Omega Protein welcomed Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to Reedville, Virginia on June 4, where the governor issued a proclamation that the Commonwealth's 2015 allowable menhaden harvest will be set at 158,700 metric tons. The event was held at 9:00 am at the site of Reedville's historic smokestack. The proclamation follows a May decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to increase the allowable coastwide menhaden harvest by 10 percent.
"This fishery contributes more than $88 million to Virginia's economy and soon it will contribute even more," said Governor McAuliffe, who was joined by workers from Omega Protein, members of Virginia's menhaden bait fishery, and stakeholders from the Reedville community in celebrating this vital coastal industry. The Governor also declared that "we need to have a strong and successful menhaden fishery" in Virginia.
The site of a former menhaden processing facility and recently restored with the help of Omega Protein, the Reedville smokestack, the location of today's event, is an enduring testament to the fishery's lasting presence in Virginia's Northern Neck for over a century. The menhaden fishery is the largest in Virginia by volume, and Omega Protein is one of the largest employers in the Northern Neck region.
"Omega Protein is committed to working with both the Commonwealth and the ASMFC to continue our long tradition of sustainable fishing," said Monty Deihl, the vice president of operations for Omega Protein. "The menhaden fishery here is a long-standing part of our community's cultural heritage and economic footprint, and we welcome Governor McAuliffe to Reedville, to witness this for himself first-hand."
The Governor's proclamation is the end result of a process begun earlier this year, with the release of an ASMFC scientific stock assessment that found that the menhaden population was far healthier than past assessments had indicated, and that menhaden were not overfished nor experiencing overfishing, as previously thought. At its spring meeting, the Commission decided that, given the new scientific information available, that an increase in harvest was warranted, partially reversing a steeper harvest cut imposed in 2012.
"We're all very pleased that the science is confirming what we've all known for a long time, that this stock is healthy," said Mr. Deihl. "We've been here in Reedville for over 100 years, and we're excited to be here for another 100 years."
Virginia, where Omega Protein's Atlantic operations are based, accounting for over 85 percent of total coastwide landings. Atlantic menhaden are a key source of fish meal and fish oil, which supply vital Omega-3 fatty acids for both animal and human nutrition.
Omega Protein is grateful for the Governor's leadership throughout the process of issuing this proclamation and appreciates his steady support of this century-old business, and commends the work of the ASMFC is setting new, scientifically based harvest levels.