ASMFC puts Virginia on notice regarding menhaden limits in Chesapeake Bay

Published on
May 3, 2018

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has put the state of Virginia on notice regarding the menhaden fishery in the mid-Atlantic state.

However, rather than proceeding with the next steps, the ASMFC’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board chose to postpone any hearing on the matter until August. That still gives Virginia lawmakers time to approve a bill that would cap the state’s harvest at 51,000 metric tons in Chesapeake Bay for this year.

 “The reduction fishery is just beginning for the year and is highly unlikely to exceed the Bay cap prior to August given the performance of the fishery for the past five years,” the ASMFC said in a statement.

States were supposed to submit plans to the commission by 1 January and implement them by 15 April.

Menhaden typically is caught because of the rich omega-3 fat content. It’s often used to create nutritional supplements, but it’s also a key component in the development of fertilizers and cosmetics.

While the commission won’t act now, it will continue to monitor the state’s total catch, and it will notify the AMMB if Virginia nears the 51,000 metric ton limit in the interim. However, according to the commission, the fishery’s performance in recent years means such a harvest over the summer would be unlikely.

Should Virginia fail to take action by August, the ASMFC may find the state is not in compliance with the fishery management plan. At that point, the U.S. Commerce Secretary would have 30 days to review the decision and consider next steps. That could include a ban on menhaden fishing in state waters.

Last November, the ASMFC announced the Chesapeake Bay reduction for Virginia. The bay serves as a nursing ground for many marine species and they rely on menhaden both as a critical food source and for their ability to prevent algae blooms.

Virginia leaders had a chance to act earlier this year, but a state House of Delegates committee defeated a bill that would have codified the catch limit on 13 February. Less than a month later, a similar bill, supported by Gov. Ralph Northam, was pulled back after it just narrowly passed the committee. 

Photo courtesy of ASMFC and Frank Marenghi, MD DNR

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?