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Once again changes are being considered for how menhaden quotas are calculated. Sound like finally some progress is actually being considered and it's possible buying off the Virginia Legislature won't help like it has in the past:

 

https://pilotonline.com/news/local/environment/push-is-on-to-protect-small-fish-and-everything-that/article_b36073fb-d261-5a19-aafe-9340a35ae9a5.html

 

It would be nice if Omega's quota didn't start by swallowing up every menhaden in Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps this time the regulations will mean to fill it's quota Omega will have to fish the entire east coast, not just the only state (Virginia) that allows it to fish in state waters.

Edited by FullThrottle
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I feel the same way as you....spread the catch over the entire East Coast, not just the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Beach! For those not familiar with this on-going battle in Virginia, Omega Protein literally scoops up all the menhaden in the Bay. Let me add one more piece to this...on the Virginia side of the Bay. Maryland will not allow them in their state waters. As a result, the larger fish (stripers, cobia, bluefish, etc) suffer since one of their primary food sources are non-existent in the Bay.

 

The concentrated harvesting of these fish have made a tremendous impact on the available resources to the recreational fisherman. Our Bay striper seasons have been terrible, yet the upper parts of the Bay in Maryland have been decent year round due to the availability of menhaden to provide a good food source.

 

Omega is based in Virginia and has literally bought the politicians to allow their "rape" of this resource. Menhaden are the only fish regulated by the State Legislature; all other fish are regulated by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission. Omega is also prevented from fishing a number of East Coast state coastal waters and those states have much better recreational saltwater fishing as a result of no disruption in the food chain.

 

I really hope to see some progress on this matter if we are to hope to see our Bay and Coastal fisheries improve.

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Every now and then, the wife will convince me to watch one of the series on Netflix and it normally turns into a non-stop session as the story line is so darn twisted that it hooks you from the beginning. It is kinda like looking for the train wreck that you know is coming, you just don't know how the plot is going to get you there.

 

Well....the way this whole menhaden fiasco has played out in Virginia over the past 30-40 years (or maybe longer, I am not sure) could probably be made into one of those series. The political underpinnings regarding how Omega Protein has operated in our great state would make a great story line. The Netflix series "House of Cards" comes to mind, as it dealt with the backdoor politics in Washington, DC, the shady back door deals, and how lobbyists really control the government through their special interest groups and political donations. We have all that and more in one business!

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  • 10 months later...
I'm not sure how many people are aware of the menhaden issue in Virginia where the Virginia Legislature has turned over all fishing management to scientists except for menhaden. It may have something to do with farmers wanting cheap fertilizer (menhaden) and the company that does the menhaden fishing (Omega) doing a lot of campaign donations. The sad news is Omega attacks the menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay primarily as Virginia is one of the only East Coast States that allows menhaden fishing in state waters. Anyway...
 
I ran across this at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries web site. Can't seem to find out anything other than they are having an open webinar on menhaden. I have sent an email to ask what the purpose of the webinar is. It would be nice if it was to educate Virginia Legislators in fisheries management, but I'm pretty sure they are not educatable beyond counting Omega campaign donations.

www.asmfc.org/calendar/08/2018/Atlantic-Menhaden-Stock-Assessment-Subcommittee-Webinar/1273
 
An article explaining more about the ASMFC regs and Virginia's failures is at:
 

 
Edited by FullThrottle
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Just got an answer to the email..Webinar won't help:

The August 31 conference call and webinar is solely for stock assessment purposes. Specifically, the Menhaden Stock Assessment Subcommittee is meeting to discuss indices of relative abundance for the 2019 benchmark stock assessment. No management or policy issues are on the agenda.

 

An agenda for the conference call will be posted to our website sometime next week.

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I thought it was either this year or next that ASFMC was supposed to do a re-assessement with the possibility of looking at regional stock instead of the entire East Coast stock.  Hopefully that will be part of the discussion.  If they go the regional route, only then will they see the havoc Omega is doing on the eco-system.

