You might not have heard of the small, oily fish, but it is a hot topic for Virginia fisheries, an industry that is central to the identity of coastal Virginia, particularly the Eastern Shore.
It was the Wall Street Journal who called Menhaden “the most important fish in the sea” in their article Population Issue Puts Menhaden, the Ocean’s Unsung Hero, in the Limelight. It went on:
By weight, it’s the largest catch pulled from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s earned at least $300 million in revenues this year for the reduction industry, which turns the fish into animal feed, fertilizer and food supplements.
And it’s at the heart of a debate that is roiling conservationists who want to protect the species and fisheries that want to profit from it.
Menhaden “is a key food for commercially and recreationally important species like the striped bass, bluefish, and summer flounder,” according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), who is hosting a forum on the issue on December 6 at Slover Library.
Speakers at the event include Striper Wars author Dick Russell, former Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner Jack Travelstead, and former North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Director Louis Daniel. The discussion will be moderated by Virginian-Pilot Editorial Page Editor Donald Luzzatto.
“Virginia is the epicenter of the Atlantic Coast menhaden fishery, responsible for approximately 85 percent of the total coastwide catch,” said CBF’s Kenny Fletcher. “Menhaden management has been the source of vigorous debate in the region due to its ecological and economic importance throughout the tidal waters of the Commonwealth.”
The forum will take place today, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Slover Library, 235 Plume Street in Norfolk. The event is free, but attendees are asked to RSVP in advance by visiting cbf.org/blueplanet, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 757/622-1964.
This Blue Planet Forum is presented by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Old Dominion University, Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association, and Great Bridge Fisherman’s Association. The series of free public lectures informs and engages citizens on important environmental issues facing Hampton Roads and the nation.