As many of you are aware, there has been a long standing effort to move regulation of the menhaden fishery from the General Assembly to V.M.R.C. This movement has resurfaced this year and both of us have received a considerable amount of correspondence regarding this issue. Since this is an issue that has its roots in the Northern Neck, we wanted to jointly respond and share our unified bipartisan position with our constituents.
This issue has a dramatic impact on our region in many respects and we have deliberated upon it thoroughly and thoughtfully. We have come to the conclusion that we must oppose transferring regulation of the menhaden fishery to V.M.R.C. at this time. While it is true that the menhaden is the only fishery which is managed by the legislature here in Virginia, it is also true that the menhaden is the only fishery for which there is an organized effort to shut down the commercial harvest.
We believe that transferring the management to V.M.R.C. will only transfer the fight which seems to be taking place irrespective of new scientific evidence. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is the federal regulatory board, has recently completed an assessment of the Atlantic stock that indicates menhaden are above a healthy population and mortality rates are below threshold. The report also indicated low by-catch and an abundance of healthy reproductive female menhaden. Studies of the Atlantic menhaden stock have concluded that the Atlantic menhaden is a healthy and sustainable fishery. Studies of the Chesapeake Bay menhaden stock have not yet been completed.
Having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay, we can remember when there were considerably more “fish boats” operating with much less regulatory oversight. While these boats did not have GPS navigation, they certainly had spotter pilots and a competitive spirit. Thus, our observations tell us that fishing pressure and catch effort is significantly less than in past years.
Please know that while we are supportive of the fishery – and the jobs and families it sustains in the Northern Neck – we are dedicated to a sustainable fishery. Accordingly, we made it very clear to all involved that if studies show an unsustainable fishery, we are prepared to take appropriate action.