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  • 1 year later...

Finally, some good news on this issue:

Menhaden fishery to be shut down in Virginia if company continues overfishing, secretary of commerce says

Lee Tolliver
4-6 minutes

 

The nation’s secretary of commerce on Thursday said he will shut down Virginia’s menhaden fishery if Omega Protein doesn’t comply with federal quotas by June 17.

Federal fisheries managers recently found the commonwealth “out of compliance” for allowing the company to surpass the bay quota.

 

About time since Virginia legislators have failed to do anything to bring Omega into compliance with the federal quota. Maybe now there will be some opportunity for the return of Striped Bass and other fish dependent on Menhaden.

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They need to be shutdown totally and every state legislature that gets a handout from them outed in all newspapers.  This is nothing other than selling a state resource.  Those that received money from these so called lobbyists should have to write a check to all state taxpayers to pay for the damage to both the menhaden caught over quota and the dead by-catch.

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Funny (not really) that NOTHING was done until a Canadian company purchased Omega in order to feed their farm raised salmon.  Glad that it appears something will now be done and hoping it actually occurs. Maybe the Canadian company will stop lining our politicians pockets and our legislators will decide to turn over menhaden management to marine scientists. The scientists may not do what I'd like with menhaden, but at least they'd have to explain the quotas while our state legislators just ignore science, federal law and common sense.

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That is rather ironic now that they lose the cover of the Magnusen-Stevens Act coverage by being foreign owned, then all of a sudden are out of compliance.  One day this nonsense has to stop.

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  • 1 month later...

Almost missed this one. At a federal level:

H.R. 2236: The Forage Fish Conservation Act

  • Introduced by CSC Vice-Chair Representative Debbie Dingell, H.R. 2236 would ensure that forage fish species are considered for their critical role in marine ecosystem function and health. Currently, the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA) manages important forage fish species like menhaden just as they do predator species like greater amberjack, red snapper, grouper, etc., using a single-species management model and managing to a maximum sustainable yield. However, this approach fails to account for the need to leave fish in the water as forage for other recreationally and commercially important fish species, as well as marine mammals and birds. This bill would simply require the regional fishery management councils consider the impacts of forage fish harvest quotas on other fish populations and the marine ecosystem when developing new, or revising existing, forage fish management plans.
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The politicians really showed their hand when the overfishing occurred.  The feds realized the state had no way to enforce anything since where was no Agency responsible for the monitoring of catch.  The only way for us to avoid major non-compliance is to move the management to VMRC where there is less political influence.  If no action were to happen, the Feds would probably shut down the fishery altogether. 

I would hope there would now be better monitoring /observing of by catch once control moved over to VMRC.

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Of course I'm glad things are finally correcting the total mismanagement of menhaden resources in the Chesapeake Bay. Now I'll start working toward bringing Virginia in line with all the other eastern states and eliminating menhaden fishing in state waters. They still can post boats right off the bay bridge tunnel and sweep in and clear the waters of all fish while I'm out there trying to catch a single cobia. In Carolina, Maryland and other states they have to go beyond the 3 mile limit, while sweeping up fish right down to the beach on our coast..

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I am like you.  For as long as this has been mis-managed, I will take any change in the right direction...even if it is small steps.  Lets see how long Va Beach tourism bureau lets them fish along the beach in the summer then have a net rip just off the fishing pier and dead pogies on the beach.  Omega lost their golden goose when there was the change in ownership to the Canadian firm, so they can't play that card anymore.

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  • 2 months later...

Finally some good news! Virginia's mehnaden quota reduced 80% this year for Omega.  It appears this does not impact the small bait fishing operations.  That will teach the state to thumb their nose at the Feds.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/menhaden-quota-to-be-cut-sharply/ar-BB13kg4e?ocid=hplocalnews

Virginia is cutting cut this year’s Chesapeake Bay menhaden catch by more than 80% from last year’s landings in order to end a federal moratorium.


