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Virginia's 2017 Harvest of Atlantic Menhaden Will Increase

Pamela D'Angelo

At a meeting in Maine this week, Atlantic coast fisheries managers agreed to increase the catch for menhaden, a fish considered crucial to birds, other fish and by commercial watermen to catch crabs. It's also key to the remaining fish oil plant on the East Coast here in Virginia.  

In August, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission members couldn't decide how much harvest to allow. The tiny schools of fish travel from Florida to Maine., stopping to spawn in places like the Chesapeake Bay. On Wednesday, menhaden management board chair Robert Ballou  made it clear this time a decision would be made.

“Now, if any board member wishes to pursue a different course of action. That can happen and the process can go on and on and on. But my hope is that the board will see fit to proceed in the manner just described.”

The board raised the catch by about 6.5 percent, bumping the total Atlantic harvest to 200,000 metric tons of menhaden next year. The vote is crucial to Virginia whose share is 85 percent of the catch, with the Reedville fish oil plant Omega Protein allotted the majority. Company spokesman Ben Landry said Omega now plans to hire several new plant employees.

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