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Mid-Atlantic Menhaden Purse Seine

Current Classification on the 2017 LOF

Category II
Estimated Number of Participants 19
Target Species Menhaden and thread herring
Applicable Take Reduction Plans Bottlenose Dolphin Take Reduction Plan
Observer Coverage There has been very limited observer coverage since 2008.
Marine Mammal Species/Stocks Killed or Injured Bottlenose dolphin, Northern migratory coastal;
Bottlenose dolphin, Southern migratory coastal

^ Number of participants estimates are based on state and federal fisheries permit data.  The estimated number of participants is expressed in terms of the number of active participants in the fishery, when possible.  If this information is not available, the estimated number of vessels or persons licensed for a particular fishery is provided.  If no recent information is available on the number of participants, then the number from the most recent LOF is used.  NMFS acknowledges that, in some cases, these estimations may be inflating actual effort.  

*Observer coverage levels include the latest information reported in the most current final Stock Assessment Report (SAR)

1Indicates the stock or species is driving the classification of the fishery 

Note: Current classification based on final LOF, no proposed changes are reflected in this table.

Basis for Current Classification

Based on analogy to other purse seine fisheries, such as the Category II Gulf of Mexico Menhaden purse seine fishery, and potential interactions with bottlenose dolphins (Northern Migratory coastal and Southern Migratory coastal stocks).


Most sets occur within 3 mi (4.8 km) of shore with the majority of the effort occurring off North Carolina from November-January, and moving northward during warmer months to southern New England. Fishing effort is year-round with concentrated migratory peaks from May-September from Virginia northward, and November-January in North Carolina. A majority of the fishing effort by the Virginia fleet occurs in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay, and along the ocean beaches of Eastern Shore Virginia. Most sets in Chesapeake Bay are in the main stem of the Bay, greater than one mile from shore. In summer, the Virginia fleet occasionally ranges as far north as northern New Jersey. Purse-seining for reduction purposes is prohibited by state law in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey; hence, purse-seine sets in the ocean off Delmarva and New Jersey are by definition greater than 3 miles from shore.

Gear Description

This fishery uses purse seine gear for reduction or baitfish. The purse seine net is made of nylon fiber and is about 1 ¾ inch stretched mesh; net length is about 1,000-1,400 ft; and net depth is from 65-90 ft. Soak time is approximately 35-45 minutes from deployment of net until the purse is closed. Fishing vessels are either large (up to 200 ft) carrying two smaller purse seine boats (39 ft), or small snapper rigs (60-75 ft). Schools of menhaden are spotted from larger vessels and/or spotted planes. Purse seines are deployed over schools vertically from large vessel or two smaller boats. The floatline and leadline has a series of rings threaded with a purse line that is winched closed around the school. The net is retrieved by power block.


The fishery is managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission under the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden.


Historical Information

Original Category (Year added to the LOF) III (1996)
Original Number of Participants 22
Basis for Original Classification This fishery was grouped with the “Gulf of Maine menhaden purse seine fishery” in the 1996 proposed LOF. However, it was listed separately on the final 1996 LOF because incidental mortality and serious injury of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Maine portion of the fishery was unlikely.
Past Names “Gulf of Maine menhaden purse seine fishery” until 1996.
Species/stocks historically documented as killed or injured (but not currently on the list) N/A


Timeline of Changes

  • Estimated number of participants updated from 5 to 19.
  • Estimated number of participants updated from 56 to 5.
  • Estimated number of participants updated from 54 to 56.
  • Updated the stock name for bottlenose dolphins killed/injured in this fishery, based on the revised stock structure presented in the final 2008 and 2009 SARs. Replaced bottlenose dolphin (WNA coastal) with the following stocks: bottlenose dolphin (Northern Migratory coastal); bottlenose dolphin (Southern Migratory coastal). 
  • Estimated number of participants updated from 22 to 54.
  • Elevated from a Category III to a Category II by analogy to other purse seine fisheries, such as the “Gulf of Mexico Menhaden purse seine fishery,” because of potential interactions with bottlenose dolphins (WNA coastal). Because the fishery was a Category III, no observer coverage was required, and therefore no, observed interactions had been documented. However, according to the 2005 Stock Assessment Reports (SAR),there are typically 1 to 5 incidental takes reported each year. There was documented bycatch of dolphins in purse seine gear in other Category II purse seine fisheries.
  • Added a superscript “2” in Table 2 after this fishery, indicating that it is categorized by analogy.
  • Humpback whale (WNA) was removed from the list of species/stocks killed/injured in this fishery because interactions had not been documented in recent years.
  • Humpback whale (WNA) was added to the list of species/stocks killed/injured in this fishery because a humpback whale was reported by a fisherman as entangled and released alive.


Updated December 14, 2016