Federal fisheries officials said they’d bar fishing for menhaden in the Bay this year — as long as the fish were headed for Omega Protein’s fish oil and fishmeal plant in Reedville — because the state had not enacted a 41.5% cut to 51,000 tons in Omega’s quota, which had been imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2017.  But the new Virginia regulation, approved by the Marine Resources Commission on Tuesday, sets an even lower quota for Omega, of 36,192 tons.

The 14,000 ton difference is equal to the difference between what Omega caught in the Bay last year and the 51,000 ton cap, said Deputy Commissioner Ellen Bolen. The commission’s chief of fisheries management, Pat Geer, said Tuesday that he expects the cap would return to the 51,000 ton level if the 2020 catch is below the 36,192 ton level.

Omega says it still plans to operate all nine boats in its fleet but that it’ll spend more time out in the ocean, where weather and rough seas make fishing more dangerous.

Recreational fishermen and environmental groups, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, say Omega takes too many fish, which they blame for poor catches of striped bass, bluefish and other game fish that eat menhaden.

But the Atlantic States commission has not found that menhaden were overfished.

It cut the quota in 2017 as a precautionary measure as scientists took a harder look at theories that the Chesapeake is the menhaden’s primary nursery. A multiyear assessment of menhaden population released in January found egg production was rising and mortality, including the catch and what other fish were eating, was declining.

“To be perfectly clear, there is no conservation basis for the Chesapeake Bay cap. No scientific methodology was used in setting the Chesapeake Bay cap by the ASMFC, not in 2006 [when a cap was first set] nor in 2017,” said Omega spokesman Ben Landry.

The company thought it could go over the 51,000 ton cap last year because its bay landings in recent years were so far below that total — 32,000 tons in 2018 and 19,500 tons in 2017. That meant its average catch was well below the Atlantic States Commission’s cap, which was set in 2017 based on a running five year average to that point. Geer said the state had asked the Atlantic States commission for permission to set a cap that would pay back the 2019 excess catch over two years, but that the interstate commission did not agree to that.

Omega went over the 51,000 ton cap in the final weeks of the season last year by chasing menhaden that were feeding mainly inside the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, instead of in waters on the other side, which they prefer some years and where they would not count toward the Bay cap.

If the company had not kept fishing, it would have had to idle its nine vessels and lay off their 120 crew members, company officials have said.

The Virginia quota cut does not apply to menhaden fishermen who catch fish to be used as bait.

When the Atlantic States Commission cut Omega’s quota in 2017 it increased the quota for fishermen in Maryland and on the Potomac River, as well as in every other Atlantic coast state.

“The bay cap appears to be far less about conserving menhaden throughout its range, but rather restricting the harvest of Omega Protein,” Landry said.

Dave Ress, 757-247-4535, dress@dailypress.com

 

Now if they can make it happen more than just this year.  Omega has been raping the Bay for years and ASMFC needs to do a local population assessment impact instead of basing the harvest on the entire Atlantic coast population.  But, this is a win I am happy with for now.

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Great news! It will take a few years to see the improvement, but hopefully we're on the way to improved fishing and better resource management.

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  • 3 months later...

I received this from the Coastal Conservation Association - NC. It appears progress on Menhaden is being made:

Anglers Praise Decision to Improve Menhaden Management 

ASMFC raises the bar for forage base management 
 
(Washington D.C.)-The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted unanimously today to improve management strategies for Atlantic menhaden, by requiring consideration for the small baitfish's impact on fish up the food chain. Economically important sportfish such as striped bass rely on healthy menhaden populations for survival.
 
After recreational anglers weighed in, the Commission adopted the new ecological management system, which considers the needs of predator species and will begin the process of allowing fish like striped bass to meet population targets. Menhaden is the first fishery on the east coast to shift to an ecosystem management approach.
 
"This landmark decision represents a new era in fisheries management," said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "We are grateful for the Commission's support of comprehensive strategies that support the entire Atlantic ecosystem. This decision will spur healthier menhaden and gamefish populations while supporting the recreational fishing economy along the eastern seaboard."
 
