Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley this week heaped praise on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Fisheries Director, Bill Goldsborough. Goldsborough and many allies successfully pushed the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to recently impose a 20 percent reduction in the allowable catch of menhaden, sometimes called “the most important fish in the sea.”
“Thank you, Bill, very, very much for leading our charge -- you did an awesome job,” O’Malley said of Goldsborough (shown at left with a striped bass) during the annual Maryland Environmental Legislative Summit meeting in Annapolis on Tuesday. Goldsborough was one of Maryland's two representatives on the commission, along with Lynn Fegley, deputy director of fisheries for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which O'Malley also strongly praised.
Menhaden have been badly overfished by an industrial fishing fleet out of Reedville, Virginia, but are key to the balance of life in the Bay and Atlantic Ocean because they serve as a primary food source for many species of fish and birds.
In Virginia earlier this week, state delegates also voted unanimously to cut the industrial catch of menhaden in by a fifth. The 98-0 vote by the state House (following a similar action the previous week by the state Senate) puts the commonwealth a step closer to compliance with the December 14 earlier decision of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to reduce the menhaden harvest by 20 percent. Now the bills must be reconciled and the governor must sign the legislation.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker thanked O’Malley for working behind the scenes to protect menhaden. CBF worked with the Coastal Conservation Association and the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association to present O'Malley with an award for his advocacy on behalf of the fish.
“It’s great to have a powerful and influential person on your side,” Baker told the crowd of 400 at the legislative summit. O’Malley “understood the importance of this little fish in the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay….And he started working with his fellow governors up and down the Atlantic seaboard, telling them how important it was, presenting evidence of the fact that this fish needs to have more protection.”
Baker also offered praise to many other leaders and allies in the fight, including Ed Liccione of the Coastal Conservation Association and Vince Ringgold of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation