Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross issued a decision cracking down on overfishing in the Chesapeake Bay and paving the way for better management of the menhaden fishery. In a move celebrated by the recreational boating and fishing community, Secretary Ross found the state of Virginia out of compliance after Omega Protein willfully violated the fishing cap on menhaden – a key food source for striped bass – in the Chesapeake Bay.
“Implementing responsible conservation practices across all fisheries is essential to the long-term wellbeing of marine ecosystems and we thank Secretary Ross for doing just that by swiftly addressing menhaden overfishing in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of NMMA. “Healthy and sustainable forage fish and sportfish stocks are equally important to the recreational boating and fishing community and this decision is a major step toward protecting and rebuilding both of these critical populations.”
“U.S. Commerce Secretary Ross’ decision to hold Omega Protein accountable for their actions demonstrates clear conservation leadership to the sportfishing and boating industry and anglers along the Atlantic Coast,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “This decision comes at a critical time because menhaden’s top predator, Atlantic striped bass, is currently in poor condition and the Chesapeake Bay is the primary spawning and nursery area for the species. We thank Secretary Ross for recognizing the value menhaden brings to the recreational fishing community and America’s outdoor recreational economy.”
Since October, tens of thousands of recreational anglers, dozens of business and organizations, and nine Governors along the east coast, including Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, have all requested that the Secretary take action on this issue. The Virginia General Assembly, which meets in early 2020, must now decide whether to transfer management of menhaden to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission or face a moratorium on fishing for Atlantic menhaden.
According to a recent scientific study, menhaden reduction fishing contributes to a nearly 30 percent decline in striped bass numbers. The striped bass fishing industry contributes $7.8 billion in GDP to the economy along the Atlantic coast.