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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 19 Menhaden SSR 2015

Marine Fisheries

Atlantic Menhaden

Atlantic Menhaden — 2015

Stock StatusViable The previous stock status was concerned, however, the 2015 benchmark stock assessment indicates that Atlantic menhaden are neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. Atlantic Menhaden are currently managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Fishery Management Plan Amendment 2, approved in 2012, that established a total allowable catch and adopted new biological reference points for biomass based on maximum spawning potential. Due to the outcome of the new stock assessment, ASMFC continues to work on developing ecosystem-based reference points for management use to account for the forage needs of menhaden’s predator species such as striped bass, weakfish, and bluefish.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2005-2014 – 2,499,245 lbs./$256,015

2014 Commercial Landings and Value –917,375 lbs./$145,587

Average Recreational Landings – Not available

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina, menhaden are currently included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) FMP compliance requirements. The revised ASMFC FMP was approved in 1992. Addendum I of Amendment 1 modified the biological reference points, stock assessment schedule and revised the habitat section. The 2003 stock assessment used a new model with a fecundity– based biological reference point to determine stock status. Addendum II established a five year annual cap on reduction fishery landings in Chesapeake Bay. Addendum III mirrors the intent and provisions of Addendum II, but incorporated 2005 landings data and allows for the transfer of under–harvest to the following year’s harvest. Addendum IV extended the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery harvest cap, established through Addendum III, for an additional three years (2011 to 2013). Addendum V was approved in November 2011, and establishes a new interim F threshold and target based on MSP that equates to 15% and 30% of unfished SSB with the goal to increase abundance, SSB, and availability of menhaden as forage. In December 2012, the Atlantic Menhaden Board approved Amendment 2 that establishes a 170,800 MT total allowable catch coastwide began in 2013. In 2015, a new benchmark stock assessment was approved indicating that Atlantic menhaden are neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing and the 2015 and 2016 fishing seasons were set at 187,880 MT per year, a 10% increase from the 2014 TAC. 

Research and Data Needs – Develop a coastwide fishery- independent index of adult abundance at age.

2014 Regulations – Effective January 1, 2013 a law was passed making it unlawful to harvest menhaden with a purse seine net deployed by a mother ship and one or more runner boats within the state’s three-mile jurisdiction.

Harvest Season – Open to purse seine vessels NOT deployed by a mother ship within the state’s three mile jurisdiction. (see N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Rule Book).

Size and Age at Maturity – 7-9 inches fork length/3+ years

Historic and Current Maximum Age – 10 years/6-7 years

Juvenile Abundance Index 2005-2014 9.74, 2014 – 9.6

Habits and Habitats – Atlantic menhaden are estuarine–dependent with a single stock along the Atlantic coast. They spawn during fall–winter in the ocean from the Virginia capes to south of Cape Lookout. Menhaden migrate north from unspecified south Atlantic wintering areas in spring, with larger/older fish going farthest north. Menhaden are unique in their dependence as adults on plankton for food that they strain from the water while swimming in schools near the surface. Recent research indicates that year– class strength is probably determined by environmental factors (currents, temperature, predation, others) acting on larvae as they approach and enter inlets and nursery areas.

For more information, contact Lindsey Staszak at Lindsey.Staszak@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7805 or 252-264-3911.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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