Big changes are being weighed for Atlantic menhaden, the little, oily fish that no one eats but that stirs such passion. At least one of the possible shifts could reverse recent increases in the allowable commercial catch.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates near-shore fishing from Maine to Florida — including the Chesapeake Bay — has invited public comment on several questions about future management of the menhaden fishery at hearings all along the coast. Sessions in the Bay watershed begin Monday, Dec. 5.

The most important issue under consideration involves setting new “reference points” regulating the catch of menhaden that would account for their value to other fish and predators — not just their commercial importance. But the commission also is weighing whether to shake up how the total catch is distributed along the coast.

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