Eight major recreational fishing and boating groups are asking the Virginia General Assembly to advance legislation that transfers management authority of Atlantic menhaden, a key food source for striped bass and other recreational fish, to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, BoatU.S., Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, and National Marine Manufacturers Association are banding together in support of House Bill 1448 and Senate Bill 791, which shifts management authority to the Commission. Currently menhaden are the only finfish in Virginia not under the Commission’s purview.
The legislation would bring Virginia back into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) after the Commonwealth was found in violation of ASMFC’s fishery management plan for failing to enforce the Chesapeake Bay harvest cap. This finding was the result of industrial fishing giant Omega Protein exceeding the cap by approximately 30 percent last year. The groups are raising concerns because when the menhaden population declines, it impacts striped bass, cobia, bluefish, and summer flounder.
“These valuable recreational fisheries are major contributors to America’s economy and support many fishing-dependent businesses within Virginia and across our industry,” the groups wrote. “In Virginia alone, the annual value of striped bass has declined from $240 million to $120 million in the past decade while associated jobs have declined from 3,950 to 1,830 in the same time period.”
The groups called on the General Assembly to pass the legislation, saying it’s important because it gives full time fisheries managers the authority to manage menhaden.
“Your support will demonstrate clear leadership to the thousands of Bay anglers and the hundreds of businesses they support and bring the Commonwealth of Virginia back into compliance,” the groups added.
Over 50 local businesses, including charter boat operators have also thrown their support behind the legislation.
The coalition’s letter of support can be found HERE.