(RICHMOND, VA)—Today the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) updated a harvest cap on menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay that will bring Virginia into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) menhaden management plan adopted in 2017. The VMRC’s action avoids a shutdown of the menhaden fishery due to noncompliance with the ASMFC.
In 2019 Omega Protein caught more menhaden in Virginia waters than allowed by the ASMFC’s Bay cap, leading the U.S. Commerce Department to call for a moratorium on Virginia’s menhaden fishery if the Commonwealth is not in compliance by June 17.
This is the first action on menhaden taken by the VMRC since the 2020 legislative session, when Virginia legislators transferred management of the fishery from the General Assembly to VMRC. The new harvest cap lowers the amount of menhaden that can be caught in the Chesapeake Bay to 51,000 metric tons per year. Due to Omega Protein’s excess harvest during the 2019 fishing season, this year’s level will be further lowered to 36,192 metric tons.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore issued the following statement.
“It’s a great day for fisheries management in the Commonwealth. After years of advocacy, finally the largest fishery in Virginia is being managed by experts at the VMRC, just like every other saltwater fishery in the Commonwealth.
“VMRC’s actions avoid a total shutdown of the fishery, strongly support sustainable fisheries, and will ensure Virginia does not go out of compliance with the ASMFC.
“Thank you to the VMRC for taking this important step, the Northam Administration for their leadership on this issue, and legislators in the General Assembly for passing the legislation necessary to make this happen.”