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Omega Protein Exceeds the Chesapeake Bay Cap

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I personally talked to the Exec Director at ASMFC today and he confirmed that the Reduction fishery has exceeded the ASMFC Chesapeake Bay Cap of 51,000 metric tons for 2019. We can thank the Virginia General Assembly for not lowering the cap.  So now, Virginia is out of compliance and ASMFC will have to deal with it.  How much longer are we going to allow a foreign owned corporation blatantly disregard U.S. Fishing regulations.  Here is Omega Proteins press release. I guess they thought releasing prior to the weekend would allow people to forget about it. 

 

Omega Protein Statement on the Chesapeake Bay Cap


September 12, 2019 -- REEDVILLE, Va. -- Omega Protein strictly complies with Virginia law, and strives to abide by all recommendations of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). However, the abundance of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay this year combined with adverse fishing conditions outside Bay waters, particularly late in the season, means the Company will exceed the ASMFC's arbitrarily low and unscientific cap recommendation on harvest in the Bay for the 2019 season. The Company will comply with the existing Bay cap codified in Virginia law.

The ASMFC's Bay cap was initially implemented in 2006 at just over 109,000 metric tons (mt) as a political compromise, not as a scientific necessity. The ASMFC wrote at the time that the cap was "precautionary and not based on a scientifically quantified harvest threshold, fishery health index, or fishery population level study."

While Omega Protein opposed - and continues to oppose - management that is not based on science, it agreed to the 2006 Bay cap to satisfy the concerns of stakeholders while millions of research dollars were spent to determine the impacts of menhaden removals from the Bay. Despite all of the money spent and research conducted, none of the results provided any evidence of negative impacts from menhaden fishing in the Bay.

In 2012, Omega Protein agreed to, and Virginia adopted, a 20 percent reduction in the Bay cap to its current 87,216 mt figure, a change that stemmed from the ASMFC's fears of potential overfishing of the coastwide menhaden population. Those fears were proven unwarranted by the 2015 Atlantic Menhaden Benchmark Assessment that indicated the population has not experienced overfishing since the 1960s. While the ASMFC has since increased the quota three times, the Bay cap has never been concurrently increased.

Given that the Atlantic menhaden stock remains healthy and robust, the Virginia General Assembly did not codify the ASMFC's 2017 decision to slash the Bay cap by over 41 percent to 51,000 mt, an arbitrary figure that was not scientifically derived. The proposed lower cap was based on the average harvest in the Bay over the previous 5-year period. Taking a multi-year average and making that average the maximum allowable harvest removes necessary flexibility from the fishery, since it fails to provide for where fish are located and fluctuating weather conditions season-to-season.

This season, adverse ocean conditions for fishermen coincided with an abundance of menhaden in the Bay. Facing unfavorable weather conditions, the company frequently could not send its employees outside the Bay into an unsafe working environment in the open ocean. But because the fish appeared with regularity in the safer, more protected Bay, menhaden could be harvested there without incurring unnecessary risks.

Omega Protein has great respect for the ASMFC, its commissioners and its staff. But this was a rare situation in which the Commission made an unscientific and arbitrary recommendation, which would have resulted in either forced, unsafe fishing conditions or economic hardship for hardworking fishing families. Risking our employees' safety is never a choice we will make. With our employees' livelihoods and the economic well-being of Reedville, Virginia and the surrounding Northern Neck region on the line, shutting down operations was not a viable alternative.

Given the untenable situation created by the unnecessarily reduced Bay cap, we were left with no choice. Nonetheless we remain in compliance with the existing cap, as codified in Virginia law, which sets the cap at 87,216 mt.

At the ASMFC Summer meeting in August 2018, NOAA attorney Chip Lynch told the ASMFC that finding Virginia out of compliance with its menhaden management plan would be "the first time ever...that the federal government would receive a non-compliance referral for a fishery that is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. And there is record evidence from the leadership of the Commission that the [Bay cap] is not related to conservation."

That statement referred to a January 2018 letter from the ASMFC's Chairman to then-Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner John Bull which acknowledged that, "The Bay Cap limit was a compromise reached by managers, fishery stakeholders, and environmental NGOs," and made clear that there was insufficient evidence presented to suggest the Bay cap was necessary to protect the Bay.

