All of the science says there are plenty of menhaden. Even so, on October 28, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Menhaden Management Board voted to ask the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to hold Reedville’s Omega Protein out of compliance with the commission’s regulatory scheme for menhaden. Should he do so, Omega might be forced to shut down butting several hundred employees out of work.
In 2017, the ASMFC arbitrarily set the limit for the Chesapeake Bay menhaden catch at 51,000 metric tons, a deep reduction from the prior 81.000 metric tons limit. The cap was reduced despite the fact that the most recent assessments show the menhaden stocks were healthy and not being over fished. Rob O’Reilly, recently retired from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and a member of the management board noted that there is no basis to see localized depletion of menhaden in the Bay.
Omega, the last remaining industrial menhaden fishing operation, had not exceeded 51,000 mt from the Bay for several years prior to this year. It did exceed that limit this year by 16,000 mt. and itself notified the ASMFC of it. Omega told the ASMFC that dangerous seas made it unsafe to fish in the ocean where it prefers to fish and that huge schools were just inside the Bay. Omega decoded to fish those schools rather than idle its fleet and put its fishermen out of work.
While Omega may have exceeded the ASMFC’s limit, it did not break Virginia law. Menhaden management rests with Virginia’s General Assembly which refused to reduce the Virginia limit from 81,000 mt. despite pressure from Governor Ralph Northam and the ASMFC.
For the full article, pick up the latest Northumberland Echo 11/6/19