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The right conservation considers fish and jobs
Monty Deihl's op-ed on menhaden fishing.

Date published: 1/17/2013


--In his recent opinion piece ["Conserve menhaden, restore jobs, help ecosystem," Dec. 3], the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Chris Moore attacked my earlier piece ["Menhaden: Not Overfished, Not Endangered," Nov. 25] for using "outdated information and scare tactics to argue for the status quo." But the scientific arguments that Moore makes are not as airtight as he leads readers to believe.

Accusing my op-ed of citing outdated information, Moore calls the current reference points "old standards that the commission has since changed." But the measure that he references has not been agreed upon, finalized, voted on, or implemented by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Despite recognizing this in his own writing, Moore asserts that this proposed limit should be used to judge past menhaden landings. Retroactively applying new limits to claim past overfishing is like lowering the speed limit and then presenting drivers with 50 years worth of speeding tickets.

Moore's comparison of menhaden management to rockfish and crab conservation mixes apples and oranges. Unlike rockfish, which live up to 30 years, menhaden are comparatively short-lived (a maximum of 10-12 years), and produce a high number of eggs during their lifetimes. This results in large classes of new menhaden each year, but also exposes them to a high amount of population variability from year to year.

This variation has been observed throughout the fishery's history, with biomass estimates fluctuating a great deal depending on environmental factors. Current biomass estimates are similar to levels seen in the late 1960s, when biomass was lower than it is now, despite Moore's incorrect assertion that the stock is currently at an "all time low." Years of strong recruitment and a healthy population followed in the 1970s and 1980s even without fishery management measures.

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