KENNEBUNK, Maine — Maine’s lobstermen recently caught a break with the reopening of the state’s menhaden fishery. A key source of local, fresh bait for Maine’s lobster fishery, menhaden has been an increasingly common presence in Maine waters. But the fishery’s reopening is only a temporary patch on a long-standing problem.
Scientists have determined that the menhaden stock is in great shape. But the fishery suffered steep cuts in quota by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the interstate body that manages menhaden, because the stock assessment conducted in 2012 had erroneously concluded that the stock was overfished.
The most recent menhaden assessment, conducted in 2015, found that the opposite was the case: Menhaden is not being overfished and has not been overfished since the 1960s. In short, the fishery is being managed sustainably. When read in conjunction with other metrics from the assessment, including all-time low levels of fishing mortality, it is clear that the menhaden stock is poised for long-term success.
Last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, in recognition of the sustainability of current menhaden management, raised the coastwide quota by 10 percent. While this increase was a positive development for fishermen, the quota still remains well below what it what it was nearly five years ago.
We have made dramatic gains in our understanding of the stock. Since the current science clearly supports the sustainability of the menhaden stock, the quota can clearly be safely increased.