources. Still, if you don’t submit it via our Twitter, it ain’t gonna count. So get those pics in to win some of the great prizes we have coming.
On a related note to our derby, there is an important vote coming up in a week concerning the state of the menhaden (AKA bunker and pogy) fishery. Most of you bait guys chunk almost exclusively with bunker, so you should have a good idea of how important this fish is both for putting food on your own table and for sustaining the overall health of the Atlantic fishery. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is going to vote on new fishing limits on and targets for the menhaden population, and it’s critical the ASMFC stay true to their professed promise of protecting what many fishermen and biologists describe as the most important fish in the ocean.
Bunker spawn primarily in the Chesapeake Bay and normally enjoy huge numbers, a percentage of which serve as an abundance of forage for bigger fish, including our much-sought-after bluefish and striped bass. The Chesapeake Bay is an important nursery for juvenile menhaden; they occupy almost the entire Bay and its tributaries from above Baltimore to the mouth of the Bay in Virginia. There is no recreational fishery for bunker; however the commercial industry is decimating the population—in particular, the Omega Protein Corporation—to 8 percent of the total population’s potential. That’s less than 10 percent of what the bunker population should be. You may be familiar with Omege Protein’s products: Omega fish oil in vitamins and pet foods. The company scoops up menhaden by the hundreds of thousands of tons (approximately 404 million pounds in 2010) each year and is responsible for 90 percent of the overall commercial take, which they then grind up and make little pills and pellets out of them. Omega has been allowed for years to destroy the bunker population with little repercussion from the ASMFC, and that’s why this vote is so important now.
So what can you do? First off, public comment for what’s known as Draft Addendum V (which includes the proposals to limit overfishing and increase target population rates) is open until 5PM, November 2. That’s today. You can send an email to Toni Kerns (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the ASFMC using a form letter provided by the Menhaden Coaltion. You can also join sites like Menhaden Defenders to stay in the loop with what’s happening on the bunker front with the ASFMC. Remember, public comment ends today on this issue, and it will go to vote November 9, so if you’re interested in doing something about the fate of menhaden, make sure you take a minute to write. And seriously, it literally takes less than five minutes to do.
No one is pushing anyone to walk in step to a political agenda on this site. If you don’t want to get involved, that’s your choice. The BKUAA is interested in conservation and fishery management related to the striped bass and bluefish, so we will post on issues we think are important. This one is probably the most critical we’ve faced in a while, and it’s a rare opportunity to stand up to a company (and send a rebuke to the ASFMC, which rolled over on the issue for years) who is almost single-handedly destroying the Atlantic fishery. It’s up to you.