Way Downstream …(Sept. 19-23, 2019)

      Omega Protein Corp., which has battled for years to harvest more menhaden from Chesapeake Bay, says it intends to exceed recommendations from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for the company’s takes this year.

         Two years ago, the regional commission recommended a 40 percent cut to 51,000 metric tons — or more than 112 million pounds — in Omega’s annual take. The company, which operates out of Reedville, Va., converts baitfish from the Chesapeake into fish oil supplements.

         But the Virginia General Assembly didn’t go along with the commission’s proposal and continues to recognize an earlier cap of 87,000 metric tons.

         “This was a rare situation in which the commission made an unscientific and arbitrary recommendation, which would have resulted in either forced, unsafe fishing conditions or economic hardship for hardworking fishing families,” Omega wrote last week.

         The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is among those troubled by Omega’s decision, noting that menhaden support the Bay’s troubled rockfish population along with other species of fish, birds and mammals.

         Bay Foundation senior scientist Chris Moore said that Omega is showing a lack of regard for “hundreds of thousands of scientists, conservationists, anglers and concerned citizens” who took part in writing the new cap.

         “This violation is unfortunately another example of Omega’s refusal to do the right thing when it comes to the region’s natural resources. It continues a long history of damaging environmental actions that have included millions of dollars in fines for water quality violations,” Moore said in a statement.