Little fish, big victory!

by Phil Kline

January 3, 2013

Humpback whales feed amongst a colony of seabirds, seen from on board the Esperanza in the Unimak pass. Greenpeace is campaigning to save the Arctic from attempts by oil companies to exploit the regions resources for short term profit.

© Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

Humpback whales rely on menhaden as a food source

Ive been involved in fisheries management reform for over two decades and in all that time there has only been a couple of times I would say that an action taken by the politicians who manage out nations fisheries have done something historic. December 14 was one of those historic moments when the Atlantic States Marine Fish Commission (ASMFC) adopted the first ever management plan for Atlantic menhaden.The ASMFC heard from more than 120,000 of our online activists urging the commission to take action on menhaden protection. Thank you!

Menhaden are a keystone forage species anchoring the marine foodweb from Florida to Maine. They are small oily fish that striped bass, blue fish, sea birds, whales and a long list of other marine predators depend on. Over the past 2 centuries the menhaden have been caught in limitless quantities for use as fertilizer, animal feed and hundreds of industrial products. The commercial fishery for menhaden has never had limits on how many menhaden they could catch. It was a free for all and one of our last unregulated fisheries. As a result their population has declined to less than 10 percent of their historic abundance, not leaving enough menhaden in the ocean to fulfill their role of feeding the myriad of species that depend on them. All that changed last Friday when the ASMFC passed their new menhaden management plan that among other things puts the first ever limits on how many menhaden can be caught each year.

Greenpeace has been actively working on reforming the menhaden fishery the past eight years. The campaign to reform the menhaden fishery is a classic case of tireless advocacy. The save the menhaden campaign included coalition building and implementing a multifaceted campaign with threads of work covering science, policy, corporate campaigning, grassroots mobilization and planning over a very long time frame. The goal was to achieve benchmarks that eventually led to having a good fishery management plan adopted. For all ocean lovers this win, for a very small fish, gives us one huge reason to celebrate this victory for the new year.

Read more about the amendment passed by the ASFMC here.


Phil Kline

By Phil Kline

Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.

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