Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) increased the 2017 total allowable catch (TAC) for Atlantic menhaden. Based on the strength of the stocks the commission approved a TAC for the 2017 season of 200,000 metric tons, a 6.45% increase from the 2016 TAC.
The increase brings the total annual amount of Atlantic menhaden that can be landed by Omega Protein and independent bait fisherman to 200,000 metric tons. It is also expected Virginia will maintain its 85 percent share of the coastwide allocation for its fish meal/oil fisheries and bait fisheries for the 2017 season. If Virginia maintains its current allocation split between fish meal/oil fisheries and bait fisheries, then the Omega believes that in 2017 the Company’s Atlantic fish catch limit will be approximately 152,000 metric tons.
Omega’s fish oil and meal plant in Reedville, the last of its kind on the east coast, now plans to hire several new plant employees, adding to a workforce of about 270.
The conservation and recreational anglers’ communities have been arguing that menhaden are vital to birds and other fish, and that ecosystem based fishery managed science should be used to determine catch limits. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s is behind an amendment to incorporate ecosystem based science into the management of the fishery.
That science, and new data is due next year, when the results of a study will be presented to ASMFC; a new stock assessment is due to follow. The data will be used along with public comments to determine ecosystem-based catch limits for 2018. A socioeconomic study of the bait fishery is also due out next year.