In late 2012, Virginia and other Atlantic states adopted the first coast-wide catch limit for menhaden in a historic effort to save the "most important fish in the sea" from years of overfishing.Huh? Read more about that near the bottom.
Now a year into the cap, a national environmental group is touting its success, while the only menhaden fishery left on the Atlantic is complaining that, although Virginia is meeting its harvest obligations, other states are unfairly ignoring theirs.
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The news comes as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meets this week in Alexandria to assess how states kept to the 20 percent commercial catch reduction. The ASMFC manages the menhaden fishery.It's a start anyway. I'd like to see the catch cut 50%.
Joseph Gordon at The Pew Charitable Trusts says new ASMFC figures show a 25 percent drop in overall catch, which he calls "good environmental news" that leaves "about 300 million more menhaden swimming in the Atlantic."
Ever take fish oil pills? Chances are that was menhaden oil from Omega protein. And that chicken you had? It probably ate a few pounds of the small, stinky fish.
"And more good news: The sky did not fall," Gordon said in a release. "Last year the company that's most dependent on the menhaden catch made record profits. Apparently, environmental progress does not have to mean economic pain."
His reference was to Omega Protein Inc., which operates the only menhaden rendering plant left on the East Coast. In March, Omega announced a record gross profit of $82.8 million at the end of 2013, compared to $42.1 million for the same period the year before.
But Omega spokesman Ben Landry complains that even as Virginia abided by its total allowable catch limit last year, other states "far exceeded" theirs. In an opinion piece that appeared Wednesday on the industry site Seafoodnews.com, Landry singled out New York, Maryland, Delaware, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, Florida and Rhode Island.I'm a little curious how transferring the allowable catch between states works. Do the commercial fishery interests in a state that has the capability to catch more menhaden buy the rights from states that have the quota, but not a fishery geared to catch the fish? Or is it done between the state governments, and if so, what is the quid pro quo?
"Some of those overages were more significant than others," Landry writes. "New York exceeded its quota by over 400 percent, the largest overage in percentage terms, while Maryland caught over its quota by 35 percent, which, at 1.8 million pounds, is the largest in absolute terms."
New York's allowable catch for 2013 was nearly 226,000 pounds, but its actual landings are estimated at nearly 1.2 million pounds. Maryland's allowable catch was just over 5.1 million pounds, but estimates are it landed just over 6.9 million pounds.
Virginia has the lion's share of allowable catch, at about 321 million pounds. Estimates are the commonwealth landed just over 316 million pounds last year.
According to Pew, only New York, Florida and Rhode Island officially exceeded their catch limit, since states that don't reach their quota are allowed to transfer the difference to states that exceeded theirs. North Carolina and Massachusetts did so.
Overall, the 15 Atlantic states kept within the allowable total quota of about 377 million pounds.
Whatever, I don't understand Virginia/Omega's complaint, if they didn't even catch their full quota, which is, incidentally, by far the largest of any of the state's.