Peter Baker is the director of Pew's Northeast Fisheries Program.
Peter Baker responds to an article published in the Carteret County (NC) News-Times about the Atlantic menhaden stock.
Thanks to staff writer Mike Shutak for alerting Carteret County News-Times readers to the pending decision on the fate of Atlantic menhaden, sometimes called “the most important fish in the sea.” (“Menhaden Stock Health Debated,” Oct. 17.)
Peer-reviewed data show menhaden at historic lows, having plunged nearly 90% over the past three decades. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has recognized a clear need to act.
As reported, there are those in the seafood processing industry who want us to believe that because menhaden abundance has gone up and down in the past, we should be less concerned about their present depleted state. But fluctuations over the longer history do not negate the reality of a steady, 25-year decline. That’s the sort of sustained trend that tells scientists there is a problem. Data clearly show that menhaden are in trouble. We must also address the impact on the many marine animals that depend on this fish for food. As the ASMFC has stated, “the immediate goals are to take steps to end overfishing and manage Atlantic menhaden not only as a fishery but as a critical ecosystem component.”
The more than 90,000 people who have spoken out for menhaden will not be distracted from these goals.
Director of Northeast Fisheries Program at the Pew Environment Group