Open Letter to Omega

Page - August 10, 2005

Joseph L. von Rosenberg III

President and C.E.O.

Omega Protein

1717 St. James Place, Suite 550

Houston, TX 77056

August 9, 2005

Dear Mr. von Rosenberg:

I'm writing once again to express concern about your fishing practices in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast.  As I informed you in my letter of July 18th, Greenpeace has joined several fishing and environmental organizations in calling for a coastwide moratorium on the Atlantic menhaden reduction fishery.  We are very concerned about the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the downward trend of Atlantic menhaden populations.  Of particular concern is Omega Protein's concentrated fishing effort in the Chesapeake Bay, the most important nursery area for the species.  As you are aware, menhaden fill many key ecological roles, most importantly as filter feeders and as a source of food for fish and other wildlife.

Over the last month, Greenpeace representatives attended all twelve public hearings that were held up and down the Atlantic coast to gather public input regarding regulatory management of fishing for menhaden.  The number and diversity of people that attended these hearings was remarkable to say the least.  From Maine to Georgia, people expressed deep concern for healthy ecosystems, adequate management of menhaden populations, and the impact of industrial reduction fishing.  Many noted that the current plight of menhaden recalls the Atlantic herring fishery collapse several years ago.  Overall, these public hearings demonstrate widespread support for taking significant steps to ensure healthy menhaden populations for the future.

In our previous letter to you, we raised our concern about Omega Protein's efforts to maximize its catch of menhaden regardless of the cost to coastal ecosystems or the people who depend upon them.  We also noted the chilling effect that Omega's frequent threats of legal action have had on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.  The attendance and conduct of your lawyers at technical committee meetings and workshops appears to be an attempt to intimidate scientists and influence their recommendations.  This prevents the free and open exchange necessary to effectively manage our nation's fisheries, and cannot be allowed to continue unanswered.

Omega Protein subverts the regulatory process by securing proxies to the Menhaden Board of the ASMFC, thus allowing the company to directly influence management decisions.  Your paid representative consistently votes on issues that directly impact Omega Protein, in clear violation of conflict of interest standards and the widely and deeply held ethics of the United States of America.  While we recognize your right as stakeholders to have a voice at public hearings, Greenpeace opposes your efforts to unduly influence regulations and to obscure what should be a transparent process that involves all stakeholders in an equitable manner.  

While Omega has been able to thus far bully the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission into letting you vacuum up as much menhaden as you like, we are confident that the Commission will finally move to limit the catch at their meeting next week.  In the meantime, Greenpeace activists and boats will be in the Chesapeake to peacefully protect menhaden from being decimated by factory fishing.  Given the critical role that menhaden serve as filter feeders and as food for everything from striped bass to humpback whales, the ecosystem cannot afford further depletion of this keystone species.  

We welcome the opportunity to discuss this further.  It is our hope that you will follow through on your stated desire for a healthy Bay and to cooperate with the more than 15,000 people who are seeking a coastwide moratorium on factory fishing for menhaden by voluntarily suspending your operations.  We also ask that you cease your efforts to unduly influence the management of this vital resource.

Sincerely,

John Passacantando

Executive Director