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Old 11-15-2004, 12:32 AM
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Default Depletion of menhaden in Chesapeake affecting New Jersey

Published in the Asbury Park Press 11/14/04
Depletion of menhaden in Chesapeake affecting New Jersey

The importance of menhaden to the recreational striped bass fishery is being understood by more than a handful of veteran trophy fishermen as the season enters its final phase without the appearance of big bass.
Big fish gravitate to the food source, and rainfish and baby bunkers are not the forage that excites heavyweight bass. There have been virtually no big bunkers along the beach in the last few weeks.

Herb Moore Jr., director of government affairs for the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said last week's Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting underscored how much work has to be done in the management of the menhaden and striped bass fisheries.

"We're focusing on the menhaden stocks in the Chesapeake Bay," he said. "Menhaden are the prime source of food for striped bass in the bay, and we're working with the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and RFA members in that area to get more protection for the menhaden."

Recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen and scientists all are worried about what appears to be localized depletion of menhaden stocks in Chesapeake Bay, the major producer and nursery estuary on the East Coast for striped bass.

Biologists have found that striped bass survival in Maryland and Virginia waters has declined since 1998, and between 25 and 40 percent of the striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay are infected with a potentially lethal bacteria of the genus Mycobacterium, not dangerous to humans.

The scientists also found that 70 to 80 percent of the stripers in the bay have no visible body fat and resemble fish that have not eaten in two months.

The ASMFC decided Wednesday to approve a motion written and spearheaded by Pete Jensen, assistant secretary of natural resources in Maryland, that directs the commission's menhaden board to examine the ecological role of menhaden in the bay.

Menhaden support the reduction fleet based in Virginia, and were one of the top 10 money producing species on the East Coast with a value of $24.4 million in 2003.

The commission's management board and the technical committee will meet in early February to outline new goals for the menhaden stock structure.

Bill Windley, president of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association, has been pushing for better management of menhaden for years.

"Unless the board backs away from this issue, and I do not see that happening, they have chosen a well-organized approach which will ultimately find and implement the right measures for the management of the fishery," Windley said.
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