Pictured: Omega Protein employees harvest menhanden in the Chesapeake Bay. Picture courtesy of Gordon Campbell at At Altitude Gallery.
(AP)- Governors in nine states along the Atlantic coast are urging the Trump Administration to stop a company that makes fish-oil supplements and other products from fishing in Virginia waters.
A letter sent Friday from those governors echoes concerns of fishing regulators who say Omega Protein defied harvest limits in the Chesapeake Bay.
The firm catches menhaden that’s considered a vital link to the bay’s food chain. Menhaden are food for striped bass, whales and other animals.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is expected to make a decision this week following a request from regulators to take action. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission says Omega Protein ignored its catch recommendations in the bay by more than 30% this year. The ASMFC catch limits are not binding by law, because they were not adopted by the Virginia General Assembly.
Omega Protein and Virginia lawmakers who support the company say the harvest cap lacks scientific justification and is unfair. The commission’s own coast-wide assessment says the stock is healthy.
Forcing the company to only fish in the Atlantic Ocean would drastically increase costs as the fishing boats would have much further to travel from their home base on the Northern Neck.
The company harvests menhaden for use in anything from health supplements that are rich with omega-3 fatty acids to animal feed.
The governors who wrote the letter serve coastal states from Virginia to Maine with the exception of New Hampshire. They warn that Omega Protein could jeopardize an ecological balance and imperil other fishing operations.
According to the last stock assessment by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Atlantic menhaden is at 140% of target population and is not being over-fished.
Menhaden fishing is the largest industry and Omega Protein is the largest employer in Reedville, Virginia, providing more than 350 jobs in Northumberland County.