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VIMS to Access Social and Economic Value of Menhaden

A new three-year study led by researchers at VIMS seeks input from commercial and recreational anglers and other stakeholders to help assess the social and economic value of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay.

The socioeconomic study complements several ecological studies of menhaden populations in Chesapeake Bay by fisheries researchers at VIMS.

Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) are small, oily fish that lie at the center of a debate concerning their relative importance to the Bay ecosystem and economy. Menhaden support one of the most commercially important fisheries along the Atlantic Coast, providing fish meal, fish oil, and bait for other fisheries. They also play an important ecological role, filtering Bay waters by consuming large quantities of plankton, and serving as a favorite food for striped bass and other popular game fish.

The study, by VIMS researchers Jim Kirkley, Tom Murray, Winnie Ryan, and Dennis Taylor, will compare menhaden's economic contributions both in terms of the commercial fishery and the "ecosystem services" that menhaden provide. Assisting in the study are researchers Rob Hicks (College of William and Mary); Doug Lipton, Ted McConnell, and Ivar Strand (University of Maryland); and John Duberg of the Nearing Group (Baltimore, MD).

The study will also assess the importance of menhaden to the viability of the communities that depend on the fish for their livelihood. Those include Reedville, Virginia, home to the Chesapeake Bay's commercial menhaden fleet and processing facilities, and Deltaville, home to a recreational charter fleet that frequently targets the game fish that depend on menhaden as prey. In addition, the researchers will examine the potential social and economic importance of menhaden to other communities and stakeholder groups in both Virginia and Maryland.

Results of the study will help the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC) and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission decide among alternative regulatory and conservation options for menhaden. It also will provide detailed information about how alternative options might impact affected communities.

Members of the research team are currently seeking input to assist in their project assessments. Interested stakeholders can participate by way of an interactive web site at http://wiki.wm.edu/openwiki/index.php/Atlantic_Menhaden_Study. Registered members of this web site will be able to post comments, receive notice of additions and changes, and participate in on-line discussions of project progress.

Individuals interested in knowing more about the study, providing input, or obtaining a copy of the research proposal may also telephone or e-mail Jim Kirkley (804-684-7160, jkirkley@vims.edu) or Winnie Ryan (804-684-7938, winnie@vims.edu), or contact them via land mail at the College of William and Mary, VIMS/SMS, PO Box 1346, Gloucester Point, VA 23062-1346.

Funding for the project is from VMRC's Recreational and Commercial Fisheries Boards.



President Signs Order to Protect Striped Bass and Red Drum

On October 20, with the vast expanse of the Chesapeake Bay as his backdrop, President George Bush signed an Executive Order establishing gamefish status for striped bass and red drum in federal waters, moving another step forward in conserving two of the most popular game fish in the United States.

“This Executive Order has the full support of the sportfishing industry,” said Mike Nussman, American Sportfishing Association (ASA) president and CEO. “By signing the order, the President sends the right message about the need to ensure that striped bass and red drum endure as a species and as sportfish to be enjoyed by anglers now and for generations to come.  We have been working with a number of organizations for years to see that this critical conservation measure came to be, and we applaud the President for his action.”

"With this action, the President has secured a legacy for the recreational anglers and conservationists who have worked so hard on behalf of our marine resources," said Walter W. Fondren III, chairman of Coastal Conservation Association. "When CCA began to work on recovering red drum 30 years ago in Texas, we never imagined an event like this would ever be possible. We owe a debt of gratitude to the President for recognizing the high value placed on these resources by the citizens of this country."

In his remarks, the President highlighted the economic importance that America’s 40 million anglers have on the nation’s economy and acknowledged the recreational, economic and environmental benefits that conserving these two species will have now and on future generations of Americans.

This Executive Order directs the Commerce and Interior Departments to put regulations in place to establish gamefish status for red drum and striped bass in federal waters. In his remarks, the President made it clear that he also supports improving the quality of data available for managing our fish stocks. The President said, “We’re going to count on the people who really care about the fish stocks to get good, solid, sound information so we can do a better job not only today, but tomorrow, in making sure our fisheries are strong.”

Due to intense overfishing, both striped bass and red drum were nearly decimated in the 1970s and into the 1980s. This decline led to a drive by recreational anglers to curtail the harvest of these species by imposing federal moratoriums on commercial and recreational striped bass and red drum fishing in federal waters. The President’s Executive Order would ban the commercial sale of red drum and striped bass in federal waters. A number of states already prohibit the sale of these fish caught in state waters.


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