This week, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted
for the first time to limit factory fishing for menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay.
Omega Protein, the Texas-based corporation which operates a near monopoly on the fishery, was fuming. Omega had hoped to gain approval for their voluntary "cap" at 131,000 metric tons, but that was voted down. When Omega said they would not accept even a voluntary cap at 115,000 metric tons, the ASMFC's Menhaden Board Chair Jack Travelstead ruled the proposal to be out of order. (Earlier, Travelstead had ruled any discussion of a moratorium out of order as well, despite the fact that the Commission had received more than 20,000 public comments in support of a moratorium.)
It was looking pretty grim.
Then, just when it was starting to look like nothing was going to happen at all, Maryland made a proposal for a mandatory cap in the Bay at 105,800 MT, which passed 10-2.
So, is it a victory? Well, yes, but... there's still more to be done.
For now, we can feel good about the fact that there is finally a limit to what factory fishing can vacuum out of the Chesapeake Bay. Without the help of Greenpeace actions and grassroots pressure, Omega Protein would still be able to take as much as they pleased. And menhaden, along with the birds, fish, marine mammals and humans who depend on them would be in trouble.