Omega Protein Using Striped Bass Regulations to take more Bunker??

by Capt. Paul Eidman, Forage Fish & Habitat Committee Chairman
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association March 2021 Newsletter)

The ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board is considering major revisions to the striped bass management plan and one issue is not getting much airtime. New Jersey recreational fishermen need to pay close attention to this issue, as it could have a cascading impact on many of the species we target.

For decades New Jersey anglers have fought to conserve their favorite food of striped bass: Atlantic menhaden (aka BUNKER). We banned reduction fishing here in NJ and so did every other state--except. Two years ago, when Omega’s reduction fleet couldn't find any fish in Virginia waters, the motherships motored all the way up to the NY/NJ bight where they caught millions of fish just outside of state lines, to the great frustration of local fishermen and whale watchers. Somehow, this one company continues to exploit hundreds of millions of forage fish every year, despite being universally hated by recreational fishermen and conservationists.

Now, Omega Protein appears to be scheming to catch even more fish and they may be doing it through Amendment 7 to the striped bass plan. Because the ASMFC finally implemented a new ecological management system for menhaden last year, the menhaden catch is now determined by the management of other species. The dietary needs of striped bass, weakfish, and bluefish are now considered when menhaden catch limits are established. Amendment 7 considers the possibility of lowering the "biological reference points" for striped bass. If this happens, then Omega Protein may be able to increase harvest levels and catch more fish. If the ASMFC changes the goal posts for striped bass management, it will be bad news for striped bass recovery, bad news for menhaden and bad news for our coastal ecosystem and economy. We cannot let this happen.

Reduction fishing should come to an end, not increase its volume and intensity, particularly when striped bass are already overfished. We need to hold the line on striped bass management in part to hold the line on the reduction fishery. Let's not change the biological reference points. Let's make sure that the ASMFC does its job and rebuilds the striped bass population. Get involved today and refuse to let Omega Protein (or the commercial striped bass fishermen in Delaware) win on this one.

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