January 29 Virginia Menhaden bill fails

January 29 Virginia Menhaden bill fails



Today Virginia stuck down a bill that will have long-term effects on all the Atlantic coast. It’s a bill concerning the menhaden, our friend the Pogie. I’ve been ranting on Twitter for a month or so after reading “The Most Important Fish in the Sea” It’s the story of the lowly, smelly, oily fish that our pals the striper and bluefish love to eat. Well, they’re endangered, primarily by a single company down in the Chesapeake Bay. Why is that important? Well stripers usually eat their weight in menhaden along the trip up here every summer from Virginia. Without those menhaden the stripers get pretty lean and less plentiful up these ways, as I’m sure you all have noticed.


So the Virginia legislature shot down a bill giving control of this fishery to the folks that control all the other state fisheries. Here’s the article: Virginia Daily Press. The fish are being controlled by the meet-once-a-year General Assembly instead of the monthly, science-based Virginia Marine Resource Commission. Doesn’t make sense to me. However it is true that the elected representatives have campaign funds, and some of those funds come from Omega Protein, the very company that harvests 90% of the Chesapeake menhaden.


Read the book and you will see how important this little fish is. Not only does it feed all our precious stripers, the menhaden eats only microscopic plant material. It does so by filtering it out of the water, markedly improving the water’s clarity and oxygen levels. That plant material, left alone, can cause large algae blooms that starve the water, especially in estuaries, and kill the grasses that are key hiding places for the young of any number of species, including crabs, oysters, mummichogs, eels, and the rest.


The menhaden are being fished for their two primary uses, fish oil (high in Omega-3 proteins) and fish meal. The fish meal is ground up and fed to chickens, cows and pigs. It’s also used as an addition to fertilizer. Sadly, all of these uses for menhaden are easily substituted by less ecologically damaging items, like soybeans and other proteins. So one can make the argument that catching menhaden isn’t really necessary for it’s prime uses. And the menhaden can be seen as a far more productive member of the ecosystem at large, than as rendered into fish oil for health foods.


This is a sad state of affairs. You might not think people like us, on coastal Massachusetts, would care about menhaden in Virginia, but we feel the effects of overfishing menhaden, or pogies as we call them here, in our catches of bluefin tuna, striped bass, and bluefish and cod. Especially with the striped bass, where the Chesapeake is a primary rookery for fish we get up here in the summer, lack of healthy bait results in lack of healthy stripers.


We also understand the especially valuable secondary task of menhaden, filter feeding. The cleaner water via menhaden’s filtering allows the sunlight to reach the estuary bottom and promotes the growth of grasses that give fish fry, crabs, and oysters a place to live. We hope the legislature begins to see how their decisions are effecting populations of fish and humans all along the Atlantic coast.


Wanna learn more about menhaden? Look here.


Stickman is the resident web design guy at Surfland. We pay him in eels.

  • Ed Kelly
    Posted at 09:31h, 01 February

    Couldn’t agree more….sad the vote went the way it did.

    Hey….when will Surfland reopen…I’ve got a rod or two to wrap and need a few supplies?

  • Lilly Bell
    Posted at 02:08h, 10 July

    we have a 5 year old General Electic air conditioner at home, GE makes some of the finest air conditioners out ther.,*’

  • Pingback:Surfland Fishing Report » Archives » October 6 – A call to action, Save Striper’s primary food!
    Posted at 12:32h, 06 October

    […] You can also see an archive of our blog post about Menhaden Here from last year: Menhaden Bill Fails […]

  • it marketing
    Posted at 16:52h, 02 December

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  • Matrix Mails
    Posted at 01:41h, 16 February

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