Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam asked U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to impose a moratorium on Virginia’s menhaden harvest in a letter sent yesterday. This year Canadian-owned business Omega Protein caught more menhaden than allowed under the harvest cap in the Chesapeake Bay, leading the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to find Virginia violated interstate fisheries management rules last month. As required by law, ASMFC notified the Commerce Department of this violation, initiating agency review and further action.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore issued the following statement.
“Omega Protein took a risky gamble on the future of its workers when the company chose to break harvest limits in the Chesapeake Bay. The Commerce Department must back the ASMFC, as it has in nearly every case in the Commission’s 78-year history.
“Fortunately, Virginia can resolve this before the 2020 menhaden season starts in the spring. In the upcoming General Assembly session legislators should transfer the management of the menhaden fishery to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission like every other saltwater fishery in Virginia. VMRC’s responsibility to ensure sound, science-based management will bring Virginia back into compliance so that fishing can resume as scheduled in the spring.”