Dear Representative,

Of all of Virginia’s natural resources, only one fishery, the Atlantic Menhaden, is regulated under the direct control of the General Assembly. This can be either beneficial or harmful. Legislative bodies are often superior in balancing competing economic, recreational, and environmental interests, but that is only the case if the legislators are fully informed on the issue. While delegates from districts immediately surrounding the lower Chesapeake Bay hear all sides, too often delegates from the rest of the Commonwealth get most of their information from lobbyists employed by Omega Protein, the only operator of a menhaden reduction plant on the Atlantic Coast. The information they provide is self serving at best.

We have organized the non-profit Chesapeake Bay Defense Foundation to represent the interests of other users of the Bay to the General Assembly and the public so the legislature can make its decisions fully informed.

It is certainly possible for menhaden to be harvested in a sustainable manner which does not abuse other users of the Bay, but some of Omega Protein’s harvest methods are unsustainable, damage the ecology of the Bay, and deny other users of their fair access to this shared resource. In particular, purse seining menhaden in the shallow, tidal waters of the Bay is extremely destructive. Please take note that of all the states on the East Coast, from Texas to Maine, Virginia is the only state that allows purse seining menhaden for reduction in inshore or near shore waters. Every other state requires that menhaden be taken in ocean waters where purse seining can be done in a manner that does not do great environmental harm or deny other commercial and sport fishermen use of the shared resources.

In the coming legislative session, two bills have been introduced bill HB151 and HB150, SB219 to begin the regulation of this industry. We ask that you join Delegate Knight as a co-sponsor and support this bill in the coming session.

For more information on the impact of purse seining menhaden inside the Bay on other users, please refer to the attached fact sheet.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this important issue.


The ASMFC study they use to set the east coast catch quota is meant for the entire east coast yet well over 50 percent of the east coast quota comes out of the Chesapeake Bay.  How does this work, do most fisheries usually set a quota for an entire ocean and then allow it to be caught out of one states waters?  

Menhaden Are an important part of the food chain and is the best source of Omega 3s in the food chain.  They filter the bacteria ridden Zooplankton and phytoplankton out of the water and turn it into the basis of life in the bay.  They take the bad out and return the good to other animals in the eco-system.  Why should our Bay and the entire East coast suffer so that the world can be supplied with Omega 3  

They have to use airplanes to find the fish, no other fishing method allows the use of airplanes to spot schools, not inside of state waters.  

Menhaden Life Cycle – Adult menhaden live and spawn in the ocean, where fertilized eggs hatch into larva. The larva move into the bay to nursery areas where they grow rapidly in their first year of life before returning to the ocean as juveniles where they finish maturing, becoming fertile near the end of their second year. Adult menhaden can live as long as 12 years.

Harvest methods - Omega Protein harvests menhaden for its reduction industry using purse seines. Schools of fish are encircled with a wall of nets drawn by small boats. The nets are closed from below, much like a drawstring purse.   Once the net is cinched tight they use a giant Vacuum to suck the fish and water in the boat.  This process creates a water called slurry that is pumped over the boat full of fish scales, slime and other biological waste.  This water has never been tested and has just recently been brought to the attention on the DEQ and EPA.  Other purse seine operations use a net to dip the fish out of the big net, thus not creating slurry.  

Sustainability –  The ASMFC has not determined if localized sub-populations are being overfished. We suspect that by harvesting large numbers of juvenile menhaden in their nursery areas in the Bay, as Omega Protein has done in recent years, causes localized depletion.

Tourism – Many people derive their incomes from tourism and charter fishing. Spoiling the fishing drives away those customers.  Not to mention the unsightly and smelly aroma the slurry produces just half a mile from our beaches. 

Eventually the entire food chain in the bay will collapse.  The health of the bay will suffer.  This will affect everyone in the watershed...  There will be no permits to build new homes or permits to build new business.  What if the shipyard were shut down because they could not allow anything to drain into the bay... This is an extreme account of what may happen, but if we do not pay more attention to this matter this is the direction we may be heading. 

Now it is time to reach and out and touch them.  In a good way.  

So it is pretty complicated but we have to deal with that, we have to work around it.  It is overwhelming, and I bet your saying oh my...  Don't worry the delegate supporting the bill is going to help us and we have the local senators support.  I bet you are saying what do I say to my delegate to get things moving, we need all the help we can get.  We are gonna help you, help us, help you.    


So you don't know what to say to the delegates and senators, it is no easy task.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to talk to and get ahold of.  

Some of us might not know what to say, or how things work.  I didn't so let me help you out by passing on what I have learned to you...    A bill start out in a committee, It has to make it through the vote in the committee in order to make it to the house or senate floor.  This is where previous bills have died in the past.  Once it makes it out of the committee it goes to the floor in the House or Senate.  Once passed by the house it goes to the Senate and they vote or the other way around...    The house meets in JANUARY, time is of the essence.

Here is an Email you can cut and paste!!!  

House Committee;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; "John Cosgrove" <>;

Senate Committee

"Adam Ebbin" <>; "Emmett Hanger" <>; "Lynwood Lewis" <>; "Dave Marsden" <>; "Ryan McDougle" <>; "Don McEachin" <>; "John Miller" <>; "Ken Plum" <>; "Frank Ruff" <>; "Bill Stanley" <>; "Richard Stuart" <>; "Jennifer Wexton" <>