Guy Harvey Magazine

SUM 2017

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 63 of 83

64 | One case in particular revolves around the Texas-based company, Omega Protein. Their marine fishing fleet runs out of a Reedville, Virginia, location and this is the gist of what they do: using a spotter plane, schools of menhaden (AKA bunker) are located aerially from above, then the location is radioed to a purse seiner below, where the vessel then sets the net and scoops up an entire school (or as much as possible) of menhaden in one fell swoop. Then the process is repeated for days on end until the hulls are filled to the brim with their total allowable catch. The boats then go home and unload the catch to Omega Protein's facilities, mainly processing the menhaden for the valuable Omega 3 oil to be sold to the world for millions of dollars in medical products, animal feed and cosmetics. In my view, here are the problems with that: First and foremost, the menhaden are a public resource. According to the National Academies Press, a New Jersey court ruling in 1821 on the public trust doctrine identified the nature of "The air, the running water, the sea, the fish and the wild beasts" as "common property," to be held and regulated for the common use and benefit by the sovereign." Menhaden habitually exist in both state (within 3 miles) and federal waters (3 miles and beyond), and no single company should have the right to vacuum them all up for corporate profit. Second, is that state economies along the Eastern Seaboard, especially the recreational fishing community and all the coastal towns that thrive off the monies that fishing generates, can be affected greatly by a corporation exploiting public resources. Menhaden is the primary forage for many gamefish from Maine to North Carolina, but especially for the much sought after recreationally-viable striped bass and bluefish. When there is no bunker around, the bass and bluefish don't show up, their stocks decline from malnutrition, eliminating tens of millions of dollars from the businesses that depend on the income when the run is on. When there are menhaden around, the fishery and economy is booming. Case in point—up until 2012, Omega Protein vessels from Virginia would come up and set nets in New Jersey state waters, scooping up vast amounts of menhaden during the start of the spring run season. Spotter planes and purse seiners would deplete the menhaden schools within days and the entire ecosystem was ghost: no striped bass, bluefish, whales, gannets, nothing. The spring run was a hollow husk of what it once was. Laws were then enacted to keep the Virginia boats at least out of state waters, past three miles, and bunker schools rebounded in full force nearshore, and with it came back the striped bass, bluefish, whales, gannets and seals. Tackle shops, restaurants, charter boats and grocery stores in the local economies flourished again. To be clear, this isn't a knock on the captains and commercial fishermen who earn an honest living at sea with companies such as Omega Protein, nor with Omega Protein itself, which is acting within its lawful rights, but more a

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