In his op-ed Conservation is Essential to Save the Striper (Vineyard Gazette, Oct. 31), author Dick Russell suggests that recreational and commercial fishermen stand at odds when it comes to striped bass conservation. He claims that commercial striped bass fishermen from Massachusetts and menhaden fishermen from Virginia are obstacles in the way of stronger protections for striped bass.


In what fisheries experts are calling an historic measure to curb overfishing, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted late last week to reduce the fishing of menhaden by 20 per cent in the coming year.

The 20 per cent reduction takes effect July 1, 2013.

For centuries, probably millennia, the small, oily fish known as Atlantic menhaden have been the protein-filled food of choice for striped bass and many other large species in our waters. Fishermen call them pogeys or bunker, often using them as bait to entice stripers to their lines. Menhaden were once so abundant that early Americans spoke of them swimming in schools upwards of 25 miles long.


It should be bonito season. The water is warm, well into the 70s. There are plenty of sand eels swimming near the shoreline and there are plenty of terns overhead feeding. The bonito should be here. But they mostly aren’t.


Bait fish that were once plentiful in the waters around the Cape and Islands have grown scarce. And recreational fishermen want Congress to step in to help do something about it.

Menhaden, also called bunker, have all but disappeared. Atlantic mackerel had a weak showing this spring. Even squid are down; the commonwealth has extended the spring fishing season into June to help commercial draggers meet the state quota, but the bigger question is what happened to the squid?



Overfishing may be the buzz word on the waterfront to explain the decline of many stocks of fish around Vineyard waters, but it isn’t heard often enough when it comes to explaining the loss of bait fish.

On Wednesday night at the Chilmark Public Library, a lone man stood before an audience of anglers and commercial fishermen to report the worst environmental tale needing to be told is the loss of one of the most valued forage fish in the ocean, which used to swim in abundance in these waters but is almost gone — menhaden.