DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife will host Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) public hearings on proposed changes to the interstate fishery management plans (FMP) for Atlantic menhaden at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8 in DNREC’s Lewes Facility, 901 Pilottown Road, Lewes, DE 19958.
The Atlantic menhaden FMP hearing will be preceded by a 6 p.m. public hearing on a proposed addendum to the Jonah crab FMP. Jonah crabs are a deepwater species found in the Atlantic Ocean that sometimes venture into the lower Delaware Bay, but are very unlikely to be seen by recreational crabbers. Though Jonah crabs are a small fishery in Delaware, their claws are an increasingly popular seafood in other areas.
As the first step in the amendment process, the ASMFC is seeking input from stakeholders and other interested groups about changes observed in the fishery/resource and potential management measures. Work on Draft Amendment 3 to the Atlantic menhaden plan was initiated following review by the Atlantic Menhaden Management Board, of which Delaware is a member, and acceptance of the 2015 Stock Assessment and Peer Review report, which found the menhaden resource in good condition – neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. Population fecundity, a measure of reproductive capacity, was estimated to be roughly double the threshold value of 86.8 trillion eggs. Additionally, total fishing mortality was below the current target.
Atlantic menhaden support an important commercial fishery in Delaware due to its widespread use as bait for the commercial blue crab fishery and for the recreational fishery as the preferred bait for many important species, including striped bass.
The ASMFC’s public information document (PID) – the precursor to the forthcoming draft amendment – outlines a number of issues in the Atlantic menhaden fishery and solicits feedback on how the resource should be managed. Specifically, the PID presents a suite of tools to manage the menhaden resource using ecological reference points and provides options to allocate the resource among the states, regions and user groups. In addition to the specific issues identified, comments are welcome on all aspects of the fishery and resource, including recommendations for future management.
Changes considered under Draft Addendum II to the Jonah Crab FMP include the possibility of establishing a coastwide standard for claw harvest to address concerns regarding the equity of the current claw provision. Specific options include establishing a whole crab fishery or allowing for the harvest of claws coastwide. Also under consideration is establishing a definition of bycatch, based on a percent composition of catch, in order to minimize the expansion of a small‐scale fishery under the bycatch allowance.
Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the proposed changes either by attending the public hearings or providing written comment. To download the documents and for instructions on commenting, visit:
· Atlantic Menhaden: http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/AtlMenhadenAmend3PID_PublicComment.pdf
· Jonah Crab: http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/JonahCrabAddendumII_PublicComment.pdf
Public comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017 for Atlantic menhaden and 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6 for Jonah crab. Comments should be sent to Megan Ware, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland Street, Suite A‐N, Arlington, VA 22201; faxed to 703-842-0741 or emailed to email@example.com.