The US Department of Commerce (DOC) could this week impose a moratorium on Virginia's menhaden fishery, where Cooke-owned Omega Protein is the state's largest participant.

In October the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which gives management recommendations, approved a non-compliance referral for Virginia regarding menhaden harvest in the Chesapeake Bay, that continues to recommend a total allowable catch below Omega Protein's harvest guidelines issued by the state of Virginia.

The referral will now be decided on by the Commerce Department, Cooke said Monday in a statement opposing the closure.

The fishery, which is jointly managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), is conducted off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina and in the Chesapeake Bay, both in state and federal waters.

Omega Protein told IntraFish earlier this year it follows state harvest guidelines for 87,216 metric tons, an amount that exceeds a cap set by the ASMFC at 51,000 metric tons.

The company has long held that menhaden management should be based on the best scientific information available, and that evidence supports the view that the fishery is being managed sustainably.

On Monday it said the ASMFC cap is not necessary for menhaden conservation and that "a moratorium would likely cause unnecessary economic hardship for menhaden fishermen."