Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Omega Agrees to Limits on Place, Time of Menhaden Fishing

 Shore Daily News, Omega agrees to limit areas where catches bunker Chesapeake Bay 

According to an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch, the controversial menhaden fleet that supplies Omega Proteins’ Reedville plant is promising to limit areas in the Chesapeake Bay where it will set its nets and catch fish.

In a memorandum of understanding with the state, Ocean Harvesters said it wants to limit potential areas of conflict with other users of the bay.

Conservationists and recreational fishermen had pushed for limits — with some calling for an outright ban on catching menhaden in the bay — after two spills of dead menhaden last year washed ashore.

Omega’s operation, which catches menhaden to be rendered into fish oil and fish meal in Reedville, where it employs several hundred people, has sparked controversy for years. Recreational fishermen and environmental groups complain it takes too many fish that are prey for other species, including popular game fish such as striped bass. Menhaden, which were used by Native Americans to fertilize corn crops, is the oldest commercially harvested fish in the Chesapeake Bay.

Note, this is not a change in the limits on how many pounds of Menhaden can be extracted from the Bay, merely an agreement to not fish on certain dates around summer holidays, and certain highly populated areas to avoid nasty situations where masses of dead fish wash up on popular resort beaches. The same limits for Menhaden still apply 

From the VMRC adopts MOU for menhaden fishing 

In a 5-4 vote at the Commission on Tuesday, Omega Protein and two bait fisheries agree to not fish in state waters of the Chesapeake Bay around Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day and within a half-mile of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

F/V Little River
Meanwhile, in National Fisherman, Chesapeake Bay menhaden steamers christened

Omega Shipyard in Moss Point, Miss., recently delivered the $8 million 180’x40’ F/V Reedville to Ocean Harvesters, suppliers to Omega Protein in Reedville, Va.

A traditional maritime christening ceremony of the F/V Reedville and F/V Little River was held on Saturday, April 22, to kick off the 2023 menhaden fishing season starting May 8.

F/V Reedville

With the new season, there's hope that an agreement between menhaden fishermen, Virginia state officials, and other Chesapeake Bay user groups will reduce longstanding conflicts.

The christening was held on the docks at the Reedville plant, where the company’s fleet of nine fish steamers are moored. The 180’x40’x7’ Little River was not christened at the time of delivery in 2020 because of the covid-19 pandemic.

The Reedville, Little River, and the F/V Carters Creek, delivered in 2017, are all converted hulls from offshore supply vessels (OSVs) formerly employed in the offshore oil and gas industry. The three finished boats are almost identical.

I guess they expect the fishery to continue strong. 

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