October 28, 2019. Virginia is out of compliance!
Will Wonders never cease? We don’t believe what just happened. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Menhaden Management Board voted today, to find the Commonwealth of Virginia “out of compliance” on Menhaden Management. Omega Proteins action to exceed the Chesapeake Bay Cap of 51,000 MT backfired on them. The vote was unanimous by all of the ASMFC states, with only the National Marine Fisheries Service and NOAA abstaining. This action will result in the overage being deducted from the 2020 Quota. Omega tried to justify their actions with bad weather days and the 87,100 MT tons written into the VA code. Moreover, they tried to explain their self-imposed limit of 67,000 MT for the 2019 harvest when added to the 2018 harvest of 32,000 MT would result in the 2 year average being less than the 51,000 MT Bay cap. This irresponsible action didn’t work!
The Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Assn. applauds the Menhaden Management Board for taking this action. Moreover, we applaud Commissioner Bowman for his comments in favor of this action. This action now goes to the Interstate Fisheries Management Policy Board (ISMFP) on Thursday October 31, 2019 for their action and then hopefully on the U.S. Department of Commerce. This action also clearly indicates it is time to transfer the management out of the General Assembly to VMRC. VSSA will advocate for the Department of Commerce to shut down the Menhaden Reduction Fishery in the Chesapeake Bay until the General Assembly lowers the Bay cap to the ASMFC level or transfers the management to VMRC.
Today’s “out of compliance” action will not do anything for our Striped Bass fishery this year, but the reduction in the menhaden harvest may provide more forage for Striped Bass in years to come. Additionally, this is a small victory for cleaner waters in the Chesapeake Bay since menhaden are filter feeders.
Hallelujah! Thank you ASMFC Menhaden Management Board.