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Commission to Vote on Plans to Help Menhaden Fish Bounce Back

Osprey carrying fish
An osprey carrying a menhaden. (Photo: Russ/CC BY 2.0)

Regulators in charge of Atlantic Coast fisheries will vote Wednesday on a long-awaited plan to manage the menhaden fish population. 

Virginia is the largest harvester of menhaden along the Atlantic coast. The nutrient-dense fish  is critical to the Chesapeake Bay's food chain, but their population has declined over the last two decades. 

The multi-state Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will likely vote to approve a new menhaden management framework, including guidelines that help determine how many menhaden need to be left in the water to make sure marine wildlife, such as dolphins, and striped bass, have enough food. 

“People who run dolphin and whale-watching trips, it means more menhaden water for those predators upon menhaden and more sightseeing opportunities for those types of businesses,” said Chris Moore, a senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “If you’re a commercial fisherman, in the long run, this is going to leave more menhaden in the water and eventually is going to lead to higher catches as well.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been interested in better managing menhaden for many years, advocating for changes that were recently signed into law.

Up until this year, menhaden were the only species managed by the General Assembly. Lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation this year to transfer management to regulators. 

“Knowing that menhaden are not in the bay like they used to be...we’ve got to do something to make sure we have a more robust population in menhaden, not only in the Chesapeake Bay, but throughout the Atlantic Coastal range of that species,” Moore said.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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