Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has said he may take legal actions to push an Atlantic states regional fisheries management commission to create more protections for menhaden. These are small, oily fish that were called the “most important” fish by author H. Bruce Franklin because they feed so many other species of fish and filter the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways.
“In an ongoing effort to combat further environmental and economic damage to the Chesapeake Bay from the historic decline of Atlantic menhaden, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler…asked the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) -- the interstate body tasked with managing menhaden - to move quickly and adopt stronger menhaden protections,” according to a press release on Gansler’s website.
"’The ASMFC must rise to its responsibility and protect the Atlantic menhaden,’" Gansler said in the release.
Gansler is “considering going to court” if the interstate panel that regulates Atlantic coast fishing for menhaden doesn't cut back enough the catch of a Virginia-based fleet that takes the lion's share of the forage fish, The Baltimore Sun recently reported.
Omega Protein, out of Reedville, Virginia, runs the last remaining large-scale fleet on the East Coast that harvests menhaden in huge nets for industrial processing into food for fish and poultry, dietary supplements, and other commercial products. Maryland and most other Eastern states (except for Virginia and North Carolina) have outlawed the harvest of menhaden for industrial processing.
Menhaden are an important source of food for striped bass, a popular sportfish, as well as osprey, loons and dozens of other species in the Bay.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation