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Fisheries Conclave Caps Chesapeake Menhaden Catch
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Vote provides uncommon win for common interest over corporate profit imperatives

by Craig Weatherby

Last week we ran an article titled “Big Processors Accused of Fish Overkill: Demand for fish oil, fish-feed and livestock feed being met by factory fishing of critical species” (click here to read it).

The day after running the article, we got a rare piece of good news concerning the battle between corporate interests and critical ecological concerns.

We’d said that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission was voting last week on whether to limit the rapacious menhaden harvest in Chesapeake Bay, which feeds fish and livestock farms, and provides much of the fish oil made into omega-3 supplements.

Menhaden is a tiny oily, omega-3-rich fish that serves as a primary food for striped bass and other game fish and it is one of the few remaining filter-feeders that help clean the waters of Chesapeake Bay and vital bays in the Carolinas.

A rare win for eco-sense

Following the 12-2 vote by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the annual menhaden catch will be limited to about 105,000 metric tons annually for five years beginning in 2006.

This means that it will not be allowed to increase beyond the current catch, which some believe is already too large.

Omega Protein Inc. of Texas is the only significant fisher of menhaden in the Chesapeake. The effects of their regional economic influence probably explains why the Commission representatives from Virginia and North Carolina—where Omega Protein harvests and processes menhaden—were the only states to vote against the limit.

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