Cooke-owned Omega Protein is welcoming two pieces of legislation that have passed out of committe in the Virginia General Assembly, both focusing on menhaden management.

Should legislation be adopted, it would smooth the way for Virginia’s menhaden fishery to come into compliance with the Atlantic Menhaden Management Plan of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission(ASMFC).

The bills would also transfer management of the fishery in Virginia from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission(VMRC).

Before Christmas the US Department of Commerce agreed to impose a moratorium on Virginia's MSC-certified menhaden fishery, where Cooke-owned Omega Protein is the state's largest participant.

In a letter sent Dec. 17 to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said the state of Virginia was out of compliance with the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (ISFMP) for harvesting above an ASMFC-recommended cap.

Oliver said the moratorium would be effective in June 2020, but could be rescinded if Virginia comes back into compliance with ISFMP.

“Being in compliance with the ASMFC management plan and avoid a potential moratorium on the fishery is in the best interest of the hundreds of Omega Protein employees and management team members in Reedville, as well as the many more Virginians throughout the Commonwealth who depend on the industry for their livelihoods," Omega Protein Director of Public Affairs Ben Landry said in a statement.

"Omega Protein looks forward to working with the staff and Commissioners at the VMRC to ensure that the menhaden fishery continues to be sustainable and productive."