Virginia and Maryland menhaden fishermen had to pack up their equipment on the Potomac River last week.
The Potomac River Fisheries Commission closed all menhaden fisheries in the Potomac River Aug. 22 complying with new catch limits mandated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The commission determined that overfishing was taking place and set new limits.
Twenty pound net fishermen take about 99 percent of the menhaden in the Potomac River. This accounts for about 26 percent of the coast-wide quota.
This year menhaden were not as abundant in the Potomac as last year, according to Ellen Cosby, assistant executive secretary of the commission. The commission tracks menhaden catches closely. Instead of the fishery being closed in June, it closed this month.
ASMFC will allow pound net fishermen a 6,000 pound daily bycatch limit per licensee by ASMFC. The commission met earlier this year with pound net fishermen to inform them of the new limits.
“Everybody was on board, everyone knew what was going on, nobody was surprised,” said Cosby.
Since any overage in this years catch would be deducted from next year’s limit, the fishermen were “very much in support of the program…they wanted to get close but not go over.”
While Virginia fishermen on the Potomac have been quiet about the closure Maryland, the fishermen are in an uproar and threatening a lawsuit against Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.