by Charlie Hutchinson
Those who follow activities related to the management of menhaden certainly got an eyeful of the political processes in Virginia this year. Each year, for the past several years, legislation has been proposed to either decrease the catch or transfer the responsibility for management out of the legislature. All of these bills have died in committee. The General Assembly as a body probably has never seen the proposed changes, let alone vote on them. Representatives of the public, and therefore the public, have been prevented from governance of constituents property. Omega has, in effect, become the manager of the sustainability of menhaden at least in Virginia waters.
All of this has been accomplished at modest costs since mainly those critical to Omega’s interests have been rewarded. Politics at its worst, and so blatant it is disgusting. At least their antics, so far, have been restricted to Virginia, but maybe this is only a training exercise for future more inclusive action Irrespective of who is responsible for menhaden management in Virginia, the ultimate authority lies with the ASMFC Menhaden Management Board.
Hopefully the Commissioners are aware of the state of Virginia’s willingness to avoid responsible action even if it leads to negative effects in the other fourteen states that make up the ASMFC. For Omega and roughly 20 legislators to hold other states hostage is just unacceptable. Their attitude should be one of the factors considered in correcting the overfishing situation. The remedy should be strong enough to restore the stock sufficiently to meet predators needs on a coastal basis regardless of Virginias limited interests.