Menhaden Fishery Sustainability Certification Hits Snag

(RICHMOND, VA)—After numerous conservation groups raised serious concerns, a certification for sustainable seafood must take additional action before conditionally certifying Omega Protein's Atlantic Coast menhaden fishery.

Earlier this year the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), The Nature Conservancy, and other conservation groups challenged Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for Omega Protein. Omega has fought new menhaden catch limits in Chesapeake Bay that were overwhelmingly adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to address ongoing concerns about the amount of food in the Bay for important species like striped bass

This week, the independent adjudicator hearing the challenge responded to a key concern by the conservation groups that will ensure compliance with the ASMFC in the future. The ASMFC is currently developing a fisheries management plan to ensure there are enough menhaden for the many species that depend on them for food. Before Omega is conditionally certified, the adjudicator made clear that Virginia and other states must adopt this new management plan when it's completed.  

CBF Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore issued the following statement.

"The decision recognizes how important it is for states to implement the ASMFC's efforts to cooperatively manage fisheries up and down the Atlantic Coast. This addresses one of our major concerns and will be key as fisheries managers take into account menhaden's important role in the food chain.
"In this light, it's baffling that the MSC isn't requiring Virginia to come into compliance with the ASMFC's previous decisions as well. Omega Protein has fought tooth and nail to challenge commonsense updates to the Chesapeake Bay's menhaden fishery. Virginia still has not adopted the new limits.
"Respecting fisheries management systems is one of MSC's core principles. How can Omega Protein be certified sustainable when it has continuously advocated against Virginia coming into compliance with the ASMFC's coastwide management plan?
"Conditionally certifying Omega Protein sets an unfortunate precedent that violates MSC's own core principles and damages the organization's credibility."

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