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Conserve menhaden, restore jobs, help ecosystem

December 3, 2012 12:10 am

Omega Protein's Monty Deihl calls for sound science to guide menhaden conservation but then uses outdated information and scare tactics to argue for the status quo ["Menhaden: Not overfished, not endangered," Nov. 25].

Deihl cites Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission data to contend menhaden overfishing has occurred only twice since 1993. However, his figures are based on old standards that the commission has since changed.

Using the new fishing rate standards, the 2010 assessment would have found that menhaden overfishing occurred in 52 of the previous 54 years. Further, the commission's Menhaden Technical Committee says if the new population standards it recommends are adopted, the population would be considered overfished.

Menhaden are at an all-time low and have reproduced poorly for the past 20 years. Deihl threatens devastating job losses to argue against meaningful catch reductions. Yet, once there were dozens of menhaden processing plants on the East Coast employing thousands of workers. Today, with menhaden numbers the lowest on record, the Reedville plant is the only one left.

Surely the status quo isn't best for the industry or its workers. Science and history demonstrate that strong conservation helps troubled fisheries:

When the Chesapeake Bay's rockfish population fell to historic lows two decades ago, the Atlantic commission imposed strict catch limits. Today, rockfish have rebounded to historic highs, generating nearly $300 mil-lion in Virginia fishing revenues.

When the blue crab population was down 70 percent five years ago, Virginia and Maryland ordered catch restrictions. Today, blue crabs are recovering dramatically, providing more crabs and more economic value to Virginia.

Conserving menhaden will restore jobs, not destroy them, and benefit the ecosystem and the economy.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation urges the Atlantic commission to reduce menhaden harvests by a modest 25 percent as part of a new comprehensive management plan and for the 2013 Virginia General Assembly to adopt it.

Chris Moore


Chris Moore is Hampton Roads senior scientist, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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