8/21/1999 Letter To William Matuszeski, Director US EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office

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Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation, Inc. Founded 1984, Easton, MD

8/21/1999 Letter To William Matuszeski, Director US EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office

William Matuszeski, Director
US EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office
410 Severn Avenue, Suite 109
Annapolis, MD 21403

Dear Mr. Matuszeski,

The Chesapeake Bay Acid Rain Foundation is concerned about the management of Atlantic Menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay. I have worked with various state and federal officials over the past two years to address some of the problems affecting the forage base for finfish in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast. In recent years numerous states along the east coast have enacted legislation or have enforced fishing regulations that have banned or limited the harvest of Atlantic menhaden in their respective state waters. The menhaden reduction fishery has concentrated their efforts to harvest Atlantic menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay region of the Atlantic coast, causing seasonal depletions of this valuable resource within Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Based on the latest estimate by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Atlantic menhaden population is the lowest on record, and has declined 65% since 1991. Improved fisheries management is one of the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Program and to accomplish these goals, important decisions need to be made now to change the way Atlantic menhaden are being managed.

On February 17, 1998, I made a presentation to the CBP Living Resources Subcommittee concerning the decline of Atlantic menhaden and their relationship to the health of the bay’s striped bass population, at the Annapolis office of the CBP. Atlantic menhaden are an important filter feeder, transferring enormous amounts of nutrients into forage biomass, and at the same time improving water quality with the potential to consume up to 25% of the nitrogen from the Chesapeake Bay. As you may recall, we met at Congressman Wayne Gilchrest’s office in Washington, DC on October 2, 1998 to discuss this issue. With Congressman Gilchrest’s help we are making progress towards obtaining funds to conduct some of the research and stock assessment work that could improve our understanding the role Atlantic menhaden has as one of the bays most important finfish. This should result in improved fishery management that could affect many of the bays living resources and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay.

Atlantic menhaden are the most abundant species of finfish commercially harvested in the Chesapeake Bay and their harvest supports one of the largest commercial fisheries in the United States. In recent years, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission listened to complaints from the fishing public, various environmental groups and state officials concerning the decline of the Atlantic menhaden population. Subsequently, the ASMFC held a peer review meeting on November 16 through November 18, 1998, in Baltimore MD, which resulted in their decision to amend the Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management Plan.

The CBP has fishery management plans for various species, however, it does not have one for Atlantic menhaden. I am requesting that you consider addressing this issue by developing a Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic menhaden. Enclosed is a copy of a Forage Fish Management Plan developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for your review. The ASMFC has scheduled a public meeting on September 13, 1999, in Annapolis MD to receive comments from the public and other interested parties to provide an opportunity to identify major issues and alternatives relative to the management of Atlantic menhaden. I hope the CBP will become involved in this process, since many of their programs and objectives are linked to the health and management of this unique species. The Chesapeake Bay Acid Rain Foundation has compiled statistical data on Atlantic menhaden from various sources over the last several years that we would be happy to share with you. I look forward to working with you on this issue and other bay related projects in the future.

Thank you,
James E. Price


CC: Ann Swanson, Chesapeake Bay Commission
Carolyn Watson, Chesapeake Bay Program
Eric Schwaab, MD-DNR
William Pruitt, VMRC
Fran Flannigan, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
John H. Dunnigan, ASMFC
Jamie Geiger, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Penelope Dalton – NMFS
Congressman Wayne Gilchrest