Omega Protein Breaks the Rules in the Chesapeake Bay

Fishing groups call on Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Department of Commerce to take immediate action

Recreational fishermen are demanding that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission intervene after industrial harvesting giant Omega Protein failed to comply with the Commission’s menhaden catch limits in the Chesapeake Bay.

Omega previously made a commitment to comply with the 51,000 MT catch limit, but just last week the foreign-owned corporation said it would exceed the cap in the Chesapeake Bay.

“While recreational fishermen face lower limits on striped bass, Omega is scooping up 70 percent of the coastwide catch of the striper’s primary food source,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Omega is willfully violating the Commission’s menhaden management plan, and this behavior is unacceptable. We urge the Commission and the Department of Commerce to bring this foreign fishing operation in line.”

Research suggests localized depletion of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay could be responsible for as much as a 30 percent decline in striped bass. A study determined the 2016 striped bass fishery generated $7.8 billion toward our nation’s gross domestic product.

“It’s frustrating and disappointing to see the menhaden Chesapeake Bay cap intentionally exceeded,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “The Chesapeake Bay is a critical nursery for menhaden and many of its predators such as striped bass, which is why leaving sufficient menhaden in the Bay is so important. This action undermines not only the health of the marine environment, but also the science-based process the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission used to make their decision.”

“Just days after the Marine Stewardship Council christened the Atlantic menhaden fishery as a sustainable fishery, Omega Protein abruptly announced it will summarily disregard the harvest cap that was established through a legitimate management action of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission,” said Ted Venker, conservation director for the Coastal Conservation Association. “Our fears about the biased MSC process and Omega’s lack of commitment to consensus-based management and conservation have been shown to be well-founded. It is imperative that the ASMFC, and ultimately the Department of Commerce, find Omega out of compliance with the current Atlantic menhaden management plan and take the appropriate action.”
 

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