Massachusetts Eyeing 65% Increase in Menhaden Harvest

DMF has scheduled a meeting to discuss its management of the Commonwealth’s commercial menhaden fishery. The scoping meeting responds, in part, to a roughly 65% increase in the Massachusetts commercial menhaden quota for 2018, and DMF’s interest in stakeholder feedback on how best to utilize the quota. It has also been five years since the fishery was first subject to a quota—and accompanying trip limits and permit requirements—providing an opportune time to review the fishery’s performance and consider potential improvements. One particular issue of interest concerns the use of carrier vessels in the fishery. The meeting schedule is:

Thursday, February 15 at 6:30 PM
Thayer Public Library, Program Room
798 Washington Street
Braintree, MA 02184

State-by-state menhaden quotas were first implemented in 2013 under Amendment 2 to the interstate fishery management plan. Massachusetts’s share was 0.84%. Based on the coastwide quotas in place between 2013 and 2017, this share equated to between 3.1 and 3.7 million pounds. Amendment 3 was recently approved, increasing Massachusetts’ allocation to 1.27%. The coastwide quota was also increased 8% for 2018, providing for over 6 million pounds of quota in Massachusetts this coming fishing season.

Atlantic menhaden

State regulations allow anyone with a commercial fishing permit to take 6,000 pounds per trip or day (whichever is longer) until the quota is harvested.

Massachusetts’ season opens January 1 although the fish don’t generally arrive in local waters until May. Menhaden depart Massachusetts by the end of October. State regulations allow anyone with a commercial fishing permit to take 6,000 pounds per trip or day (whichever is longer) until the quota is harvested. Those with a limited entry menhaden permit endorsement have a 125,000-pound trip limit until 85% of the quota is taken, then a 25,000-pound trip limit until 95% of the quota is taken, followed by a 6,000-pound trip limit until the quota is harvested. The intent of these trip limits is to stretch out the season and provide for small-scale access throughout it. We’ve avoided a quota closure in all years under this system.

Purse seines are responsible for about 95% of menhaden landings in Massachusetts on average. The remaining 5% of state landings are attributed to cast nets, gill nets, and weirs generally. The vessels that contribute significantly to the Massachusetts fishery are few in number. Only 12 harvesters are authorized to fish purse seines in the state’s inshore harbors and estuaries for menhaden, where the fish are most catchable. Cast nets and small bait nets (<250ft2) can also be used to take bait for personal use from within the inshore restricted waters without a special permit. A total of 61 limited entry permit endorsements (allowing harvest at the higher trip limits) were issued in 2016.

Following the meeting, DMF will consider the comments received and begin to draft any proposed regulatory changes, which would be subject to additional public hearings before implementation. For more information, please contact DMF at 617-626-1520.

  1. John

    Come on lets exploit our oceans even more!

    There’s so much fish in the ocean it’ll never be fished out…

    • Kevin

      That is what happens when the Rich and Big Business Run the Country, Remember Someone voted them in…

    • William Eicher

      I have not seen 1 good comment. Do you guys have holes in your pockets, Those 12 harvesters must be be paying you a shit load extra. Take the blinders off and look and see how your killing off a major food chain.

    • Pg

      How does an unsustainable fishing practice help a pension system that needs long term stability.

  2. Khilu

    2017 was the first year in 20 years of living near the Fore River Bridge where I saw a great showing of pogies and coincidentally landed a large bass for the area and depth the same year. Would be a sad loss for all fish that not only feed on the adults, but the peanuts too. Namely seabass, fluke, blues, albies, schoolies, and all the other predatory fish fish up and down the coast. Would be a foolish choice for the fishery as a whole.

  3. Bill

    On the one hand, one can assume that they increased the quota because the stock can handle an increase. On the other hand, I am a firm believer in the idea that we shouldn’t be taking the absolute maximum allowable catch every single time. That all said, it matters little what happens to the bait stocks up here. It matters far more what happens to the bait on the edge of the continental shelf and points further south (i.e. stripped bass spawning grounds).

    • Paul Russell

      Striped bass spawn in rivers from Maine to Virginia. Not the continental shelf. The pogies live along the shore and bays. Not 100 miles out.

  4. marko

    Seems like a bad idea, especially for an end product (fish oil) that has proven ineffective.
    But they’ll no doubt screw up the bunker population again and then whine about forced reduced harvest on fish that depend on bunkers for food.

  5. RHT

    The dye was cast last November when the ASMFC increased the overall menhaden quota by 8%, 80% of which went to Virginia. Even with the increase by MA, it’s almost a rounding error compared to what Omega Protein, located in VA, takes every year. Things will not change for at least another 2 – 4 years; so more pogies taken by commercial interest = fewer stripers for recreational.

  6. marko

    The info # doesn’t work. Is there another way to comment without going to the meeting?

