Department of Commerce Find Virginia Out of Compliance on Menhaden
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The Honorable Secretary Wilbur Ross
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Secretary Ross, April 1st, 2019
We the people of Virginia are requesting that the federal government take management measures to force Virginia to reset the menhaden Chesapeake Bay cap on the menhaden reduction fishery from 87,216 to 51,000 metric tons.
Background. Back in fall of 2017, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted to reduce the maximum allowable harvest of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay from 87,216 metric tons to 51,000 metric tons a year. The ASMFC, an inter-state compact established by federal law, manages fish found common along states along the Atlantic Coast. The process calls for the states to implement state regulations once ASMFC members vote on fishery management quotas. In Virginia, menhaden is the only fish managed by the delegates from the Virginia General Assembly. Every other saltwater fish is managed by the state agency, Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC). The Virginia General Assembly has failed to implement the reductions during both sessions in 2018 and 2019. Under U.S. law, the ASFMC has the authority (and obligation) to notify the U.S. Department of Commerce that a state is out of compliance with ASFMC guidance. ASMFC has failed in its obligation to escalate this matter and notify your office that Virginia is out of compliance, stating they are taking a “Let’s wait for Virginia to go over the quota before taking action.”
We the People of Virginia are not willing to wait for Omega to "officially" overfish before action is taken and therefore need for the Federal Government to take action now.
Menhaden stocks are in significant decline in the Chesapeake Bay as evidenced by thousands of anglers who have testified as well as the Reduction Industry’s inability to even catch previous bay caps set. Yet every year a single foreign owned company removes as many menhaden as possible from the Chesapeake Bay resulting in declining bay, ecosystem, and fishery health. Menhaden serve as a critical forage for other fish species, mammals, and birds. In addition to the declining menhaden population in the bay, Striped Bass (Rockfish) are showing a similar decline, because their primary food source (menhaden) are simply not there. Virginia desperately needs a reasonable bay cap on the menhaden catch in the Chesapeake Bay especially in light of their vital importance to striped bass which are also in decline in the bay and the Atlantic Coast. The bay is the nursery for menhaden so they must be protected with a reduced legislative quota in Virginia.
Please take action now to help protect the Chesapeake Bay from the overharvest of menhaden. Failure to act will result in further declines in the bay’s overall health, while the profits from such overfishing flow to a foreign country. The overall landings of menhaden continue to decline year after year, so reductions are justified (as was called for by ASMFC establishing a cap on the Chesapeake Bay harvest).
The ASMFC and Virginia have institutionally failed in their management of the menhaden reduction fishery. We The People of Virginia are hereby notifying you of Virginia’s noncompliance and request that the Secretary of Commerce, with its authority over the National Marine Fisheries Service, either:
1. Shut down all Reduction Industry harvest of menhaden until Virginia comes into compliance. Or
2. Establish an Emergency Rule in the Federal Register effective NOW to establish the quota set forth by the ASMFC reducing the bay cap to 51,000 metric tons of menhaden.
The People of Virginia
On behalf of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association
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