Purse seine boats encircling a school of menhaden. (Photo: Robert K. Brigham/NOAA)
Menhaden catch could be slashed
Friday, December 14, 2012, 23:40 (GMT + 9)
Decisions are being made on regulating the catch of Atlantic menhaden, the oily fish used in dietary supplements, cosmetics and animal feed.
The vote could be a turning point following decades of discussions over the fish, whose stocks have plummeted 90 per cent in the last 25 years. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will decide how the harvest is to be cut and how to allocate the remaining catch, reports AP.
Environmentalists, scientists and recreational fishermen have lobbied for tough catch limits, saying that it is a key food source for striped bass, and that the filter feeders also improve water quality.
But cuts in catch would be to the detriment of an Omega Protein processing plant in Reedville, Virgina, which lands some 80 per cent of the catch and employs around 300 workers.
According to Daily Press, Ben Landry, spokesman for Omega Protein said that: "There's a chance the company could be crippled by major cuts, by moving too hard, too fast with the reductions."
At its Reedville reduction facility, the company grinds and boils the food down for fertilizer, food for pets and livestock, and fish oil dietary supplements.
Peter Baker, director of the Northeast Fisheries Programmes for the Pew Environment Group says: "there is a lot at stake for ocean wildlife and for the business economies up and down the East Coast that rely on a healthy menhaden population."
Menhaden play a key role in the marine food web. Despite the fish not appearing on the dinner plate, it's a staple food source for those that do. Menhaden consume plankton which in turn is converted into fat and protein that sustains birds, mammals and marine predators.
In turn many businesses rely on the fish, which is currently the most intensely harvested fish on the East Coast and second-biggest catch nationwide, as part of a healthy ecosystem.