Fisheries

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Cooke's Omega Protein: Menhaden commission cap is not science-based

Omega Protein calls the ASMFC rule arbitrary, not science-based.

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Cooke-owned Omega Protein's Atlantic menhaden purse-seine will continue to follow the US state of Virginia's laws regarding how much it can harvest under an agreement with the state, despite ongoing concerns from NGOs and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

Omega Protein said Thursday it will continue to follow harvest guidelines that are for 87,216 metric tons, an amount that exceeds a cap set by the The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) at 51,000 metric tons.

"The state can shut down the fishery if is believed the measure is necessary for conservation of the species," Ben Landry, the company's director of public affairs, told IntraFish. "By all accounts, this action is not necessary, overfishing is not occurring."

Landry said CBF's cap is arbitrary, not supported by state officials, and that NOAA has also acknowledged it is not scientifically supported.

CBF and NGOs that included the Nature Conservancy, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Coastal Conservation Association and the American Sportsfishing Association and other groups filed a set of objections to the final report, claiming the fishery in fact failed to meet several MSC standards, including a robust "ecologically-based management strategy and harvest control rule."

The groups further accused Cooke of "buying its way to public respectability" with the bid.

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