Will Texas limit factory fishing?
by John Hocevar
March 8, 2008
Remember Omega Protein, the Houston-based company that has been turning millions of pounds of Chesapeake Bay fish into cat food, fertilizer, and chicken feed? Omega targets menhaden, which has been dubbed "the most important fish in the world" for it’s role as food for everything from whales to striped bass as well as it’s value as a dead zone-fighting filter feeder. Well, it’s not just a Chesapeake problem, or even just an Atlantic one – Omega takes as much or even more menhaden out of the Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen and environmentalists have been raising concerns about Omega’s operations in the Gulf for a long time, especially about the enormous amount of bycatch they take. Along with all those menhaden, the fleet vacuums up highly desirable sportfish like red drum and snapper and even some sharks.
Fortunately, the great state of Texas is responding to concerns and taking some important baby steps towards holding Omega accountable. Measures are under consideration which could cap the amount of menhaden the company could take from Texas waters, and force Omega to allow independent fisheries observers on their boats. If you ask me, Texas should just kick Omega out completely, but… this is still a good move in the right direction.
Together with Aaron from Gulf Restoration Network, Tom Wheatley from Marine Fish Conservation Network, and Jim Smarr from the Recreational Fishermen’s Alliance, I met with Robin Riechers, the Science and Policy Director of TX Parks and Wildlife’s Coastal Fisheries Division. He’s also the point person for TX on the Gulf Regional Fishery Mgt Council.
Robin seemed impressed to see enviros working alongside sportfishing groups, but couldn’t promise us much. The state is waiting to hear from more people on this before they take action. We know they’re hearing from Omega, which is calling out all the stops trying to prevent any regulation of their fishery (as usual). If you live in Texas, drop them a line and let them know you agree that the fishery needs a hard catch limit, with observers on board. And while they’re at it, they should ban spotter planes too – fishing with airplanes? Come on!
Thanks for reading –