Virginia Introduces Bill to Ban Controversial Fishing Practice

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by John Paraskevas/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

Following the 2022 elections, a bill is set to be introduced to the Virginia General Assembly to ban a controversial fishing method in the state.  

According to MyFox8, the bill will place a two-year moratorium on Atlantic menhaden reduction fishing in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. State Delegate Tim Anderson (R) – Virginia Beach is notably sponsoring the bill. 

Menhaden is described as a baitfish that serves as “forage” for a wide number of larger and sportfish species. It was noted that sportsfishing and conservation groups often criticize the fishing method. Omega Protein also operates a fleet that targets menhaden. The fish have been driven down in the Chesapeake because of the method. As a result, the sportfish numbers have dropped. 

However, Omega argued for the fishing method and instead that the science has been on its side in the past, which shows that the menhaden numbers are healthy. Omega then said that the reason sportfish numbers are down is due to overfishing by sportsfish and commercial anglers. 

As part of the new bill, an advisory committee will be created. The group will do research on the reduction of fishing during the moratorium. It will then provide data on its findings to the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC). 

Meanwhile, a separate petition to ban reduction fishing in the Chesapeake has been presented to the VMRC. The commission will investigate the request next month. 

Virginia State Delegate Tim Anderson Speaks Out Against Reduction Fishing & Says It Should Be Outlawed in Every Other East Coast State

During an interview this past summer, Virginia state delegate, Tim Anderson, spoke out against reduction fishing. He stated that the method should be outlawed in every other east coast state. 

“Reduction fishing has been outlawed in every other east coast state, except for Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay,” Anderson said. He also argued that people can get the same nutrients supplied by fish oil from flaxseed. Anderson stated that he believed industrial fishing of menhaden hurts marine mammals and sea birds. 

“The sports fishermen are like, ‘Hey, the trophy fish are gone. These fish that people pay a lot of money to go on tours and catch – striped bass for instance, they’re gone!’” Anderson declared. 

Although he’s introducing the bill, Anderson isn’t optimistic about it going into law. “I doubt that that’s going to get much traction with the way the current general assembly is,” he explained. “But we’re going to start pushing it, we’re going to start talking about that, and it’s going to be a thorn in everyone’s side with me while I’m in the General Assembly.”

He added he’s hopeful about another bill that would require fishing companies to pay damages to communities.