Omega Protein has operated in the Chesapeake Bay for over a century. The Company continues to support sound, science-based management of menhaden, which has made the fishery successful, including its recent sustainability certification by the Marine Stewardship Council. We look forward to working with the ASMFC as it develops and implements Ecological Reference Points for menhaden in the near future. But in the meantime, we cannot adhere to arbitrary and unscientific measures that would needlessly harm hardworking Virginia fishermen.


About Omega Protein
Omega Protein Corporation is a century old nutritional product company that develops, produces and delivers healthy products throughout the world to improve the nutritional integrity of foods, dietary supplements and animal feeds. Omega Protein's mission is to help people lead healthier lives with better nutrition through sustainably sourced ingredients such as highly-refined specialty oils, specialty proteins products and nutraceuticals. Omega Protein is a division of Cooke Inc., a family owned fishery company based in New Brunswick, Canada.

The Company operates seven manufacturing facilities located in the United States, Canada and Europe. The Company also has a long-term supply contract with Alpha VesselCo, LLC which owns 30 vessels which harvest menhaden, a fish abundantly found off the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Company's website is www.omegaprotein.com.

All fishing vessels formerly owned by Omega Protein are owned and operated by Alpha VesselCo, LLC, an independent company.

Visit www.omegaprotein.com for more information.

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https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/membersAndSession.php?secid=1&activesec=0#!hb=1&mainContentTabs=0

 

If you are here in VA, let your representatives know about this. Tell them menhaden needs to be managed by science (VMRC) not money (General Assembly). I have contacted my US House Rep about this a few times and he has generally copped out. Today I will send emails to US senators and State reps.

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9 mins ago, CJS said:

https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/membersAndSession.php?secid=1&activesec=0#!hb=1&mainContentTabs=0

 

If you are here in VA, let your representatives know about this. Tell them menhaden needs to be managed by science (VMRC) not money (General Assembly). I have contacted my US House Rep about this a few times and he has generally copped out. Today I will send emails to US senators and State reps.

Good idea.

 

I would add that Virginia has elections for State Assembly slated for 5 Nov 2019

 

https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/calendars-schedules/upcoming-elections.html

 

I'd leave it to voting Virginians to figure out which state legislative officials running for office & which party will be best for the Chesapeake Bay environment and regulation over Omega Protein. 

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Virginia is for lovers, just not lovers of nature. Omega blatantly stated they are going to do what the want.  To act in that manner without fear of reprisal says to me people have been paid off. Hopefully the Feds and IRS are taking interest,you can bet money they are also hiding money. 

 

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This is going to be interesting. ASMFC doesn't have the balls to find VA/Cooke out of compliance. Cooke is effectively castrating the ASMFC with this move. Going forward, why would any other state be bound to their regulations?

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2 hours ago, KironaFly said:

Good idea.

 

I would add that Virginia has elections for State Assembly slated for 5 Nov 2019

 

https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/calendars-schedules/upcoming-elections.html

 

I'd leave it to voting Virginians to figure out which state legislative officials running for office & which party will be best for the Chesapeake Bay environment and regulation over Omega 

Coincidentally enough Mr. Norment has a bunch of signs at the entrance to my neighborhood. He will get an email today. I will post here with his response. 

 

The problem is probably more the reps out in Blue Ridge who have never seen a menhaden but are happy to take the donations while condemning over-regulation. 

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PRETTY SOON THE GAME WILL BE OVER AND EVERYONE WILL POINT FINGERS AS TO WAS AT FAULTY FOR THE STRIPE BASS POPULATION CRASHING YET AGAIN. Some things never change,I've seen this rodeo before and it's exactly like the last time.

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20 mins ago, John P said:

PRETTY SOON THE GAME WILL BE OVER AND EVERYONE WILL POINT FINGERS AS TO WAS AT FAULTY FOR THE STRIPE BASS POPULATION CRASHING YET AGAIN. Some things never change,I've seen this rodeo before and it's exactly like the last time.

Sadly true. Bass are and will crash. 

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3 hours ago, Drew C. said:

This is going to be interesting. ASMFC doesn't have the balls to find VA/Cooke out of compliance. Cooke is effectively castrating the ASMFC with this move. Going forward, why would any other state be bound to their regulations?

ASMFC is in a bind.

 

Two years ago, they found New Jersey out of compliance on fluke, and the Secretary of Commerce overturned their decision and said that what New Jersey was doing was OK.  That seriously weakened ASMFC's authority, and its ability to enforce the provisions of its management plans.

