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New agreement will limit menhaden fishing in the Chesapeake Bay

An MoU will limit potential sources of conflict between the fishery and other users of the Bay and is part of the fishery’s efforts to be responsible stewards of shared marine resources.

From left to right: Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Travis Voyles, Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Commissioner Jamie Green, Ocean Harvesters CEO Monty Deihl

April 21, 2023

Ocean Harvesters, the largest participant in Virginia’s historic menhaden fishery, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Commonwealth of Virginia and other menhaden fishing companies that will put new limits on menhaden fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. This MoU will limit potential sources of conflict between the fishery and other users of the Bay and is part of the fishery’s efforts to continue to be responsible stewards of shared marine resources.

Ocean Harvesters has an exclusive, long-term supply agreement with Omega Protein of Reedville, Virginia, which has operated continuously in the area since 1878.

“The new memorandum of understanding successfully addresses concerns that have been raised about how the menhaden fishery can best coexist with other user groups in the Bay,” said Monty Deihl, CEO of Ocean Harvesters. “This MoU further illustrates that the menhaden fishery will work with the Bay community to alleviate concerns and operate responsibly and sustainably here in Virginia.”

The MoU outlines areas within the Bay where the fishery may only harvest in waters more than one mile from shore. These areas were identified as concentrated regions for tourists and other user groups around the Bay. Specifically, the areas are offshore from the populated areas of Virginia’s lower Eastern Shore, and Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach.

Additionally, in response to feedback on how the fishery can best avoid conflicts with recreational fishing, the MoU will place new limits on the times and places where the menhaden fishery will operate. The MoU further restricts the fishery from operating within a half mile of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel year-round. This will help the fishery avoid recreational boat traffic and any other potential issues and conflicts that might arise near the Bridge.

Several fisheries scientists and fisheries management experts in Virginia spoke on the state of the menhaden stock at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s (VMRC) December 2022 meeting. Experts noted that menhaden has “much more conservative management than we often use for other species in the name of guarding the ecosystem.” And another stated “it's a situation where we have a healthy stock. It's not overfished,” adding “we have fisheries in our state here that are overfished and overfishing is occurring and we're spending all our time dealing with menhaden.”

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