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Fishery firm eyes near-shore waters

Board will meet today to discuss changes


Published in the Asbury Park Press 05/11/05
By KIRK MOORE
STAFF WRITER



The nation's biggest producer of omega-3 fish oils is calling for a reopening of East Coast state waters to large-scale menhaden fishing, as one way to reduce the industry's dependence on fishing inside Chesapeake Bay.

Any push to reopen near-shore Atlantic Ocean waters to netting would likely bear on New Jersey, long a favored hunting ground for Omega Protein's menhaden boats, and a state where recreational fishing groups in 2002 realized their long-sought goal of banning the fishery within three miles of the beach.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's menhaden board meets in Virginia today to discuss proposed changes to its management plan ? including an annual 110,400-metric-ton limit on the coastal menhaden harvest, sought by recreational fishing and environmental groups that contend too many menhaden are taken from the Chesapeake.

In a letter last week to the board chairman, Omega's director of government affairs, Toby M. Gascon, laid out the company's proposals for consideration at the board meeting, proposing a higher cap of 135,000 metric tons. Among the company's other key points is that state waters should be reopened to fishing, after years of unilateral action by the states in response to pressure from recreational groups.

"By ordering the reopening of state waters which are currently closed beyond one mile off the coast, the board will encourage the transfer of fishing effort out of the (Chesapeake) Bay and onto grounds historically important to the menhaden fishery," Gascon wrote.

The letter does not directly address how states could be compelled to obey such an order; New Jersey anglers persuaded the state Legislature to directly ban industrial fishing by law. Gascon did suggest that states might opt to keep bans in place but then drop out of the commission's rule-making for states that allow menhaden harvesting.

Because menhaden are eaten by striped bass, bluefish and other sport species, recreational advocates argued that netting operations deprived anglers of fishing opportunities close to shore. In the Chesapeake region, Omega's critics say menhaden catches must be limited because the herring-like fish are critical to the ecosystem.

The Atlantic coast once was dotted with menhaden processing plants that rendered the oily fish into meal for animal feeds and oil for paints and other industrial uses. The last New Jersey plant closed in 1983, and today Omega's Reedsville, Va., plant is focused increasingly on production of higher-value omega-3 oils used in human foods and dietary supplements.
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Panel won't let up on fishing ban

Industrial netting of menhaden sought


Published in the Asbury Park Press 05/12/05
BY KIRK MOORE
STAFF WRITER


Fisheries managers from Atlantic coastal states won't act on Omega Protein's proposal to reopen industrial menhaden fishing in near-shore ocean waters, where New Jersey and other states have banned the company's net boats.

But the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's menhaden board will hold public hearings along the coast this summer, before deciding in August on a 110,400-metric-ton catch limit for the industry, especially its operations inside Chesapeake Bay waters.

At a meeting in Virginia Wednesday, delegates to the interstate board agreed on a menu of catch limits and other measures, but not Omega's call to reopen Atlantic coastal states' waters, said Toby Gascon, the company's director of government affairs.

Board members said that would violate provisions in the commission charter that allow member states to impose more conservative fishing limits in their waters, said Sherman Bayard of the Maryland Coastal Conservation Association. The board also rejected a demand from the environmental group Greenpeace to ban all East Coast menhaden fishing, Gascon said.

A tonnage cap would control the fishing effort until "more sophisticated ecosystem-based management options are being developed," said William Goldsborough, senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one of several environment and fishing groups that favor a limit.

Omega officials maintain their critics are manufacturing a crisis in Virginia, where the company's Reedsville plant employs 250 workers.

[ 05-12-2005, 01:07 PM: Message edited by: NIGHTSTRIKES ]
 

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To hell w/ Omega! Let them go out of business. We don't need their supplements to get our Omega 3 fatty acids. Eat farm raised salmon instead.
 

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This is a dead issue. ASMFC would have had to change its charter and garnered enough state support to make the change. It did'nt happen.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2005
CONTACT: Courtney Thompson
[email protected]


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Another Positive Step Towards Improving Menhaden Management


The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) took another step towards what the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) hopes will be a more conservative approach to menhaden management at its May 10th meeting held inAlexandria, Virginia.


While menhaden are not edible by humans, they are one of the most important fish along the Atlantic coast for serving as the foundation of the food chain for predators such as striped bass, bluefish, and weakfish and for controlling plankton levels by filter feeding. However, menhaden are also the number one target of the menhaden reduction industry which uses a fleet of large purse seine vessels to harvest enormous amounts of menhaden from nearshore waters to process them for their oil.


At the May 10th meeting, the RFA and representatives from RFA affiliate Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association (MSSA) objected to proposed language in the first draft of the Public Information Document (PID), which will be used to inform stakeholders during the upcoming public hearing process on menhaden management.


The first draft of the PID did not adequately address the problems and concerns that the concentrated harvest of menhaden by the reduction fleet in the Chesapeake Bay is causing localized depletions, thus not leaving enough menhaden for recreationally important predator species. RFA and MSSA also objected to the lack of strong language describing the low numbers of fish entering the stock and overall decreasing stock size.


The Omega Protein Corporation, which operates the reduction fleet, argued unsuccessfully to include language in the PID that could of led to the ASMFC trying to force states to reopen near-shore waters to their ships. Most East Coast states have prohibited the taking of menhaden for reduction in nearshore waters. Omega also opposed provisions to place a mandatory cap on their harvest in the Chesapeake.



Howard King, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Director of Fisheries Service, took up the cause and convincingly argued for the stronger language required for menhaden reform to go forward. " We thank Howard for doing an outstanding job of keeping the process on course towards addressing our concerns," said Dan Dugan, who represented the RFA at the meeting.


The process of reforming menhaden management began in earnest in 2002 with the seating of an ASMFC Menhaden Advisory Panel that broadened the participation of interested stakeholders. Several RFA members served on the advisory panel and were successful in helping to guide the process to this point. The next step in the process is for the ASMFC to hold public hearings in East Coast states to gather public input.


"Progress has been slow but we believe the ASMFC is on the right course. RFA will continue to be actively engaged in the ASMFC process and we will encourage our members to attend the upcoming public hearings and submit written comments," said Jim Donofrio, RFA Executive Director.


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The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. The RFA Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation's saltwater fisheries. For more information, call 1-888-JOIN-RFA.
 

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Thanks For That Info Mike,,,
 
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