“We’ve had a good day, François. But we must take care not to deplete the stock”
“True, we don’t want to make the same mistake that we did with the beaver.”
“Awwww, the beaver! What were we thinking???”
Today is the deadline for public comments on chub mackerel, a primarily offshore species of baitfish that’s important for pelagic fish like tuna, and others like billfish and sharks. There is currently no management of chub mackerel and yet the commercial take jumped from barely any in 2008 to over 5 million pounds in 2013. In 2014, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council adopted the Unmanaged Forage Amendment, which is designed for this kind of situation: an unmanaged fishery with a growing commercial harvest. The Amendment was written to prevent any large-scale fisheries on forage species from developing before any studies could be done to determine if it was sustainable, both from a yield perspective and an ecosystem one. As we all know with bunker, the forage species are a critical component for ocean life—not just so that the fish we target can get bigger, but for the overall health of the ecosystem.
In 2016 the Council voted to cap the chub mackerel catch to around three million pounds per year. The cap stays in place for three years, with the idea that the Council figure out a management system before the three years is up.
So here’s why this is important, even if you’ve never seen a chub mackerel: the MAFMC is currently in a scoping phase, meaning it’s taking public comments in this initial phase of management. This is the time to let the Council know you consider forage species a public resource and a vital one for the ecosystem. We are all aware of the importance of baitfish from our work with menhaden in the past couple years, and we also know that our comments matter. We’re not asking for a freeze on the fishery, but believe that it should be managed responsibly and intelligently, with considerations for predator-prey impacts as well as commercial yields.
Here’s how to contact:
Written comments are due by Thursday, May 31, 2017 and may be submitted by any of the following methods:
Mail or Fax to Dr. Chris Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, 800 North State Street, Suite 201, Dover, DE, 19901; FAX: 302-674-5399
Email to Julia Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org
Online at http://www.mafmc.org/comments/chub-amendment-scoping
PS. This is what I sent to the Council:
I am writing on behalf of the Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association. We established the group in 2009 to promote positive water awareness in New York City, including responsible fishing in our many waterways. We believe the chub mackerel, like all forage species, are a critical component of the marine ecosystem and should be managed responsibly and with regards to predator-prey relationships as much as commercial yield considerations. We have supported the management of other forage species, in particular menhaden, in the past and support the continued actions of the Council to protect these public resources that are so important to the health of our oceans. Thank you for your consideration.
Brooklyn Urban Anglers Association