REEDVILLE, VA / ACCESSWIRE / June 24, 2019 / Since early March, when independent auditor SAI Global recommended that Atlantic menhaden be certified sustainable by Marine Stewardship Council standards, anti-commercial fishing groups have launched an increasingly inaccurate and misleading campaign against the Atlantic menhaden fishery. These campaigns get basic facts wrong, ranging from the health of the menhaden population, to the role of menhaden in the decline of striped bass, and have even made dishonest statements about the time and manner in which menhaden boats fish.
Groups like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) have filed formal objections to the certification, citing as one of their chief objections that the fishery “affects striped bass numbers and the recreational fishing economy.” Like the majority of TRCP’s other claims, this one is not well-supported.
What is true is that striped bass is in grave trouble. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the interstate body that manages both striped bass and menhaden, has determined that striped bass is overfished. Its most recent estimates found, from updated recreational catch statistics, that the number of striped bass being removed from the water was 2.3 times as high as previously estimated.
This means that too many striped bass are being caught, and too many bass that are returned to the water by recreational anglers are dying due to recreational hook and release mortality. According to the ASMFC, this has been true for several years. Key measures of the health of the striped bass population, such as spawning stock biomass, have been poor or in decline since 2010.
When discussing striped bass at its February meeting, the Commission made no mention of a lack of forage or pressure from the menhaden fishery as a reason for this decline. Instead, the consensus was that the recreational catch of striped bass is too high. State managers are already taking action to reduce the excessive striped bass harvest: the Virginia Marine Resources Commission has cancelled the state’s recreation trophy season, for example.
In contrast, the Atlantic menhaden fishery has been much more successfully managed. The stock is not overfished and not experiencing overfishing. Unlike striped bass, overfishing of menhaden has not occurred since the early 1960s. The stock has been so healthy that the ASMFC has been able to successfully raise the quota in three of the last five years.’
To make an argument that the ASMFC itself is not making, TRCP engages in a fisheries management shell game, trying to trick the public by masking the truth. Their misrepresentation of the facts to fit their preferred conclusion is disappointing. In their last piece on the subject, they rely on a single uncited graph taken out of context from a recent scientific paper to stand in for the “best available evidence.” The graph itself is a simulation of menhaden and striped bass biomass as they relate to menhaden fishing mortality.
TRCP leaves its readers to assume that this graph is a reflection of the way menhaden is currently managed, and implies that the ASMFC is only allowing more fishing. This is not the case. Menhaden fishing mortality is currently well within the sustainable range set by fisheries managers, and is at a low level compared to historic highs.
This fits a pattern of falsehoods, exaggerations, and manipulations of fact by groups like TRCP. They have consistently gotten the facts wrong regarding how the menhaden fishery operates. And it is clear that at times, this misrepresentation is intentional.
One glaring example of TRCP’s outright lies occurred last summer, when Omega Protein vessels made two rare fishing trips in federal waters off the New York/ New Jersey Bight, as they are allowed to do under the ASMFC’s management plan. TRCP and other anti-fishing groups immediately began mischaracterizing the extent and nature of these trips, which TRCP dubiously described as an “industrialized fishing nightmare.”
In an apparent effort to create hysteria among its readers and donors on its anti-menhaden message, TRCP’s John Gans falsely claimed that menhaden boats disrupted “the fabled fall blitz,” managing to get wrong both the extent and the seasonal time range of Omega Protein’s fishing in Federal waters three miles off the coast New York and New Jersey.
Painting a word picture of ideal fall fishing, Mr. Gans wrote about he looks “forward to fall fishing all year long,” describing how it is “a little cooler” and the “days a little shorter,” with a “convergence of baitfish and predators.” He then described how his perfect crisp fall fishing afternoon was destroyed by the appearance of a purse seine vessel fishing for menhaden.
In fact, on the two days when menhaden boats were fishing in the area, New York and New Jersey were in the middle of a heat wave, with afternoon temperatures of 90°F on August 30, and 94°F on September 6. These conditions are hardly synonymous with successful fall fishing. It is dishonest reporting like this that leaves the reader to question the credibility of groups like TRCP.
Such falsehoods and misstatements are commonplace for TRCP’s critiques of the menhaden fishery. But these inaccurate and misleading attacks from TRCP do not erase the fact that the menhaden fishery operates responsibly, and that menhaden fishing remains sustainable. This is in stark contrast to the recreational striped bass fishery on the East Coast, a species TRCP members target for sport. TRCP is predictably silent about the problems facing that species as a result of overfishing by their recreational angler constituency.
Accuweather map of weather conditions across the northeast United States during the week of Aug 30- Sep 6 2018 when commercial menhaden purse seining vessels last fished in the Federal waters off the coast of New York and New Jersey (used with permission).
Doctored Image/Actual Image from Scientific Report
The TRCP included the chart on the left in a recent piece on menhaden fishing. The chart is an altered version of a graph – clearly marked as a computer simulation of relative biomass among four species — from the 2017 academic paper “Evaluating ecosystem-based reference points for Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus)” by Andre Buchheister, Thomas J. Miller and Edward D. Houde. The TRCP distorted the graph by removing two of the four species included in the simulation, and misrepresented the chart by implying that it shows a real-world causal relationship between menhaden mortality and striped bass abundance, rather than being the result of a theoretical simulation.
About Omega Protein
Omega Protein Corporation is a century old nutritional product company that develops, produces and delivers healthy products throughout the world to improve the nutritional integrity of foods, dietary supplements and animal feeds. Omega Protein’s mission is to help people lead healthier lives with better nutrition through sustainably sourced ingredients such as highly-refined specialty oils, specialty proteins products and nutraceuticals. Omega Protein is a division of Cooke Inc., a family owned fishery company based in New Brunswick, Canada.
The Company operates seven manufacturing facilities located in the United States, Canada and Europe. The Company also has a long-term supply contract with Alpha VesselCo, LLC which owns 30 vessels which harvest menhaden, a fish abundantly found off the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Company’s website is www.omegaprotein.com.
All fishing vessels formerly owned by Omega Protein are owned and operated by Alpha VesselCo, LLC, an independent company.
Director of Public Affairs, Omega Protein
SOURCE: Omega Protein
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