Letter to send to ASFMC commisioners and the Governor

I wish I had more faith in politics and the ASMFC. Then again, many voices just like ours made a big impact on policies in 2013 regarding menhaden as well as just this year for the striped bass fishery. I want to have hope that responsible anglers like us can make a difference, but everyone knows that almighty dollar trumps all. Omega Protein and Virginia own 80 percent of the menhaden catch for the entire coast. They take those millions of pounds of fish necessary for countless other fisheries and ecosystems and make them into pellets for fertilizer, fish oil, and pet food. They want to take all they can and more, to say nothing of the bycatch, which usually ends up dead before it hits the water again. They claim their target is narrow, but the environmental impact is huge. Take five minutes out of your day to copy and paste this letter, type your name, and CC the commissioners and Governor Cuomo to let them know we don’t want those sons of bitches dictating the state of our ocean. If you give even half a shit, this is a painfree, no-brainer way to make your concerns heard. Thanks in advance.


Dear ASMFC Commissioners:

We are writing to ask for your help in further protecting Atlantic menhaden, a small fish that has a big impact on the health of New York’s coastal environment, economy, and communities. On May 5th a big decision will be made and we are hoping that you will not vote to increase the quota for this year with no understanding of the impact on predators like striped bass, whales, sharks, birds and all the other animals, which consume menhaden as their primary food source. But rather to adopt interim Ecological Reference Points when making decisions about the 2015 quota and initiate an amendment to transition to long term ecological management.

The Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association comprises over 2000 members and anglers from the New York City area. Like most angler communities, we are a wide cross section of occupations, neighborhoods, families, and incomes. We worked hard to spread awareness and push grassroots efforts to make our elected representatives accountable for their actions regarding the menhaden issue in 2013 and our striped bass fishery this year. Now the state of Virginia and Omega Protein are using faulty pseudo-science based on speculation, hearsay, and random eyeball-test observation cited as empirical evidence to undo the efforts of 2013 and allow more menhaden rendering in the name of the dollar and with little regard to the huge environmental marine impact that comes with easing the restrictions we all worked so hard to attain. Relaxing the necessary restrictions based on one year’s worth of larger-than-expected adult menhaden, while ignoring the absence of any evidence of actual increased abundance, including menhaden recruitment over 1-year-old, is short sighted in its most generous assessment.

The new benchmark stock assessment shows that coastwide Atlantic menhaden biomass and egg production (fecundity) have increased since the late 1990’s. However, it also showed that menhaden abundance and recruitment remain well below historic levels. It is these latter predictors of a stock’s health that matter most to their predators, who largely rely on younger, smaller fish. These downward trends are troubling because fishing effort is highly concentrated in the Chesapeake Bay and mid-Atlantic, the nursery for menhaden and many other species, where the population may be highly sensitive to environmental factors such as hypoxia.

Additionally, the assessment shows that the population has not recovered throughout its historic range from Maine to Florida, as evidenced by the fact that a number of fishery independent surveys (particularly those in Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) were rejected from the analysis because they found an “extremely low occurrence of menhaden” (see pg. 124 of assessment).

As you know, Virginia, which houses Omega Protein’s rendering plant, is the only state that would benefit from an increase in the quota. A proportional increase to the 2015 quota (for example, even the maximum proposed 20 percent increase over the 2014 quota for each state), without reallocation, will not solve any state’s quota shortages or bait industry challenges. Without reallocation, increasing the quota would do nothing for New York. The reduction fishery (Omega Protein) has 80 percent of the coastwide quota and continued to be successful in 2014, the second year under the current catch limit. Under the current (Amendment 2) management system, quota can be traded between states.  Virginia could transfer a relatively small amount of quota and solve all other states’ current shortages without increasing the coastwide catch.

We thank the Commission for taking an historic first step but now it’s time to advance the Commission’s vision and to adopt Ecological Reference Points when managing this fish. Managers should not increase the 2015 quota for menhaden unless they leave enough in the ocean as food for predators. Current quota shortages should be addressed by reallocation or trading, not by sacrificing coastwide conservation.


Send this to:

James J. Gilmore, Jr.
NYSDEC, Marine Resources
205 North Belle Mead Road
East Setauket, NY 11733
Tel: 631.444.0433

Emerson Hasbrouck, Jr.
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Marine Program
423 Griffing Avenue, #100
Riverhead, New York 11901-3071

Senator Philip Boyle
4th Senate District
69 West Main Street
Bay Shore, NY 11706
Tel: 518.455.3411 (Albany); 631.665.2311 (District office)

On going proxy: Steve Heins
NYSDEC, Marine Resources
205 North Belle Mead Road
East Setauket, NY 11733

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, State of New York
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

(can email Cuomo at https://www.governor.ny.gov/contact)


2 thoughts on “Letter to send to ASFMC commisioners and the Governor

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