Year End Update -- A project of the Marine Fish Conservation Network

Here is our final update for 2019.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyous  holiday season.

Action on Menhaden

We have been waiting for the next shoe to drop in the ongoing menhaden saga and it did late last week.

In a letter dated Dec. 17, Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for Fisheries at NOAA officially informed the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that NOAA’s Fisheries Service had completed its review and concurred with ASMFC that the Commonwealth of Virginia was not in compliance with the Atlantic menhaden Interstate Fishery Management Plan. In the same letter, Oliver notified Virginia that effective June 17, 2020 a moratorium on fishing for menhaden in Virginia state waters would be imposed.

Robert C. Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, released the following statement:

“NOAA’s concurrence with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s finding that the Commonwealth of Virginia is not in compliance with the interstate fishery management plan for menhaden is welcome news. By upholding the conservation tenets set in place by the ASMFC, the administration has sent a strong message that long-term conservation of marine resources outweighs short-term profitability of a large corporation. The imposition of a moratorium in June of 2020 will give Virginia’s General Assembly time to act, and we encourage lawmakers to take the appropriate steps to come into compliance quickly. The important role menhaden play as a forage fish for striped bass and other species is well known, and the compliance with management plans is critical to the health of many fish stocks. We are encouraged by NOAA’s decision and for holding Omega Protein accountable. We look forward to swift action in the General Assembly,” 

As we noted earlier, On Nov. 15, ASMFC sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Willbur Ross. The letter informs Ross that Virginia is out of compliance and explains that the “Commonwealth of Virginia must implement an annual total allowable harvest from the Chesapeake Bay by the reduction fishery of no more than 51,000 metric tons.” The letter provides the history of the Chesapeake Bay Cap and compelling reasons for the Commission’s action. You can read the letter to Ross here.

NOAA’s response puts the ball in the Virginia General Assembly court and gives Omega an incentive to work toward that outcome. Whether both takes advantage of the opportunity remains to be seen. There will be action by the General Assembly in January and we will keep you up to date as things develop.

Bluefish Regulations

On Dec. 17, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council recommended and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved 2020 recreational fishing regulations for Atlantic bluefish. The regulations include a 3-fish bag limit for private anglers and shore-based fishermen and a 5-fish bag limit for for-hire fishermen.

You can read the details in this press release from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

As we noted in our recent update, the bluefish regs will likely generate some discussions. 

Nationwide Listening Sessions for Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization

Chairman Jared Huffman began his nationwide tour in October to listen to the opinions and perspectives of those who are most closely tied to the health and abundance of fisheries and marine environment. Chairman Huffman’s efforts to crisscross the nation are paying off with meaningful, in-depth discussions and insights into current and future challenges on the water, and how tweaks to marine policy may help bolster an already successful fisheries management law. 

The tour of roundtable discussions kicked off in California in early October, with the first session in the chairman’s home district in Arcata and the second in San Francisco. In November, Rep. Huffman held a listening session in the mid-Atlantic region at the Baltimore Aquarium facility center and one in association with the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, WA. 

Each session gave a panel of local stakeholders, including commercial and recreational fishermen, environmentalists, seafood dealers and culinary experts, an opportunity to voice their concerns and support for current fisheries management, while also sharing their views on how the MSA can meet the challenges ahead. 

Chairman Huffman plans to continue his listening sessions in other regions of the country in 2020. You can read a summary of the discussion to-date here.

You can watch video and read press acounts of the Baltimore session here.

Federal Legislation

It’s been a busy end of the year. On Capitol Hill, several oceans and fisheries related bills have been in play. You can read a summary of what has been going on on the Marine Fish Conservation Network’s blog, From the Waterfront.

As always, tips and suggestions are welcomed; send them to

That’s it for this update. You can stay informed by checking the Fissues website and our Facebook page.