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Save The Bay supports proposed cap on annual menhaden harvest

The following is the text of testimony by John Torgan, Narragansett BayKeeper, before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) hearing on the proposed plan for conservation of Atlantic Menhaden, Narragansett, RI, July 6, 2005.

Dear Commissioners,

Thank you for holding this important hearing here on the shores of Narragansett Bay. With more than 20,000 members and supporters, Save The Bay has worked to protect Narragansett Bay and its watershed for 35 years.

Save The Bay fully supports the ASMFC’s proposed plan to cap the annual harvest of menhaden from the Chesapeake Bay at 105,800 metric tons per year, and we applaud the Commission for this historic action.

Atlantic menhaden depend on Narragansett Bay from the beginning - particularly as juveniles when these “peanut bunker” fill the Bay like silver dollars. Narragansett Bay also depends on these fish as they filter its waters of algae and provide forage for all of our gamefish, lobsters, crabs and seabirds. They are a critical link in the Bay’s intricate food web.

Menhaden are known to spawn on the continental shelf and their larvae and juveniles are carried by the gulfstream currents into the northeast. Eggs, larvae, and tiny juveniles have all been observed in Narragansett Bay in great numbers. The population of menhaden that live in both the Chesapeake and New England are thought of as part of the same stock. Conservation in the Chesapeake should benefit Rhode Island as overfishing of the base stock impacts everyone.

The primary environmental threat to estuaries like Narragansett Bay and the Chesapeake Bay is nutrient pollution- the excessive loading of nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater and fertilizers that causes algae blooms, low oxygen, and fish kills. Menhaden are part of nature’s best defense against nutrient pollution, consuming millions of tons of algae as they filter feed. Conserving menhaden is good for the Bay’s ecological health.

Conserving menhaden is also good for the economy, as the menhaden support the legendary sportfishing and commercial lobstering industries of New England. Both of these are linked closely to the coastal tourism industry, one of the region’s most important sectors economically.

In summary, Save The Bay strongly supports these strict limits proposed by ASMFC, and we believe they will result in significant ecological and economic benefits to Rhode Island and the region.

 
 
 
 
 
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