A Sustainability Sham


Commercial fishing boats pull up a net chock-full of menhaden.

John Surrick/CBF Staff

A student who fails to complete all their assignments doesn't receive a passing grade. But if Omega Protein gets their way, this logic won't hold true in the world of fishery management.

In a move that could undermine the health of "the most important fish in the sea," Omega Protein's Atlantic menhaden reduction fishery was recommended for a leading seafood sustainability certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) earlier this month.

The MSC certification, the world's most recognized benchmark for sustainability, is awarded to fisheries that are judged to be well-managed and sustainable based on a host of scientific and management criteria. This is far from an accurate description of Omega's menhaden reduction fishery. Recent surveys reveal a decade-long decline of menhaden in the Bay, causing concern as the small, oily fish is a crucial link in the Chesapeake food chain.

Striped bass and bluefish, as well as whales, dolphins, and birds all depend on the menhaden. But menhaden have profitable industrial uses, too, including paints, cosmetics, human diet supplements, and animal feeds. Given that the Bay serves as the epicenter of the East Coast's menhaden fishery, it all adds up that the Bay is not seeing the number of young menhaden it did historically.

Omega Protein, which catches more than 70 percent of the Atlantic Coast menhaden harvest, is leading the charge for menhaden's MSC certification, even though just this past year it successfully fought regulations proposed by ASMFC (which manages coastwide fisheries) that would have helped ensure a healthy menhaden population in the Chesapeake Bay. This has put Omega's industrial menhaden fishery in Virginia on the path to noncompliance.

At every turn, Omega opposes precautionary fisheries management updates, such as the ASMFC regulations. These actions threaten the environment and the economy. A restored, stronger menhaden population will benefit everybody, from fish and birds, to watermen, anglers, and all of us who love Chesapeake seafood.

Concerns about Omega's industrial-scale harvest of menhaden in the Bay and nearby coastal areas must be addressed, and Virginia must come into compliance with ASMFC's recommended menhaden harvest cap in the Chesapeake Bay before MSC approval of this fishery.

The menhaden fishery becoming MSC certified as it currently stands not only puts MSC standards at risk of becoming meaningless, it could allow for the continued exploitation of a fishery that can ill afford it.

With the release of the sustainability recommendation comes a 40-day public comment period to gather additional information before the certification can be put in place. Now is the moment to raise your voice for this critical fish!

Join us in urging MSC—before the public comment period closes on January 14—to reject Omega's menhaden certification until important ecological issues in the Chesapeake Bay are resolved.

With you by our side, we will continue fighting tirelessly for better management of this important fish and the entire ecosystem that depends on it.

Drew Robinson 90x110

Drew Robinson

Former Digital Advocacy and Outreach Manager, CBF

Issues in this Post

Fisheries   Advocacy   Atlantic Menhaden   Conservation   Fisheries   Fishing   Striped Bass (Rockfish)   CBF in Maryland   CBF in Virginia   Eastern Shore Office   Federal Affairs Office   Hampton Roads Office   Pennsylvania Office   Virginia Office, Richmond  


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