Commonsense Transfer to VMRC Will Increase Regulatory Certainty, Protect Jobs
Senator Ralph S. Northam (D – Norfolk) has introduced SB 765 to transfer management authority for menhaden from the Virginia General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Delegate John A. Cosgrove (R – Chesapeake) will introduce an identical measure in the House of Delegates. “This legislation is garnering rapidly increasing levels of bipartisan public support, because it is simply good government” Cosgrove said. “We budget over $20 million a year for VMRC to manage our fisheries; we should let them do it.”
Said Northam: “General Assembly members lack the time and scientific expertise necessary to make technical fisheries management decisions. I am much more confident in VMRC’s ability to implement the quotas set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) in a way that ensures sustainable harvest and protects fishing industry jobs now and in the future.” The ASMFC is a federally authorized interstate management body that sets quotas for many marine fish stocks on the East Coast. In Virginia, ASMFC directives for species other than menhaden are executed by VMRC commissioners, with the support of an expert staff. ASMFC actions on menhaden are considered by the General Assembly.
Omega Protein, Inc. is the largest harvester of menhaden, and operates a processing plant in Reedville, VA that employs approximately 300 people. “Let’s be clear,” added Northam: “the intent of this bill is not to do any harm to Omega Protein, or to jeopardize the livelihood of any of its employees. Omega and other harvesters of menhaden have the right to utilize the resource sustainably. We feel that by eliminating the need for legislative action every time new conservation measures need to be established, this bill will stabilize the regulatory environment for business, and help sustain employment over time.”
A number of conservation groups are supporting the bills, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the Coastal Conservation Association Virginia, and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.