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Menhaden quota will increase across East Coast

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While menhaden will continue to be managed as they currently are for the time being, Delaware and other states across the East Coast will be able to catch more of the oily fish from 2018 to 2019. 


The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to raise catch limits for menhaden along the East Coast to 216,000 metric tons — an 8 percent increase from last year. 


Delaware will get about a half of a percent of the 216,000 metric tons limit — which comes out to more than 1,000 metric tons (more than two million pounds).


The decision was based off of current menhaden mortality and spawning stock. In upcoming years, the board expects to increase the catch limits based off of how many menhaden are in the ocean and the role the species plays as a forage fish.


Limbo Voss uses menhaden as bait for blue crabs. He says he’s satisfied with the increase.


“The fact that they raised the quota indicates to me that the menhaden is not being overfished and they’re in pretty good shape,” Voss said.


But Voss says he’s still dissatisfied with terms in the new amendment allowing scientists to re-evaluate menhaden management in two years based on the health of other species. On Monday, the commission voted to continue to manage menhaden without considering their role in the ecosystem; meanwhile, scientists will come up with a benchmark in two years that measures the fish's health and abundance alongside the health of the cosystem.


Also part of the decision Tuesday – the commission chose to limit the amount of menhaden that can be caught in the Chesapeake Bay to 51,000 metric tons, down from 87,000 metric tons. Menhaden caught there are used as fishmeal or fish oil.


The commission acknowledged the bay as a nursery ground for many species that rely on menhaden for food.


Chris Moore, a Virginia Senior Scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said Monday’s decision to maintain the status quo for menhaden for now and the catch limits decided Tuesday complement each other.


“What this cap does is it continues to serve a precautionary approach to ensure that we have menhaden in the bay to serve their role as forage while we continue to better understand the ecological concerns for all the different predators in Chesapeake Bay — striped bass, redfish, summer flounder, ospreys, dolphins whales, things like that,” Moore said.


Menhaden are typically caught with pound nets, gill nets or purse seines.

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