Virginia General Assembly Passes Legislation to Strengthen Menhaden Conservation

Bill supports recreational fishing economy and science-based management

With strong bipartisan support the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that improves menhaden management in the Atlantic.

The bill, which is headed to Governor Northam’s desk, transfers management authority of Atlantic menhaden to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which oversees every other saltwater fishery in the Commonwealth.

Once signed into law, the legislation puts Virginia on a path toward compliance with the regional fishery management plan which was flouted by foreign fishing giant Omega Protein.

“With this landmark decision, the Virginia General Assembly has acknowledged the critical role that recreational fishing plays in the Virginia economy and the need for science, and not politics, to guide management,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “For too long, Omega has exploited the Chesapeake Bay at the expense of recreational anglers. This is a huge step forward for sound fisheries conservation in the Chesapeake. The recreational fishing community thanks the bill sponsors and Governor Northam for their leadership as well as the unfailing support of charter captains, fishing guides and other small businesses who rely on a healthy Chesapeake Bay for their livelihoods.”

In late 2019, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission found Omega Protein had exceeded the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishing cap by 35 million pounds, a ruling upheld by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Conserving menhaden is particularly important because striped bass, which feed on menhaden, are in worrisome decline.

“As a critical food source for rockfish and other important recreational fisheries, menhaden must be managed sustainably to support their role in the ecosystem,” said Mike Leonard, the American Sportfishing Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “Allowing the fisheries management experts at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to manage menhaden is a long-awaited step in ensuring science-based management of the resource. The sportfishing industry is particularly grateful to Governor Northam and leaders in the Virginia state legislature for prioritizing this bill and working diligently toward its passage.”

“There is a growing need for more robust conservation practices in our fisheries – not only with menhaden but all forage fish – and the passage of this bill is an important step towards better recognizing and correcting the harmful impacts overfishing can have on our communities,” said Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of government and legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Protecting menhaden is essential for recreational activities in the Chesapeake Bay and we thank Virginia legislators for taking action to that ensure our marine ecosystems remain healthy for generations to come.”


Captain Chris Dollar is a professional fishing guide, tackle shop owner, all-around Chesapeake outdoorsman, and writer.

10 Responses to “Virginia General Assembly Passes Legislation to Strengthen Menhaden Conservation”

  1. David Teitel

    I seem to recall an incident a few years back when Canada seized Portugese fishing vessels for violating their fishing grounds. Why aren’t we doing the same to theirs? Omega has been raping the bunker population all up and down the American Atlantic coast. Why hasn’t the Federal Government stepped in to defend our resources?

  2. This legislation was looooong overdue, and finally put the rights of our natural resources back in the hands of Virginia, and away from greedy, corporate, reckless profits. We have all known how poorly our Menhaden fishery was being pillaged – thank you to ALL VA legislators!

  3. Michael Deckard

    I have witnessed the devastation and the accompanying illegal harvesting of large breeding striped bass in their nets which were not released and transferred to the smaller boats that set the nets and offload to the motherships. I have witnessed this on at least 20 times most of these interactions were in the ocean in Virginia and others as far north as New Jersey. Omega Protein has never played by the rules as all the violations will attest but the fines are minuscule compared to the profits. What remains of the striped bass stock are primarily undernourished because the huge schools of menhaden are virtually nonexistent. The whales can’t find food nor can the dolphins from North Carolina to Maine the devastation is apparent Omega Protein is and has been for at least the past 25 years that I have personally witnessed destroying the most important resource in our ocean. They will never play by the rules they need to be shut down for good given all of the violations.

  4. I have witnessed Omega Protein rape the ocean. It is terrible and needs to come to an end or we will have nothing left. There like every other commercial fishing industry….take it all and move onto the next species.

  5. Michael Deckard

    According to the latest comprehensive survey by the Pew Foundation the menhaden biomass is at an all time low just 10% of the historical high and as a 30 year hardcore striper fisherman in the Chesapeake Bay and the ocean in Virginia and Maryland as well as New Jersey and New York that is 100% accurate this devastation by Omega Protein must be stopped now with at least a 50% reduction immediately!

