A legislative attempt to impose a two-year moratorium on the Menhaden reduction fishery in the Chesapeake Bay and extend the period during which state officials can change fishing regulations died in commission Wednesday, according to a Virginia Mercury article. .
The House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee unanimously voted to close the Menhaden Depletion Fishery in the Chesapeake Bay for two years while the Virginia Marine Resources Commission implemented the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, R- Voted to repeal the bill from Rep. Tim Anderson of Virginia Beach. study its impact.
Rep. Sherry Simmons of D-Newport News was absent from the meeting.
No local studies of populations in the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia’s inland waters have ever been conducted, according to Anderson, although the Menhaden coast-wide stock assessment found the fish populations to be healthy. Both Rep. Rob Broxom and Sen. Lynwood Lewis said they plan to introduce legislation at this session to study local depletion.
Based in Leadville, Omega Protein is the Gulf’s only Menhaden reduction fishing company.
The bill was supported by the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association, which petitioned to end Omega’s operations in the Bay, claiming that Menhaden fishing there was causing the depletion of the striped bass population.
The Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission, which oversees fisheries along the east coast, has determined that striped bass are no longer overfished, but an annual survey conducted by the state of Maryland found juvenile numbers below long-term averages. It turned out that
Sportfishing Association president Stephen Atkinson said the state needed to “take the science to the bone”.
Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland said VMRC’s Menhaden Management Advisory Committee, composed of recreational and commercial fishermen and conservation groups, meets regularly to review stock assessments.
“This is something that could be picked up,” Ransone said.
No one at Omega Protein provided testimony on Wednesday’s moratorium proposal.
Legislators devoted far more discussion to another bill from Anderson that would expand the period during which the VMRC could make changes to the Menhaden regulations.
“This gives the VMRC the power to propose regulation at any time,” said Anderson.
According to Anderson, the proposal was inspired by several Omega boat rips in the net this summer, washing up thousands of dead fish in Northampton County and accidentally catching 264 Red Drum. bottom.
The company cleaned up the spill, but the Marine Resources Board was unable to take regulatory action until the fourth quarter of this year. It transferred oversight of the fisheries from the General Assembly, which it had overseen for years, to the VRMC.
In October, the Menhaden Management Board considered new fishing regulations, including imposing a one-mile buffer around the bay. However, the Commission has instead opted to sign an agreement with industry that has similar provisions but without enforceable penalties.
“There were too many things going on at the same time,” Anderson said. “It was a mess.”
However, Rep. Michael Webert of R-Fauquier said the regulatory window set by state law appeared reasonable to allow the fishery to begin operations, explaining why VMRC adopted the regulation at the end of the year. I wondered why I couldn’t work on regulation all year long before I did. that.
The bill was also unanimously rejected.