Take Action: End Menhaden Reduction Fishing in Chesapeake Bay

The annual harvest of over 100-million pounds of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay is depleting the food source that directly supports striped bass populations coastwide.

Bunker School Baitfish

Pictured above is a small, densely-packed pod of menhaden. (photo: Billy Mitchell) 

Anglers across the Atlantic coast are aware of menhaden’s vital importance to our fisheries. They’re essential in the diets of our favorite inshore game fish like striped bass and bluefish, but they also contribute a massive percentage to the diets of larger predators, marine mammals and sea birds. But the annual harvest of over 100-million pounds of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay—the Atlantic coast’s largest striped bass nursery— is depleting the food source that directly supports striped bass populations.

Omega Protein, a division of Cooke Inc., is the culprit of this massive menhaden depletion. They commercially harvest the oily baitfish fish en masse each year, before they are ground up and reduced to make fish meal, pet food and other products.

According to the latest science, menhaden reduction fishing contributes to a nearly 30-percent decline in striped bass numbers coastwide. As striped bass populations and stock surveys continue to dwindle, the recreational fishing community and associated conservation groups are pushing Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin to implement regulations that would significantly limit, if not end, the mass harvest of menhaden until science-based evidence proves that it does not negatively impact striped bass populations. Organizations including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, and the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association are dedicated to maintaining the health of the Bay, the region’s economy, and the broader marine ecosystem in the Atlantic.

“Virginia has an immense responsibility to the Bay ecosystem and anglers up and down the East Coast, where recreational fishing for striped bass is a way of life,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’re making sure that there is national attention on this effort to move menhaden reduction fishing out of the Bay, an iconic fishing destination in its own right, and working closely with fisheries managers in the Atlantic and Gulf to account for the critical role of menhaden in the marine food chain.”

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has an opening to change menhaden regulations this October. Sign the petition here to let these decision-makers know that you support moving menhaden reduction fishing out of the Chesapeake Bay.

Take Action: Stop Industrial Menhaden Fishing in Chesapeake Bay



7 on “Take Action: End Menhaden Reduction Fishing in Chesapeake Bay

  1. Pogie2

    Didn’t they already put limits on Omega Protein? How is this allowed to continue is beyond reason.

  2. Rick Williams

    Republicans only care about the highest bidder- better open up your checkbooks- otherwise we’ll soon have Trump brand omegas (the best!) and no gamefish.

  3. peter okeefe

    laws are in place with hefty fines for anyone violating them…unless of course your a foreign nation that has purchased the “special permit” for harvesting in our waters. Thats right!! they sell preferred nations permits and you wont hear about it

  4. David Sampson

    This is what happens when voters elect corporate republicans.

    1. Capt. Ed

      Please leave your political views out of this!
      A new republican governor is looking into this and we should all hope he will be successful with a compromised solution to this problem.
      Many Democrat Governors in the past have not done anything at all.
      Their can be a solution to allow some commercial harvest of the bunker but must be greatly reduced from where it is today to allow predator fish populations to respond.
      This will take a few years.
      Omega Protein is a foreign owned company and we need to look at this also.
      Made in America Bunker should not line the pockets of a foreign company!
      Also we need to have our leaders do as they took an oath to do – “Uphold the Existing Laws” and heavily fine Omega for going over the limits.
      Also include all of Virginia Territorial waters in the allowable catch not just north of the Chesapeake Bridge/Tunnel.
      Get behind the guys trying to stop this crazy situation.
      Support our Senators, like Bill DeSteph, and others to Lobby for a Change.
      Take action on your own and attend meetings and stand up and be heard by the folks who can make a difference.
      Attend the next Meeting in September with the MRC and have a statement ready to read. Put your actions and words to work with others, regardless of their political views, to stop this craziness.
      All Sport Fisherman will be behind you.
      Best Regards,
      Capt. Ed

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