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Comments must be under 1000 characters.

February 21, 2020

New Film Highlights Importance of Big Game Migration in New Mexico

Scientists, sportsmen and women explain why seasonal habitat and migration routes for big game species must be conserved

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership released a film today exploring the importance of planning for migration corridor conservation in New Mexico and, more generally, across the West. The film, “Migration Corridors: Connecting the Wildlife and People of New Mexico,” features a New Mexican hunter and a hunting guide, officials from the U.S. Forest Service and New Mexico Game & Fish, and TRCP staff.

The film showcases the insights offered by the most recent research into big game migration corridors, the importance of these routes to wildlife, and the impact of wildlife-dependent outdoor recreation on New Mexico’s economy.

“We wanted to make a film that would highlight the importance of migration corridors and help explain why this has become a major priority for conservationists,” said John Cornell, southwest field manager for the TRCP. “Hunters have always known how important migration routes are for the animals we pursue each fall, and the most up-to-date science keeps making a stronger case for paying special attention to these habitats.”

To survive the varied seasonal conditions found across the West, big game must be able to move freely across the landscape at key times of the year to access nutritious food. Emerging science and recent technologies can pinpoint well-defined corridors traveled by animals during these migrations and measure how much time they spend in certain places along the way known as stopover habitats.

Research also shows that human development can disrupt the normal patterns of migrating ungulates.

Subdivisions, fences, roads, and energy development all contribute to the loss of big-game habitat and impede the migrations of these animals between the seasonal habitats on which they rely.

Like many other states across the West, New Mexico is in the first stages of mapping big game migration corridors with the most up-to-date GPS technology. This research will help guide policymakers as they make decisions about how to manage wildlife and human development.

“We have a lot of historic and local expert knowledge of big game movements on the landscape: A lot of local biologists and game wardens know the animals move into or out of these areas seasonally. But we have not identified those specifically…it is more just anecdotal evidence,” said Orrin Duvuvuei, deer biologist/migration coordinator with New Mexico Game & Fish.

The film also includes Dr. Karl Malcolm, southwestern regional wildlife ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, who explained the coordinated effort that will be needed to manage for migration corridor conservation.

“If we—as a community of conservationists, government, non-government, federal, state, members of the public, NGOs— if we are going to do our job, we need to effectively consider the fact that the summer range and the winter range…need to be linked. Herds need to go where they have always gone,” said Malcolm.

In addition to Cornell, Duvuvuei, and Malcolm, the film also features hunting guide Art Martinez, local sportswoman and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers southwest chapter coordinator Katie DeLorenzo, New Mexico Game & Fish big game program manager Dr. Nicole Tatman, and TRCP chief scientist Dr. Ed Arnett.

The film can be viewed at the TRCP’s website and on its Facebook page.

Migration Corridors: Connecting Wildlife and People of New Mexico

To learn more about this film, click here

Scientists, sportsmen and women explain why seasonal habitat and migration routes for big game species must be conserved.

To survive the varied seasonal conditions found across the West, big game must be able to move freely across the landscape at key times of the year to access nutritious food. Emerging science and recent technologies can pinpoint well-defined corridors traveled by animals during these migrations and measure how much time they spend in certain places along the way known as stopover habitats.  

Research also shows that human development can disrupt the normal patterns of migrating ungulates.  

Subdivisions, fences, roads, and energy development all contribute to the loss of big-game habitat and impede the migrations of these animals between the seasonal habitats on which they rely.  

Like many other states across the West, New Mexico is in the first stages of mapping big game migration corridors with the most up-to-date GPS technologyThis research will help guide policymakers as they make decisions about how to manage wildlife and human development.

Join TRCP to learn more about wildlife, habitat, and conservation policy.

February 20, 2020

Comment Now – Help Land Management Agencies Open Access to Your Public Lands

BLM, USFS, and USFWS seek nominations from the public for high-priority landlocked or hard-to-reach parcels

Last spring, with the passage of S. 47 – the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act – federal public land management agencies were tasked with identifying parcels of public ground with no access or restricted access and developing priority lists for opening access to those lands.

