This is just a quick update on what happened yesterday and today with menhaden and weakfish and what’s on tap for striped bass tomorrow.

We plan to do a comprehensive report on the entire three day meeting. We do want to post this quick update on menhaden as well as a few other issues that you should care about.


The menhaden discussion was dominated by Omega Protein exceeding the bay cap of 51,000mt. The other critical menhaden issue was the progress on ecological based reference points (ERP’s).

ERP’s are considered a way forward with menhaden management. This system would manage menhaden with a consideration for their overall value to the ecosystem rather than just a single species.

This is a large shift in management protocol and in many ways a uncharted territory. The stock assessment and ERP evaluation will go into peer review over the next week. That will set the stage for the ASMFC meeting in February.

The critical thing to remember is that the menhaden board will get A LOT of guidance on the ERP’s. What does this mean? Well, the ERP’s will be based on what “we” want out of the fishery. Dietary requirements are only being done for species like striped bass and bluefish. Whales, dolphins, and osprey are left out of the equation. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to us.

While we are hopeful for the ERP’s, we are concerned that the aforementioned species dietary needs are not being counted. How can this be an Ecological Based Reference Point if you aren’t taking in the entirety of the ecology?


Right at the onset of the agenda item, John McMurray, NY ASMFC Commissioner, put the following motion forward.

This motion passed on a roll call vote and passed without questions.

A couple of things to note. The first commissioner to speak after the motion was the Governor’s Appointee from Virginia asking that the board find Virginia out of compliance. This is a first for me. We aren’t 100% sure but we believe this is the first time a state asked to be voted non-compliant. That is a very good indicator moving forward.

The other item to consider is that Omega did overfish the bay cap. As per the finding, there is a payback required in the next year. That means that the bay cap would be reduced to somewhere around 30,000 mt (Number dependent on final harvest numbers from Omega).

From here, the non-compliant finding will go through a process and end up in the Commerce Department. We will follow-up with more details in the next post.


Ugh… that’s the update.

As you can see, weakfish are still abysmal. The call is actually still going on But, here are some takeaways. First, weakfish are still in the situation where they are decent numbers of 1 year old and under. However, natural mortality is still extremely high.

What does this mean? Well, little weakfish are disappearing at about 11 inches. During the discussion, some really off the wall comments came up and one really good point was FINALLY inserted into the discussion.

From the off the wall department, striped bass are eating juvenile weakfish. Well, that’s been going on for… I don’t know? Since the last ice age? It is just comical to blame a predatory fish that is in a steep decline on the demise of another fish it has shared space with for millennia

A good comment was made though! There is a rather robust shrimp fishery in North Carolina. This shrimp fishery has grown substantially over the last decade. The bycatch for shrimp fisheries is very high in some areas. A good chunk of the shrimp fishing activity in North Carolina occurs in estuarian waters. Small weakfish are one of the casualties of this bycatch. Estimates of over 10 million juvenile weakfish per year are shoveled off the deck of shrimp boats in North Carolina.

Of course, you have the issue of localized menhaden depletion in the Chesapeake as well. When menhaden aren’t around in the Maryland portion of the bay, small weakfish are going to be on the menu.

Maybe it would be a great idea to curtail the menhaden harvest in the Chesapeake while actually addressing the weakfish bycatch in North Carolina rather than blaming predators for being well, predators?

Striped Bass

The striped bass meeting is tomorrow afternoon. To listen in, please click this link.

This chart was available in the meeting materials and it tells quite the story.

The vast proportion of letters wanted option 2, equal reductions. Vast being a total of 27 emails or letters for option 3 and 26 for status quo. There were over 500 for equal reductions across all sectors.

The options we advocated for, 1@35″ min for the ocean and 1 @18″ min for the bay were also the overwhelming winners of the group. So, let’s see if the commission actually acts in good faith toward the public wants and needs.

It isn’t a terrible idea to send your state commissioners one final email to remind them of what you want. Here’s a link for their addresses.

Thanks and we will be sending updates tomorrow afternoon on social media. Look for a more comprehensive review of the meeting next week.

4 Responses

  1. The Pamlico Sound has been identified for fifty years as a critical habitat nursery area for weakfish serving the whole East coast. NC has failed to protect the Essential Fish Habitat for juvenile weakfish. Adults spawn near the inlets. Winds and currents carry the eggs and developing larva to the marsh/creek estuaries where the larva continue to develop. Juveniles leave these settlement areas at about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2″ inches in length for the deeper waters of the Pamlico Sound. Those deeper waters are the epicenter of commercial/industrial shrimp trawling in NC. Atlantic croaker, spot, weakfish, summer flounder(fluke) and blue crab are the primary species of this bycatch, which averages 4:1. Bycatch mainly consists of 3″ to 7″ juvenile finfish…the size of the target shrimp. Bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) that will further reduce this waste create an unacceptable shrimp loss to the industry. This is trawling in the Pamlico Sound-

      1. Thanks for the comment Rick. This is absolutely the 800lb gorilla in the room. We will engage on this issue as soon as we get beyond striped bass

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