Greenpeace Statement at Meeting of Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council

Media release - August 16, 2006
Statement by Buffy Baumann, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner

"As we all know, menhaden play a critical role in coastal Atlantic ecosystems, both as filter feeders and as forage for numerous other species.  The ASMFC's failure to account for or protect these ecological functions prompted over 20,000 people to urge the commission to take action last year.  The majority of these comments were in favor of a coastwide moratorium on the reduction fishery, which Greenpeace continues to support.  

"As a result of overfishing and poor management, menhaden have experienced serial depletions from the Gulf of Maine southward down the Atlantic Coast.  Yet, the ASFMC failed to respond to these depletions for years, even after a National Marine Fisheries Service Peer Review Panel recommended that the Commission set a firm limit on the coastwide catch.  Faced with growing concerns about localized depletion in the menhaden's most important spawning grounds, ASMFC finally acted last August to cap the menhaden reduction fishery in the Chesapeake Bay.  While this cap falls short of what is needed to protect coastal ecosystems and fishing communities, the Commission's recognition that limits on the fishery are needed is an important, if overdue, step in the right direction.  

"Greenpeace urges the Commission to not let this timid step be halted by a single state acting at the behest of a single company.   After failing to lead his state in a timely ratification of the ASMFC's Addendum II, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has belatedly introduced a proposal that not only exceeds the cap agreed upon by the multistate commission, but incorporates a measure that the Commission has already considered and expressly rejected: underages.  Contrary to the Commission's decision, the Kaine proposal would allow industry to rollover any uncaught portion of its annual quota to the following year.  Under this provision, Omega Protein could vacuum up to 122,740 tons of fish out of the Bay in any one season, further magnifying the fishery's already unacceptable impacts on the Bay ecosystem. 

"As Governor Kaine himself said in October, "If the menhaden are harvested too vigorously, then it reduces a source of food that can be helpful to a healthy rockfish population, for example. It's a question of balance."  Indeed, balance is essential.  But the Kaine proposal ignores this balance because the Governor hopes to "mitigate the potential for economic hardship on the menhaden industry."  We, along with nearly 20,000 people who spoke out last summer, speak for the hardship on the menhaden and the wildlife of the Bay that depend on them. 

"More effort must be made to integrate the ASMFC's ecological objectives included in Amendment 1 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden into any plan for menhaden management. These ecological objectives include protecting and maintaining the important ecological role Atlantic menhaden play along the coast.  As the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation will present today, menhaden are no longer able to fulfill this ecological role, as a result of overfishing.  

"The irony of Greenpeace being the voice that urges the ASMFC to stick to its proverbial guns is not lost on me.  However, I urge the Commission to stand by its decision last August, and in so doing, find Virginia in non-compliance for failing to meet the generous compliance deadline set last October. 

"In the unfortunate event that the Commission bows to the will of the bullies in the room and initiates a new Addendum process to consider Governor Kaine's proposal, then we respectfully submit that this process should also include other proposals not previously included in the Addendum II list of options, such as a coastwide moratorium on the industrial purse seine fishery. 

"Thank you for this opportunity to comment."

VVPR info:

Exp. contact date: 2006-09-16 00:00:00

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