Menhaden quota debate erupts again

With a show of hands, the audience voted in favor of options supported by Omega Protein Inc. during a public hearing on draft amendments to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission menhaden management regulations. Photo by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

CLARAVILLE—Menhaden, and how many should be caught, is again the focus of debate. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is addressing the ecological role of the fish and is updating it’s management plan to possibly adjust the catch limits and also potentially change the way the catch limits are distributed.

Five years ago, hundreds gathered locally to discuss catch limits on the small, oily, bait fish which people don’t eat. And again last Thursday, some 250 people waited in line at Northumberland High School in Claraville to hear about an Atlantic menhaden draft amendment proposed by ASMFC.

Navigating through the 131-page draft amendment 3 is nearly impossible for the layman, so ASMFC is hosting 15 state hearings for public comment in 12 Atlantic states from Maine to Florida through September. Public comment on the amendment is accepted through October 20. A final vote will be taken November 13 and 14 in Baltimore.

The general consensus at last week’s hearing in Northumberland County, one of three scheduled in Virginia, was to follow the opinion of representatives from Omega Protein Inc., the menhaden processing company based in Reedville.

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