U.S. Commerce Secretary sides with recreational anglers

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Commercial fishing is contributing to the depletion of Chesapeake Bay menhaden stocks.

Commercial fishing is contributing to the depletion of Chesapeake Bay menhaden stocks.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross issued a decision yesterday that targets overfishing of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay.

He found that the state of Virginia was out of compliance after a foreign-known entity, Omega Protein, “willfully violated the fishing cap on menhaden, a key food source for striped bass in Chesapeake Bay, according to a story at OnTheWater.com.

Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said Ross “made the right move.” Fosburgh added, “Reduction fishing for menhaden threatens the livelihoods of thousands of hard-working fishing guides and tackle-shop owners, and impacts everything from striped bass to whales. Today’s decision holds Omega accountable and sets the stage for improved management of this important forage fish.”

Glen Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association, said Ross’ decision to hold Omega Protein accountable for its actions “demonstrates clear conservation leadership to the sportfishing and boating industry and anglers along the Atlantic Coast.” The ASA said the Atlantic striped bass fishery is in “poor condition,” and Chesapeake Bay is a primary spawning area for the fish.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Policy Board unanimously found Virginia out of compliance with the Menhaden Fishery Management Plan. “We applaud Secretary Ross for defending both the management system and the forage base in the Chesapeake Bay,” said David Sikorski, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.

Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said responsible conservation practices across all fisheries is “essential to the long-term wellbeing of marine ecosystems.”

“Healthy and sustainable forage fish and sportfish stocks are equally important to the recreational boating and fishing community, and this decision is a major step toward protecting and rebuilding both of these critical populations,” he said.

The Virginia general assembly must now decide if it will transfer management of menhaden to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission or place a moratorium on fishing for the species.