Atlantic menhaden constitute the largest landings, by volume, of any commercial fishery along the Atlantic Coast. They rank second in the United States for landings behind only pollock on the West Coast in Alaska, and the relative abundance of adult menhaden has climbed steadily over the last decade.
The commercial Atlantic menhaden fishery is managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), an interstate compact formed under an agreement by the 15 Atlantic Coast states.
The 2014 Atlantic Menhaden Stock Assessment is the most recent assessment of Atlantic menhaden, and was officially released in early 2015. The 2014 assessment corrected problems in the 2012 assessment report and invalidates that assessment’s methods and results, replacing them with more accurate models and data sources and setting a new standard in menhaden stock analyses.
According to the new assessment, Atlantic menhaden are not undergoing overfishing, and the stock is experiencing some of its lowest levels of fishing mortality since 1955. Fishing mortality is 91 percent below the threshold and 73 percent below the target limit. In conjunction with fishing mortality, fecundity – the annual egg production that are estimated to be produced by spawning females – is 71 percent above the target value, which is calculated at 100 trillion eggs. This spawning stock biomass, or the total estimated weight of the mature population, is currently well above historic averages. These two metrics are used to estimate and portray the most accurate representation of the menhaden stock population possible, which further reveals that it is near record levels. A comparison of estimates published in the 2012 and 2014 assessments demonstrates the vast differences between the flawed 2012 assessment and the more comprehensive 2014 assessment.