The fishermen could see the writing on the wall. Promises
had been made, hands had been shook and ballots had been cast. All that remained was to put
one little stamp on one little document and thousands of fish would
have been saved from Omega Protein’s industrial fishing fleet. But the Virginia General
Assembly must have ran out of ink, because the fight to save the
menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay continues.
On January 26, three bills aiming to set a cap on the amount of
menhaden that could be caught in the Chesapeake Bay this year were
either killed or withdrawn in the Virginia legislature. Omega
Protein - the biggest culprit when it comes to menhaden fishing -
had its best lobbyists on hand to argue that the bills should be
tabled, and the subcommittee caved to their demands.
The vote in Virginia was considered nothing more than a
formality because the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
(ASMFC) - made up of 15 states from all up and down the Atlantic
coast - had already decided on the limits back in August. The cap
was largely influenced by our repeated protests against Omega and
more than 15,000 Greenpeace supporters writing in asking for
protection for the tiny fish.
Menhaden aren't beautiful or appetizing (humans don't eat them),
but they play a crucial, irreplaceable role in the ecosystem. Not
only are they a food source for larger fish, but they are filter
feeders, helping to clean up the highly polluted Chesapeake Bay.
Omega Protein vacuums this important fish out of the Bay in
staggering numbers, for use as protein supplements and fishmeal,
which often goes to feed chickens and farmed fish.
Omega Protein may have gotten its way in the eleventh hour in
Virginia, but it may turn out that it has only shot itself in the
foot. It now goes back to the ASMFC, which can ask the U.S.
Commerce Secretary to step in and shut down the menhaden fishery
completely in Virginia waters. Rest assured that our efforts will
be doubled to fight for the survival of this essential fish.
On July 23, fishermen, scientists and local
residents gathered in sailboats, canoes and kayaks to protest Omega
Protein on the Chesapeake Bay.>>Read more
On August 1, our activists delivered 15,517
goldfish crackers to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission. Each cracker represented one of the letters our
supporters wrote asking the commission to protect the menhaden.
On August 10, as giant factory fishing nets were
about to scoop up tens of thousands of fish from the Chesapeake
Bay, our activists sped onto the scene in inflatables to scatter
the fish.>>Read more