Last year, the General Assembly refused to vote on a measure that would have brought state regulations into compliance with new federal menhaden catch limits for the Chesapeake Bay. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission could recommend a moratorium on all catches of the species if the state fails once again to take action.
The small, oily fish are important forage for marine creatures ranging from rockfish to whales. Commercially, menhaden are caught for use as bait or processed into fish oil supplements and animal feed. The new limit, approved by the ASMFC in the fall of 2017, reduced the allowable harvest in the Bay by more than 40 percent.
The commission made that determination despite finding that menhaden are not overfished. As it lowered the Chesapeake limit, it raised the cap along the Atlantic coastline by 8 percent. Omega Protein, which operates a menhaden processing facility in Reedville, VA, is fighting the measure, saying it has no scientific basis.