  7. Chris C

    unbelievable ! 65% increase? !!! really? so who’s pockets are being lined to get that passed?? That is so ludicrous it’s freaking sad!! it never ceases to amaze me , as soon as numbers improve the freaking Goverment loosens regulations and yet again we will suffer. a few years down the road bunker with be scarce as will Stripers… it’s total B.S !!!

  8. Joe Lupton

    You will regret it! Just ask anyone in the lower Chesapeake Bay Area who fishes for Stripers. We have had a menhaden fishery for years that has taken so many menhaden from the lower Bay that there is hardly any stripers or large bluefish to be had. Maryland outlawed them from fishing in their waters, and now Maryland is about the only place in the Bay where you could expect to find stripers. My Yacht club in Hampton, VA has had a stripper tournament for years in the late fall. For the last four years, the catches have been no fish at all one year, three the next, two the next and two this season. These are just the last four years. The numbers have been getting less for years. All these menhaden people think about is how many can they catch. This will go on as long as it’s allowed with no concern for the overall effects. DON’T LET IT HAPPEN!

  9. Bunker

    Any point in going to this meeting to object to this increase or is my voice (or others if they come) pointless?

  10. JC

    At least the cats will eat better, and the out of control seal population will have to find other fish to devastate, oh well, better luck on the next planet.

  11. DRJ

    People have very short memories. Remember there were no stripers or very few. Just keep taking their food and they will be gone again!!! Just for some oil ?

  12. carl m vining

    This proposal is absolutely absurd. I fish the Boston area very heavily year after year and I am 73 and have seen the great decline in pogies. Read the book” The most important fish in the ocean”. This fish is so important to the ocean and all its inhabitants and their ecological system. Any taking of these fish needs to be greatly scaled down not up.

    • carl m vining

      Absolutely absurd and insane. Let this most important fish in the ocean alone before our greed wipes them out and all the fish and creatures that depend on this food die off. Slowly but surely man is destroying the ocean and planet.

  13. John osmers

    Horrible idea just seeing rebounding populations let’s wipe them out no other fish eat them

  14. Fred

    A little conservation goes a long way. The last couple of years I have seen a slight increase in menhaden population around Vineyard and Nantucket sound and Buzzards Bay, especially the peanuts but nothing like it was 20-30 years ago. It will be sad to see the menhaden disappear again and have the stripers and big blue population shrink. All the others will suffer as well. It makes me wonder who is in charge and are they qualified to allow this to happen and for what purpose, money?

    • bunker

      Having been a Nantucket summer resident for 29 years, I saw my FIRST school of pogies in the harbor and around the jetties this summer…FIRST TIME EVER…thats all gonna be reversed

        • Dean Sienna

          The EPA was useless well before Trump…get your head out of your ass and start knocking down the doors of your locally elected officials. They have more control over what is happening then the president.

  15. dennis sullivan

    makes me sick. they will all gone soon. so sad these money grubbers have no clue and if they do they just dont care.

  16. Bill

    We have the commercial pogie boats that rape the pogie populations and now we have a commercial macker fleet that’s been crushing the mackeral for the past few years with the long lines this summer I watched them unload in greenharbor and it takes these boats over an hour to unload with vacuum hoses, its state of the art equiptment .They sell them for lobster bait.this will be the next bait that gets wiped out. Is there anybody regulating this fishery?

  17. Jon Kelman

    If my memory serves me correctly, back in the early 90’s there was a plan enacted to purchase cows from farmers and reduce milk production so that the milk supply could become more market driven and more profitable for farmers, particularly in New England. If I have the fine points of this historic bovine buy out incorrectly, forgive my memory. If there are only a dozen or so purse seiners who are aggressively pursuing these fish, let’s not punish these fishermen but treat them with the same respect we gave our dairy farmers 20 years ago; buy their boats and protect this delicate fish stock.

  18. Tancio Garcia

    It is fantastic to see that everyone that has commented so far on this article is against the quota increase – the few menhaden available in MA state waters make a huge positive difference in the overall health of the marine ecosystem when left in the water.

    For those of you who can make the meeting, please do so – your voice matters and the fishery managers need to hear it. For those that can’t make it in-person, try and make your voice heard another way (ex. fax, email, social media). There will also be more opportunities to comment and get your thoughts on record as the process traverses its many stages – just stay involved and up-to-date.

    Below is some more contact information for the MA Division of Marine Fisheries (the phone number listed at the end of the article is correct according to the website) to get your opinion on the record:

    -Fax: (617) 626-1509

  19. edkar

    Very bad idea to increase the quota.
    I was fishing for stripped bass in front of the Moakley coarthouse in Boston harbor October 2017.Fishing was great until a pogy boat came and caught thousands of pogies in one haul .It was a terrible feeling to see all that bait taken a hundred yards from shore .Needless to say the fishing shut right off.
    Bad idea to take more forage fish from the sea.

  20. will

    Pathetic on the governments part. This is only going to hurt our fishery once again. Last season was the first season I truly believed we might have a chance at a sustainable fishery but killing off 65% more menhaden will be the death of it


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