Four Republican delegates have dropped their bills to restrict menhaden fishing after Sen. Richard Stuart promised to request a study on the fishery from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Stuart, R-Stafford, has recently been appointed as Virginia’s legislative representative to the ASMFC.
Menhaden fishing has long been a contentious issue in Richmond, as it’s the only fishery regulated by the General Assembly rather than marine commissions.
Bills last year to change that were defeated.
While these four bills have been dropped, a couple of others–including bills to remove menhaden from legislative oversight–are still alive.
Menhaden are mostly used for bait or to make fish oil or other products, and are fished not only by commercial fishermen but by Omega Protein. Omega produces fish oil, fish meal and other fish products, and its plant in Reedville, in the Northern Neck, is one of Northumberland County’s major employers.
But there are questions about how much impact that fishing has on the menhaden population, and on other fish for which menhaden are part of the food chain.
That’s why Stuart’s promise to ask for a study has assuaged some concerns among legislators who introduced bills to restrict menhaden fishing.