Omega Protein responds to recent essay that takes aim at their fishing operations
Omega Protein has released a response to a recent essay titled \"Trouble Comes To Town,\" published by the Marine Fish Conservation Network. In the essay, author Paul Eidman makes claims about the menhaden fishery and Omega Protein\'s operations. \"The hysteria created by Mr. Eidman and others as a result of negligible fishing and menhaden removals from the New York/New Jersey Bight is unfounded and takes away from the real story. We are experiencing favorable environmental conditions right now, and, as a result, large menhaden schools have been observed from Maine to Florida.\"
October 18, 2018
The focus of Mr. Eidman\'s piece, Omega Protein\'s operations in the New York/New Jersey Bight, was the subject of some media coverage last month, including an article in the New York Times. These operations, in Mid-Atlantic federal waters, comply with all state and federal regulations. The catches from these trips were landed in Virginia, and counted toward Virginia\'s share of the coastwide menhaden quota.
As Mr. Eidman correctly noted in his piece, the Company\'s operations were entirely legal and within the harvest limit set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) for 2018. This limit ensures that the menhaden fishery is not taking a harmful amount of fish from whales\' diets. Last year, an analysis using data from the 2017 Atlantic menhaden stock assessment found that current management leaves 92 percent of menhaden in the water to fulfill their role in the ecosystem.
Mr. Eidman also correctly pointed out that Omega Protein did not come into contact with any whales, and \"no one reported an incidence of bycatch of any kind.\" Interactions with marine mammals are extremely rare and are actively monitored by NOAA. It should also be reiterated that the menhaden fishery \"is one of the most selective, and effective fisheries, with a small bycatch,\" according to NOAA\'s Chesapeake Bay Office.
Unfortunately, Mr. Eidman got more wrong than right. He incorrectly wrote that last year the ASMFC voted against ecosystem-based management of menhaden. In fact, the ASMFC voted against implementing arbitrary interim ecological reference points that would have crippled the fishery. Instead, it voted to continue developing menhaden-specific reference points, which are expected to be completed in late 2019. Omega Protein continues to support the development of menhaden-specific reference points based on peer-reviewed science.
Mr. Eidman also wrote that he was \"sure that pictures and videos on social media showing the presence of whales caught Omega\'s attention, and they decided to send some spotter planes up for a look.\" This is a ridiculous assertion. Omega Protein does not direct its fishing operations according to social media posts about whale sightings, or any other social media posts.
Finally, Mr. Eidman and critics of the menhaden fishery have long pointed to the finding of overfishing in the ASMFC\'s 2012 stock assessment to argue that menhaden needs greater protection. However, those critics choose to ignore the 2012 assessment\'s many flaws, which were corrected in the ASMFC\'s retooled 2015 assessment. This more recent study found no overfishing since the 1960s and indicated that the previous finding of overfishing was incorrect. Based on the current strength of the stock, the ASMFC has raised the coastwide menhaden quota in each of the past three years. This is a sign that menhaden is thriving, and not that it needs greater protection.
The hysteria created by Mr. Eidman and others as a result of negligible fishing and menhaden removals from the New York/New Jersey Bight is unfounded and takes away from the real story. We are experiencing favorable environmental conditions right now, and, as a result, large menhaden schools have been observed from Maine to Florida. There are more than enough fish for whales and other predators, as well as the menhaden fishing industry, Omega Protein and numerous emerging bait companies.