Hearing on menhaden catch limits moved
A little housekeeping announcement: The hearing this evening in Annapolis on whether to cut back the catch of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere along the Atlantic coast has been moved to a new location.
The session, scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., has been moved to Calvary United Methodist Church, 301 Rowe Boulevard. Plans had been to hold it in Department of Natural Resources headquarters, but I'm guessing the prospect of a big crowd prompted officials to seek larger meeting space.
With the Atlantic menhaden stock at a record low level after being overfished 32 of the last 54 years, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is weighing whether to clamp down. A decision may be made in November. The commission voted in August to seek public comment on a range of options, from doing nothing to cutting the catch by up to 45 percent.
Unless you're a fisherman, menhaden may not be on your radar. They're not on anybody's dinner table, but the oily fish is a prime food for striped bass, or rockfish, which is a favorite among anglers and restaurant patrons alike. They also serve another vital ecological role in the bay, as filter feeders.
Its lack of table appeal notwithstanding, the little fish have been heavily harvested over the years to provide feed for farm animals and farmed fish, and their oil's extracted and sold as a heart-healthy food supplement.
Cutting the menhaden catch is opposed by Virginia, home to the last large-scale commercial menhaden fishing fleet on the East Coast. Omega Protein's vessels operate out of Reedville, which almost entirely on the size of its menhaden catch has the second highest commercial fish landings of any port in the United States.
But cutting menhaden catches also could hurt Maryland's commercial fishermen, as it's caught for bait to catch other fish and especially blue crabs. The state's watermen aren't happy about the prospect of yet another restriction on their livelihood - ergo the likelihood of a big turnout tonight.
(AP file photo)