Now, the US Forest Service, BLM, and US Fish and Wildlife Service are asking the public for help to identify pieces of public land that should be on the priority lists. This is your chance to get involved and make a difference.

Once parcels are added to an agency’s priority list, land managers can then coordinate with state and local governments, conservation groups, land trusts, and landowners to open access through voluntary acquisitions of land, road or trail easements, or various other measures.

As our partnership with onX has shown, access to public land can be a huge challenge for hunters and anglers. We found that 9.52 million acres of federally managed public lands in the West have no permanent, legal public access.

Details on how to nominate a parcel are below, but time is running out. Speak up today to strengthen our public lands legacy!

Lawmakers have outlined the below requirements for the agencies:

  • Parcels nominated must encompass at least 640 contiguous acres with either no public access (i.e. it is unreachable by foot, horseback, and motorized/non-motorized vehicles) or the access is severely restricted (i.e. a large block of public land with only one access point).
  • In order to be considered, nominations must be sent to the appropriate agency (i.e. the agency responsible for managing the lands in question).
  • Nominations must include the location of the land or parcel, the total affected acreage (if known), a description or narrative about the barriers to access, and any other information that should be considered by the agency.

Forest Service: Comment period has closed.


Fish and Wildlife Service: Comment period has closed.


BLM: Comment period has closed.



February 14, 2020

TRCP Recognizes Governor Gordon’s Leadership in Executive Order on Migration Corridors

Stresses need for long-term commitment to see the conservation of vital big-game habitats

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed an executive order this week prioritizing the conservation of big-game migration corridors.

The TRCP responded to the directive:

“We appreciate Governor Gordon’s leadership on big-game migration corridors with his Executive Order,” said Nick Dobric, Wyoming field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We have incredible wildlife populations and hunting opportunities in Wyoming, and we hope that the Governor’s directives will help conserve these resources for decades and generations to come.”

During the summer of 2019, Governor Gordon tasked an advisory group of eight citizens—each representing various interests, including sportsmen—with devising a solution for migration corridors that would conserve the corridors while being consistent with multiple uses of the land. After three long sessions, the group recommended the governor could best address the issue through an executive order that would set up a process for more public involvement and limit development in designated corridors, with emphasis on stopover and high-use areas.

Subdivisions, fences, roads, and energy development all contribute to the loss of big-game habitat and impede the migrations of these animals between the seasonal habitats on which they rely. Land-use planning decisions on state and federal lands can have a determinative effect on the function of these habitats. This includes the proposed management objectives in the Rock Springs draft Resource Management Plan that is expected this Spring and will have implications for the Sublette Mule Deer herd, which depends upon the 150-mile migration corridor commonly known as the Red Desert to Hoback.

“This week’s action should be viewed as a renewed commitment, not a final step, to see migration corridors conserved over the long-term in Wyoming. Sportsmen are hopeful that the governor’s directives will be applied to the Rock Springs draft RMP, which overlaps with the designated Sublette corridor,” said Dobric. “We are counting on the BLM to support state management objectives for this deer herd and apply conservation measures that protect its future.”

Many of Wyoming’s big game herds depend on migration corridors in areas that have yet to be formally identified and designated. While the Order does not apply to areas outside of designated corridors, the science does support similar measures to conserve habitats and allow for multiple uses in other areas. Wyoming Game and Fish has been at the forefront in the West due to their efforts to gather the best science to inform their big game management. Years of captures and collaring, funded by sportsmen and others, gives the state a strong foundation for expanding its efforts so that conservation measures can be put into practice on the ground for migrating big game.

“Wyoming has been a leader of migration science, as well as the policy, for over a decade,” said Dobric. “The TRCP will continue to work with the Governor, state and federal agencies, sportsmen, and other stakeholders to implement this Order and ensure the continued functionality of big-game migration corridors.”


Photo courtesy: BLM Wyoming



Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

Learn More

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!