Re: **Menhaden News** The latest
HOUSE BILL 1344 WOULD HAVE PREVENTED DESTRUCTIVE FISH SPILL OFF CAPE LOOKOUTCoastal Conservation Association Urges State House Committee On Marine Resources And Aquaculture To Take Action On Legislation That Will Prevent Future Disasters
RALEIGH, NC - Last week, a Virginia-based menhaden fishing vessel spilled fish off the coast of Cape Lookout. The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries also received complaints about bycatches of red drum and commercial operations by several menhaden boats near recreational areas on our coast. The spill and associated complaints involved a boat owned by Omega Protein of Reedville, Va.
According to published reports, the Division of Marine Fisheries ("DMF") received a report last Monday from Omega Protein that the captain of the Fishing Vessel (F/V) Tangier Island had split a net and spilled approximately 150,000 dead fish about two miles off Cape Lookout.
A few hours later, DMF received a call that the F/V Lancaster was setting its nets among a group of sports fishermen. Reports and photographs indicated the menhaden boat was fishing very close to the shore. According to reports, DMF also received complaints of a menhaden vessel fishing close to shore in a heavily used recreational area just off Emerald Isle.
Last Wednesday, the DMF received yet another report of dead menhaden and about 50 large red drum floating offshore in the area of the spill. The dead red drum, North Carolina's Official Saltwater Fish, was the result of bycatch in menhaden nets.
These disasters could have easily been prevented had the North Carolina General Assembly acted on legislation aimed at banning this destructive industrial practice. On April 8, 2009, Representatives Ty Harrell and Darren Jackson introduced House Bill 1344 ("Prohibit Taking of Menhaden for Purposes of Reduction"). The simple purpose of the legislation is to enact a ban on menhaden reduction fishing in state waters because there are no longer any menhaden reduction facilities in North Carolina. The legislation would also minimize the chances of "fish spills" such as those last week that pose a threat to our coast.
Unfortunately, House Bill 1344 has languished in committee for over two months without a hearing. Based on last week's completely avoidable events, the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina is urging the House Committee on Marine Resources and Aquaculture to immediately take up this important bill. According to CCA-NC Executive Director Stephen Ammons, "We cannot afford to sit by another minute while the destructive practice of menhaden reduction fishing continues in North Carolina's waters."
The menhaden reduction fishery is an industrial commercial fishing activity that harvests hundred million of pounds of menhaden each year to be used in oils and animal feed. While these fish are not consumed by humans, menhaden represent the most significant forage fish for species such as striped bass, king mackerel, flounders, weakfish and tunas. Omega Protein is the only reduction plant on the east coast. Reduction fishing is very efficient at decimating menhaden schools while occasionally causing major fish kills that wash up on the beach.
Omega Protein boats can come to North Carolina waters, harvest our fish and possibly cause local stock depletion. Yet, North Carolina receives no benefit as these boats return to Virginia to process the catch. Some North Carolina counties have enacted local restrictions on this reduction fishery, but we have no statewide ban on this practice.