 

Last year, they had hours of debate extending across at least three meetings, trying to decide if Virginia should be found out of compliance for its failure to reduce the cap on reduction landings in Chesapeake Bay.  A representative for the National Marine Fisheries Commission made it very clear that Commerce would again overturn such a non-compliance finding if it was made.  That could have only weakened ASMFC's authority further, and for no practical reason, as Omega's landings were well below the 51,000 mt Bay cap in Amendment 3 to the menhaden management plan.

 

Now, the Bay cap has been exceeded, and it appears that ASMFC is in a lose-lose position.  It can find Virginia out of compliance, knowing that the Secretary of Commerce will overturn that finding, or it can take no action (or, ore likely, defer action until February, to give the Virginia legislature one more opportunity to act) and appear weak and afraid to confront out of compliance states.

 

There are also strategic considerations that could impact the outcome, as quite a few people believe, apparently based on comments already made, that if ASMFC moves forward with the proposed 18% reduction in striped bass fishing mortality, and imposes additional restrictions on the fishery, Maryland will go out of compliance, and the Secretary will ultimately have to rule on whether to enforce what will inevitably be an out of compliance finding on that issue.  Given the state of the striped bass stock, it makes sense to go to Commerce with that issue first, as it's difficult to imagine a stronger case for enforcement, while the science behind the Bay cap is ambiguous, at best, and the ASMFC admitted that in print in Amendment 3.

 

Thus there are a lot of nuances here that put ASMFC in a difficult place, and Omega obviously plans to exploit ASMFC's bind for as long as it can.

 

 

Edited by CWitek

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1 hour ago, Drew C. said:

Va has taken some steps to support bass (somewhat meaningless, but they did do something). But menhaden, they turn around and pull this. It’s a bit of a disconnect. 

The Virginia governor has shown support for the ASMFC's actions, but has no power to act, because (thanks to Omega's successful lobbying) menhaden is the only species in the state that is managed by the legislature, rather than by professional fishery managers in Natural Resources.

 

About the only thing that might change the situation is a change in control of the legislature.

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5 mins ago, CWitek said:

ASMFC is in a bind.

 

Two years ago, they found New Jersey out of compliance on fluke, and the Secretary of Commerce overturned their decision and said that what New Jersey was doing was OK.  That seriously weakened ASMFC's authority, and its ability to enforce the provisions of its management plans.

 

Last year, they had hours of debate extending across at least three meetings, trying to decide if Virginia should be found out of compliance for its failure to reduce the cap on reduction landings in Chesapeake Bay.  A representative for the National Marine Fisheries Commission made it very clear that Commerce would again overturn such a non-compliance finding if it was made.  That could have only weakened ASMFC's authority further, and for no practical reason, as Omega's landings were well below the 51,000 mt Bay cap in Amendment 3 to the menhaden management plan.

 

Now, the Bay cap has been exceeded, and it appears that ASMFC is in a lose-lose position.  It can find Virginia out of compliance, knowing that the Secretary of Commerce will overturn that finding, or it can take no action (or, ore likely, defer action until February, to give the Virginia legislature one more opportunity to act) and appear weak and afraid to confront out of compliance states.

 

There are also strategic considerations that could impact the outcome, as it quite a few people believe, apparently based on comments already made, that if ASMFC moves forward with the proposed 18% reduction in striped bass fishing mortality, and imposes additional restrictions on the fishery, Maryland will go out of compliance, and the Secretary will ultimately have to rule on whether to enforce what will inevitably be an out of compliance finding on that issue.  Given the state of the striped bass stock, it makes sense to go to Commerce with that issue first, as it's difficult to imagine a stronger case for enforcement, while the science behind the Bay cap is ambiguous, at best, and the ASMFC admitted that in print in Amendment 3.

 

Thus there are a lot of nuances here that put ASMFC in a difficult place, and Omega obviously plans to exploit ASMFC's bind for as long as it can.

 

 

I don’t doubt that they would be overruled but here we have a foreign company (granted that employs American citizens) basically abusing a US natural resource. 

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1 min ago, Drew C. said:

I don’t doubt that they would be overruled but here we have a foreign company (granted that employs American citizens) basically abusing a US natural resource. 

And we have a Secretary of Commerce who believes that we should be killing more fish for export in order to address the trade imbalance.

 

So what might look wrong to your or me looks like a good thing in today's Washington.

 

It can be frustrating...

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Admittedly nothing scientific, but in the

areas I fish in Jersey,the last handful

of years there has been more bunker

around than thru the 80's/90's by far.

Was Omega shut down or severely limited

for a certain amount of time?

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