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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

RFA SUBMITS PUBLIC COMMENT ON MENHADE

RFA SUBMITS PUBLIC COMMENT ON MENHADEN (11/16) Urges Angler Caution When Signing Pledges & Petitions November 20, 2012 - The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has spent considerable time reviewing the latest draft amendment to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden and has officially submitted its comments to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) on behalf of RFA members nationwide. The deadline for public comment ended on Friday, November 16th. Coined by Dr. Bruce L. Franklin as 'The Most Important Fish in the Sea' the menhaden (bunker, pogy) debate has become particularly confusing in recent years as members of the environmental business community have attempted to manipulate public action without actually hosting functional debate or discussion within the fishing community. With regard to the latest draft amendment and the ASMFC request for public comment, RFA is concerned that the plan does not provide concrete information about what reductions in fishing mortality would actually do in terms of overall stock biomass. Furthermore, RFA points to a new 2012 stock assessment update as only adding more uncertainty to a fishery so vital to the overall health of the ecosystem. "Part of our concern as explained in the letter is that the latest draft amendment 2 is substantially different than the actual public information document issued by the ASMFC earlier," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. "The management of this particular species has gotten more and more complex in recent years, especially since some groups have tried turning menhaden into a recruitment campaign." RFA points to a string of recent releases by environmental groups asking for angler pledges, which ultimately turns anglers contact information into marketing mechanisms for future preservationist campaigns. In one particular release issued by the Pew-funded Marine Fish Conservation Network, frequent RFA critic and DC lobbyist Matt Tinning called bunker one of the "superstars" of the fisheries complex, the "Lady Gaga of the fish world." "Juvenile, immature, and completely lacking in focus," is how Donofrio described Tinning and the other showroom environmentalists who routinely resort to childish cartoon illustrations to make their case outside of the fishing community. "These angry and misguided activists from Pew Charitable Trusts and their Marine Fish Conservation Network have gotten plenty of anglers to sign on to a petition drive during the past several months, although I fear once again that some members of the recreational fishing community aren't really thinking about what it is they're signing," Donofrio said. "If ASMFC simply implements a coast-wide annual catch limit and cuts harvest cut by 50 percent, what would happen if the reduction industry went out and caught up the entire quota themselves within the first quarter of 2013," Donofrio asked. "The answer is that that bunker harvest would be shut down by April and recreational anglers and local tackle shops wouldn't have access to bunker the rest of the year," he added. RFA's official position once again puts focus directly on the reduction industry, specifically Omega Protein, Inc. which trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol OME. In a recent report to shareholders, OME reported third-quarter revenues of $77.8 million, the "highest quarterly revenues in the company's history" according to president Bret Scholtes who cited a "strong fish catch." Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) filings also show that Omega's top five executives took home more than $13 million in compensation in the last two years. "Considering the dockside value of menhaden is around 8 cents a pound, the guys at Omega must be vacuuming boatloads of bunker from the Chesapeake every year," Donofrio said. "We have these environmentalists treating fisheries like Sesame Street, while Omega focuses solely on Wall Street. Our only hope is that ASMFC takes the real Main Street fishermen into account when making a final, sensible decision on menhaden," he said. Read RFA's final comments at http://www.joinrfa.org/Press/RFAMenhaden_111612.pdf

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