Possible End To Commercial Menhaden Fishing in Chesapeake Bay


Senior Fisheman
Jan 10, 2009
Craig, Colorado
Best Catch
Possible End To Commercial Menhaden Fishing in Chesapeake Bay

The Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a smallish baitfish that makes up the base diet of many predatory fish species up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Only growing to about 15 inches long and weighing a pound at best, this little fish is the center of a lot of contention. Being such an important prey species for many popular species in the Chesapeake Bay the commercial harvest of hundreds of thousands of tons every year brings in the ire of many groups.

Now there might be an end in sight for commercial menhaden fishing in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay. A bill was introduced for the next session of the Virginia General Assembly for a two-year moratorium to be placed on Atlantic menhaden. This moratorium would be put in place in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay, shutting down a great portion of the harvest in the bay. The bill is being sponsored by State Delegate Tim Anderson (R)-Virginia Beach.

There is a finger-pointing game going on between the commercial menhaden purse seiners and angler and conservation groups. Omega Protein, the largest commercial menhaden firm, is blaming the anglers saying they fished out the sportfish, while the anglers and conservation groups are blaming commercial purse seiners. Saying that the removal of 51,000 metric tons of menhaden from the Chesapeake Bay is slowly killing off the predatory fish that feed on the menhaden. Omega Protein harvests an average of 137,000 metric tons of menhaden a year, so the loss of the ability to fish inside the Chesapeake Bay would be substantial for the business.

Anderson’s bill would, besides just closing the Chesapeake Bay to commercial bunker fishing, would also establish an advisory committee to do research on reduction fishing during the two-year moratorium. The advisory committee would then provide the data on its findings to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) after its research is complete. At this point this is still a proposed bill so we will just have to wait and see where it goes.

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