With 2023 winding to a close, we wanted to look back at the top accomplishments toward forage fish conservation that the TRCP, our partners, and dedicated members along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts achieved together this year. As you probably know, forage fish like menhaden and herring are small but critically important species that play a central role in marine food webs, and provide an essential food source for some of the most economically important sportfish like striped bass, redfish, bluefish, and speckled trout. There remains a lot more work to be done in 2024 to expand forage fish protections in the U.S., but we are poised to hit the ground running next year with your continued support.
Our Top Three Forage Fish Successes of 2023:
1. We compelled the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Atlantic menhaden reduction industry and Virginia, to create a 1-mile no-fishing buffer along Chesapeake Bay shorelines and a ½-mile no-fishing buffer along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and to implement summer holiday fishing restrictions. While this MOU is not legally binding for the menhaden industry, its development is a direct result of our public push in Virginia to move menhaden reduction fishing out of the Bay. It also appears to have already reduced fish spills along the Eastern Shore this season, as no major spill events occurred in 2023, unlike the many spills we saw in 2022. While there are still no enforceable regulations on the industry to lower its 100-million-pound annual menhaden harvest in the Bay, we plan to keep the pressure on in 2024 to add legal teeth to this “gentlemen’s agreement.”
2. We successfully pushed for the adoption of a notice of intent (NOI) by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to implement regulations for the Gulf menhaden fishery, including a mandated 1-mile coastwide no-fishing buffer, 3-mile no-fishing buffers near popular beaches, and more stringent spill reporting requirements. Anglers have been sounding the alarm about the reduction industry’s impacts to sportfish populations and shorelines for years, all while accepting more and more limits on recreational fishing, including stricter size and creel limits on redfish and speckled trout. The Commission recognized that it’s time for the menhaden industry to participate in conservation as well. This NOI will hopefully be approved ahead of the 2024 season, and we will be following its progress along the way.
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