- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

As best as I can determine, nearly all conservation groups in the Mid-Atlantic and at least one state’s Department of Natural Resources — Maryland’s — are downright excited about last week’s announcement that a cap will be placed on the commercial seining of menhaden.

What’s wrong with these people?

The Maryland DNR even sent out a press release that said, “On a motion made by the State of Maryland, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Menhaden Management Board voted overwhelmingly to cap the purse-seine harvest of menhaden by the reduction fishery in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay at the average annual harvest of the previous five years.

“The cap will remain in effect for five years while Maryland and other coastal states implement a research program to examine the issue of potential local depletion of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay.”

Come again? You’re going to examine the “potential” local depletion of the Chesapeake’s menhaden?

I have news for you. It’s not potential. It’s happening while you’re examining the problem. Putting a cap on the reduction fishery industry by using the average harvest of the previous five years isn’t going to help. It could exterminate the few menhaden remaining in the Chesapeake Bay.

Do the math. The menhaden population already is in dire straits and the purse seiners are permitted to continue to snatch up millions of pounds of menhaden by the school for each of the next five years, so doesn’t it appear reasonable to expect there will be no menhaden left after that?

Incidentally, the Maryland DNR nicely explains that a purse seine is an encircling net that is drawn up from the bottom of a body of water so that it looks like a purse when it flows. Purse seines are used to capture entire schools of fish at one time. Virginia still allows them, but Maryland outlawed purse seines in 1931. Good for Maryland. Shame on Virginia.

Newcomers to the region should know that the Atlantic menhaden is a filter-feeder fish that helps maintain the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. They also are the primary food for striped bass and other large fish species. Sport fishermen have long warned about the depletion of this incredibly important creature. They’re noticing more and more emaciated stripers, fish with sores and other ailments, all of them potentially because of a lack of proper nutrition.

Menhaden are netted to provide fishmeal and fish oils that are used in animal foods and pharmaceuticals, but all of that can be artificially reproduced.

Two sport fishing organizations, the Recreational Fishing Alliance and the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association, appear to be alone in disapproving the menhaden cap.

“Unfortunately, there is no victory to be proclaimed here,” said Jim Donofrio, the executive director of the RFA.

“Our position is that it is time to end large-scale, industrial fishing for menhaden in all Atlantic bays, estuaries and coastal waters. This cap does nothing but give the reduction industry a free pass to continue to remove over 200 million pounds of menhaden from the Chesapeake Bay each year for the next five years. And there’s no limit to the amount of menhaden that can be caught outside the bay.”

Ted Nugent comes to Timonium — Baltimore classic rock station WZBA (FM-100.7) and the Maryland Sportsmen’s Association will welcome rock star and renowned hunter Ted Nugent to the state fair in Timonium on Tuesday for a special performance.

The MSA will have a booth next to the radio station, and it wants hunters to visit with MSA members and hear Nugent rock.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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