AG Gansler Succeeds in Defending Vital Chesapeake Bay Menhaden Protections
Lawsuit challenging catch limits is defeated in Eastern Shore circuit court
Baltimore, MD (May 29, 2014) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today declared a victory for the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay following a Dorchester County Circuit Court ruling that upheld a Maryland fisheries management plan critical to protecting the Bay's menhaden population. The Atlantic menhaden is crucial to Bay health due to its role as a filter and forage fish. Menhaden eat plankton and algae, and remain an important link in the food chain for other species such as osprey, blue fish and striped bass, Maryland's state fish.
"This is a victory for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and our constant fight to revitalize Bay waters, wildlife and the commercial seafood industry," said Attorney General Gansler. "The Atlantic menhaden is the most important fish in the sea and these management tools are helping Maryland and surrounding states rebuild its population which has been devastated for decades."
The menhaden population along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Chesapeake Bay has decreased by 85 percent since 1985. Commercial fisheries harvest more pounds of menhaden than any other fish in the United States, other than pollock. It is used as bait to catch other seafood and is crushed through a reduction process into fish meal and fish oil and then sold for multiple purposes including fish oil pills, a popular health food supplement.
Attorney General Gansler fought for tougher controls and restrictions to protect the menhaden population at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) which instituted the new regional menhaden management plan in 2012. The ASMFC is comprised of representatives from all 15 Atlantic coastal states from Maine to Florida.
The goal of the new plan is to enable the menhaden population to rebound through reductions in the total allowable catch. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) adopted and implemented a specific management plan in 2013, including provisions to protect the economic impact of the management plan on the relatively small number of Maryland watermen who commercially fish menhaden.
Retired Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge David Mitchell presided over the Dorchester County case, issuing his ruling after a one-day trial. The plaintiffs who challenged the management plan were two of the estimated 20 Maryland waterman who commercially fish menhaden.
In making the announcement, Attorney General Gansler thanked DNR Principal Counsel Jennifer Wazenski and Assistant Attorney General Roger Wolfe for their hard work on the case and Assistant Attorney General Steve Ruckman for his continuing work on the menhaden issue.
For more information on the Attorney General's call for tougher menhaden regulations, visit: