ERPs for men­haden a chance to make his­tory

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Sports -

The At­lantic States Ma­rine Fish­eries Com­mis­sion is cur­rently ac­cept­ing pub­lic com­ments on Draft Amend­ment 3 of the In­ter­state Fish­ery Man­age­ment Plan for At­lantic men­haden. Com­ments can be of­fered in-per­son at pub­lic hear­ings and in writ­ten form. On Mon­day, Sept. 18, there is a pub­lic hear­ing sched­uled at Anne Arun­del Com­mu­nity Col­lege, thank­fully not too far way, in which you and I can fight for the lit­tle guy.

Small, sil­very, and packed with nu­tri­tional value, men­haden are fil­ter feed­ers that con­sume plank­ton and in turn are food for striped bass, blue­fish, weak­fish, and other fish, as well as ma­rine mam­mals and sea birds like gan­nets, ospreys, and loons. Th­ese boney, oily fish (also known as bunker or pogy) are a crit­i­cal link in the ma­rine food web. Men­haden con­vert the en­ergy stored in al­gae and the tiny, shrim­p­like plank­ton that they eat into high­en­ergy, high-pro­tein food for many other species.

Speak­ing with Al­li­son Colden, Mary­land Fish­eries sci­en­tist with the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, on Fri­day, she said, “Just like the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay is the cen­ter for men­haden, it’s also the nurs­ery for striped bass, so re­gard­less of what hap­pens coast-wide you’ve got to have a good pop­u­la­tion of bunker here to get the pop­u­la­tion of striped bass to re­spond.”

The Ch­e­sa­peake has his­tor­i­cally been the most im­por­tant nurs­ery area for At­lantic men­haden through­out its range from Maine to Florida. From spring through fall, schools of ju­ve­niles and adults graze plank­ton all over the Bay and its tidal rivers. Un­for­tu­nately, the num­ber of young men­haden pro­duced in the Ch­e­sa­peake has been poor for the last 20 years. The low num­ber of peanut bunker has been linked to an in­crease in chronic dis­ease in our striped bass.

Amend­ment 3 strives to ac­com­plish some­thing that’s never been done in the U.S., man­age a fish species based on eco­log­i­cal ref­er­ence points. ERPs will ac­count for At­lantic men­haden’s role as a for­age fish.

This is an his­toric op­por­tu­nity to im­prove the health of men­haden and the many species that de­pend on them for nour­ish­ment. Sound eco­log­i­cal man­age­ment of men­haden, based on proven science, will en­able the pop­u­la­tion to con­tinue to grow as well as in­crease their value to com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ing and all the busi­nesses that ben­e­fit from healthy ma­rine re­sources.

Amend­ment 3 in­cludes op­tions for how the eco­log­i­cal ref­er­ence points are im­ple­mented, how the men­haden catch is man­aged, and pos­si­ble

PHOTO BY DAVID INSLEY

Kent Is­land quar­ter­back Trent Jackson looks for a re­ceiver while Ben­nett de­fender Pa­trick Magda closes in dur­ing the first quar­ter of Satur­day’s game in Sal­is­bury. Though he was sacked on the play, Jackson threw a 76-yard touch­down pass two plays later, the first of four in a 47-13 win.

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