(RICHMOND)—The Virginia House and Senate have passed bipartisan legislation to transfer management of Virginia’s menhaden fisheries from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). This comes after many years of work by the conservation and angling communities to move management of Virginia’s largest fishery to VMRC, where all other marine species in the Commonwealth are managed.
The need for this legislation was highlighted this past year when Omega Protein caught significantly more menhaden in Virginia waters than allowed by the longstanding Chesapeake Bay harvest cap. This excess harvest led to Virginia being unanimously found out of compliance by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The U.S. Commerce Department, in concurring with this decision, said that a moratorium will be imposed on all of Virginia’s menhaden fisheries if the state is not in compliance by June 17, 2020. Governor Northam is expected to quickly sign the legislation.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore issued the following statement.
“This is an historic day for management of the Commonwealth’s menhaden resource. Despite broad public support, for more than a decade similar legislation has died in committee. This action sets the course for a more thoughtful and responsive management program that removes politics from fisheries management decisions. We look forward to working with VMRC on a sound, science-based approach to managing Virginia’s various menhaden fisheries, just as they do with all others.
“This legislation would not have been possible without the strong support of the Northam Administration and a bipartisan group of legislators who have long advocated for this change. It will promote sustainable fisheries, fix longstanding issues in the management of the species, and helps ensure the health of the Bay ecosystem while providing economic certainty for the Commonwealth”