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Modest Harvest Boost for Menhaden

This week, East Coast fisheries managers voted to increase by 10-percent the catch for menhaden. The fish is used as bait, processed for vitamin supplements and food for fish farms. The two-year increase will give back half of the 20 percent harvest reduction taken in 2012.

It's been a three year battle between commercial fishermen and environmentalists. But after scientists reworked models they found a healthier stock of menhaden. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission was asked to reconsider the economic impact of their catch limits.

“My name is Ken Pinkard and I'm a third generation commercial fisherman with Omega Protein in Reedville, Virginia. There's no one that has more concern about the Chesapeake Bay and this Atlantic Coast than these commercial fishermen that's our livelihood, that's our bread and butter. So we're not going to do anything or overdo anything that we think would hurt us down the road. But I also think its time for us to have our 20 percent back so we can put these folks back to work.”

And there were those concerned with ecological impacts on birds, fish and other wildlife that rely on menhaden in their diet. Jack Travelstead, retired from the commission and from his post as Virginia's fisheries manager. He spoke on behalf of the Coastal Conservation Commission, an environmental group.

“Today is a unique opportunity, to once and for all, finally move forward in addressing the ecological side of the equation that menhaden presents.”

In the end, the Commission agreed with Travelstead and others to begin considering the impact on wildlife when determining future harvest limits.

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