The Commission has worked diligently for over a decade to thoroughly vet several ecosystem models that led to the development and implementation of these ecological reference points for Atlantic menhaden. The selected model includes important predator species like Atlantic striped bass and bluefish as well as alternative prey such as Atlantic herring. Ultimately, these reference points can be used to set quotas that will help ensure enough menhaden are left in the water to help Atlantic striped bass, bluefish and Atlantic herring rebuild from overfished conditions.
 
"Today's decision is a critical step towards acknowledging that forage fish like menhaden are ecologically important to recreationally important species like striped bass and bluefish," said Mike Leonard vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. "A healthy Atlantic menhaden stock, and quotas that account for the needs of predators, is the science-based management we look for to help support a healthy ecosystem and the sportfishing opportunities it provides."
 
"As recreational anglers, we commend the board for adding this new tool to the tool box which allows for a more holistic approach to managing the coast's most valuable forage for striped bass and many other important recreationally caught gamefish species," said David Sikorski, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.
 
"The implementation of the ecological reference points for Atlantic menhaden represents a significant step in advancing science-based fisheries management," said Chris Horton, senior director of fisheries policy of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. "For the first time, we now have a model that can account for the need to leave menhaden in the water for the benefit of other important fisheries and the marine ecosystem as a whole."
 
"Recreational boaters and anglers stand behind science-backed conservation efforts to maintain the health of our nation's fisheries," said Adam Fortier-Brown, government relations manager of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. "This is why our community has come out so strongly in support of the approved Atlantic menhaden management plan, which would support the whole ecosystem and begin the process of bringing back populations of prized fish like striped bass, bluefish, and weakfish."
 
According to a recent scientific study, menhaden reduction fishing contributes to a nearly 30 percent decline in striped bass numbers. The striped bass fishing industry contributes $7.8 billion in GDP to the economy along the Atlantic coast.

 

 
   
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This is great to hear...I just hope the damn politicians stay out of it and let the fishery be managed by people who understand it.

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  • 2 months later...

It doesn't change the bay quota but it's a step in the right direction. Let's hope 10% more menhaden will mean more striper down the road:

https://chesapeakebaymagazine.com/atlantic-menhaden-harvest-cut-10-percent/

I was looking at some pictures now 10 years old and if it weren't for the pictures I'd forget how good it used to be. I didn't mind the frozen reels and ice on the windshield after reeling in and releasing large stripers until my arms were tired. It didn't happen every time we went out, but often enough. I look forward to seeing bird funnels pointing out the feeding stripers and racing to where we thought they were headed and dropping stretch lures, mojos, umbrella rigs and anything else we thought they'd like.

I do hope Virginia has the sense to remove citations for weighed striper and only give citations for length of released fish this time around. Knowing the difference in large striper taste and texture I'll stick with small striper for food and large striper for the challenge.

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Birds like this? 

image.png

I wish had pictures of the times they  were 4 times thicker than this and darn gannets hitting the water just a few feet from the boat!  How we never got hit by a diving bird...  Or going from a 4 rod spread to two because when you went through a school of stripers, it was complete confusion with 2 ten year olds on the boat.  How about this one; not being able to find a parking space at Owls Creek at 6:00 in the morning!

I am like you, the pictures from 10-15 years ago look to be from another country.  Would love to see them get the menhaden situation under control so we could enjoy those cold winters again.

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I would be nice to get out again and actually catch striper. Never took a picture of the funnel, but the birds looked exactly like a funnel with birds at the top circling and then going down the funnel to one spot. Much wider at the top. I kept figuring there would have to be injured birds, but I never saw any.

I did go out for a few years and bobber fish eels for striper at Plantation Light. Caught a lot of sharks and a couple of striper. Its fun night fishing, but it's more fun if you catch the target fish. After several trips with no striper I've stopped until things improve. And, I'd rather troll or cast for them anyway. After several eel knots I started icing them and that helped, but lures sure are cleaner and easier to work with.

 

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