The commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) adopted an emergency rulemaking action that reduces the daily catch limit and carrier vessel capacity of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) from a maximum of 250,000 pounds to 120,000 pounds. The emergency rule, which goes into effect today, follows actions taken at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Atlantic Menhaden Management Board meeting on 21 May. Under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act of 1993 (ACFCMA), Maine must implement and enforce fisheries management plans of the ASMFC “to ensure the responsible and controlled harvest of menhaden in Maine waters.”
Allegations of overfishing in the largely unregulated Atlantic menhaden fishery over the past several decades have led to serious concerns about stock health and the health of other stocks that depend on healthy menhaden populations. In December, the Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) cut the total allowable catch for menhaden by 20 percent. Virginia, New Jersey and Maine voted for less stringent cuts in the quota, although, in many notable cases, conservation and recreational fisheries advocacy groups in those states (e.g., the Maine chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association) fought hard for even larger reductions.