Recreational fishing and boating groups applaud new bipartisan law 

Alexandria, Va. – March 9, 2020 – Following vocal support from recreational fishermen, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bipartisan bill improving menhaden management in the Atlantic.

The legislation transfers management authority of Atlantic menhaden—a small oily baitfish that feeds sportfish like striped bass—to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which oversees every other saltwater fishery in the Commonwealth.

Now that the bill has been signed into law, the legislation puts Virginia on a path toward compliance with the regional fishery management plan, which Omega Protein violated last year.

“Thanks to the signature of Governor Northam, menhaden will now be managed by fisheries experts at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “Adequate menhaden populations are key to striped bass and other sportfish that support Virginia’s $583,806,000 saltwater recreational fishing economy. This important shift in management authority will help ensure a future of science-based management of menhaden that accounts for their important role in the ecosystem.”

“This new law will pave the way for stronger management of the Atlantic menhaden recognizing its critical role in the entire marine ecosystem and its benefits to the recreational fishing economy,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We want to thank Governor Northam, the bill sponsors, Natural Resources Secretary Matt Strickler, and the recreational fishing sector for working together on this legislation.”

“There is a growing need for more robust conservation practices in our fisheries – including menhaden and all forage fish – this law is an important step towards better recognizing and correcting the harmful impacts overfishing can have on our communities,” said Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of government and legal affairs for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Protecting forage fish and sportfish stocks is essential for recreational activities in the Chesapeake Bay and across the country and we thank Governor Northam for taking action to that ensure our marine ecosystems remain healthy for generations to come.”

“This commonsense legislation will help fisheries in not just Virginia, but along the entire Atlantic Coast,” said Chris Edmonston, vice president of government affairs for BoatUS.  “Anglers and boaters should all applaud this long overdue change in fisheries management and encourage more science-based management practices be developed and implemented. BoatUS, along with our 28,000 Virginia members, applaud the passage of this legislation.”

“This decision by Governor Northam and the Virginia General Assembly, which was decades in the making, recognizes the importance of science-backed conservation efforts in maintaining the health of our nation’s fisheries,” said Adam Fortier-Brown, government relations manager for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.  “Having menhaden fisheries managed by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, like all other fisheries in the state, will make significant steps towards creating a healthier Chesapeake Bay.  We thank the assembly, and Governor Northam for their leadership on this legislation, which will be felt by boaters and anglers all along the Atlantic coast for years to come.”

“On behalf of the Virginia Saltwater Sportsman’s Association and striped bass fishermen everywhere, I would like to thank Governor Northam and his administration, especially Natural Resources Secretary Matt Strickler, for leading the fight to conserve menhaden,” said John Bello, chairman of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association Government Relations Committee.  “Menhaden are far too valuable to the ecosystem and to the recreational fishing economy to allow one foreign company to continue sucking up hundreds of millions of forage fish per year.  Thank you, Governor.”