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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Atlantic Menhaden - stock status report

Marine Fisheries

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Atlantic Menhaden

Atlantic Menhaden

Stock Status – Concern – The coast– wide Atlantic menhaden stock is not overfished, but was found to be experiencing overfishing. This is based on a corrected version of the 2010 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment (a mistake was found in the model code of the original 2010 Atlantic menhaden benchmark stock assessment). Originally, overfishing was not occurring and the fishing mortality rate (F) was slightly below the threshold. After the correction was made to the stock assessment, F is now slightly above the threshold for 2008 (terminal year). Population fecundity was above target; therefore the stock is not overfished. Commercial landings in North Carolina have decreased because there is no longer a menhaden reduction plant in the state.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2001– 2010 – 24,426,963 lbs./$1,999,477

2010 Commercial Landings and Value – 1,299,130 lbs./$111,552

Average Recreational Landings – Not available

Status of Fisheries 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 I was approved in August 2004 to modify the biological reference points, stock assessment schedule and revise the habitat section. The 2003 stock assessment used a new model with a fecundity– based biological reference point to determine stock status. Addendum II was approved by the ASMFC Board and established a five– year annual cap on reduction fishery landings in Chesapeake Bay and was implemented in 2006. Addendum II also established a research program to determine menhaden population in the Chesapeake Bay and to address localized depletion. Addendum III mirrors the intent and provisions of Addendum II, but incorporates 2005 landings data and allows for the transfer of under– harvest to the following year’s harvest. Addendum III was passed in November 2006. The commission's Atlantic Menhaden Management Board approved Addendum IV in November 2009 which extends the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery harvest cap, established through Addendum III, for an additional three years (2011 to 2013). At its May 2010 meeting, the ASMFC Menhaden Board passed a motion tasking the Menhaden Technical Committee (TC) to develop alternative reference points. In addition, the Policy Board directed the Multispecies TC to work with the Menhaden TC to explore reference points that account for predation. 

Research and Data Needs – Develop coast wide adult abundance index. Collect age– specific data on movement rates of menhaden to develop regional abundance trends. Evaluate productivity of different estuaries. Re-evaluate menhaden natural mortality– at– age and population response to changing predator populations by updating and augmenting the MSVPA.

Current Regulations – None

Harvest Season – Open in ocean beyond one mile of beach (with specific time and area exceptions); not allowed within 3 miles south of Cape Lookout with various closures in estuaries and ocean north of Cape Lookout (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 2001– 2010 – 15.3, 2010 – 24.1

Habits and Habitat – 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. About 75– 80% of the annual Atlantic coast catch is processed into fishmeal for animal feed or oil as an industrial base and for food additives. The rest is used for bait in the crab and lobster pot fisheries and sport fishing bait.

For more information, contact Trish Murphey at Trish.Murphey@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-682- 2632 or (252) 726– 7021.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • (252) 726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632

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