Menhaden, the tiny fish that travels in large schools up and down the East Coast and into the Chesapeake Bay, was once considered overfished. In 2014, new data showed much healthier stocks. But members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission representing Maine to Florida turned down or were split on motions that would increase catches up to 40 percent or keep the catch the same.I still maintain that menhaden populations in my stretch of the Bay are well below what they were when I arrived in Maryland 30 or so years ago, when we would see huge schools of large bunker. I think that menhaden need to be managed with the thought that a substantial fraction of the annual production is used by the Bay's predators, and needs to be protected from excess fishing. Also:
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Omega Protein, the Houston-based company with a plant in Reedville, renders menhaden to make fish oil supplements and other products. Spokesman Ben Landry said the company was looking for a 20 percent increase so they could add another ship to their fleet of eight.
“It's a really divisive issue. The states that have active fisheries want to see an increase. States that don't have an increase have no incentive to see an increase, so they vote no. And unfortunately, it appears to be just about split down the middle so I don't know where this commission goes.”
Much of the indecision centers on a report due out next year that considers ecological impacts to other marine life and birds that rely on menhaden in their diet. Commissioners plan to try again at their annual meeting in October in Maine.
Menhaden processor accused of violating probation
Three years after paying $7.5 million for violating the Clean Water Act, fish processing company Omega Protein has been accused of breaking the federal law again during its probation period.
Omega, which operates a plant in Reedville on Virginia’s Northern Neck, faces a hearing Sept. 8 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. If it’s found to have violated its three-year probation, it could face a longer, more stringent federal supervision of its operations.
The company disclosed the latest allegations earlier this week in its second-quarter financial report.
In a probation officer’s filing in the Norfolk court, Omega is accused of illegally discharging wastewater into a canal at its Abbeville, La., facility in December 2014.
The filing also said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has “continued to receive information concerning violations” at the Reedville plant, but it didn’t provide any specifics involving that facility. Omega has “not adjusted well to supervision,” according to the filing by probation officer Tomas Ramirez.