VA Pig Farmer Takes on Menhaden Fishing Industry

A Virginia state lawmaker thinks 2016 may be the year to wrest control of menhaden fishing away from the legislature and put it under the state agency that oversees all other fishing in Virginia waters.

As Lee Tolliver explains in this Virginian-Pilot article, the effort to streamline fishing is being led by a rural Virginia Beach pig farmer — Barry Knight, who’s a Republican member of the House of Delegates.

“…a groundswell of support for his annual bills to change the status quo took hold over the summer, when recreational anglers, charter boat captains and coastal residents flooded social media with complaints about menhaden fishing operations working what they considered to be too close to the shore.

They told stories and shared pictures and videos of the industry’s slurry, a mixture of water, fish slime and scales, washing up on beaches – sometimes mixed with thousands of menhaden that had spilled over from haul seine nets used to vacuum hordes of fish in a single sweep.”

Virginia is unique in how it oversees fishing. Maryland, on upper Chesapeake Bay, does it the typical way; a natural resources department regulates menhaden along with all other fishing. Virginia lets its Virginia Marine Resources Commission regulate all fishing except menhaden. The state general assembly controls that, generally following advice from a non-binding federal consortium of states called the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The Virginia lawmakers sponsoring the legislation that would move menhaden fishing oversight to the VMRC will be swimming upstream. As we reported when thousands of menhaden were found floating without heads and tails in 2014, menhaden fishing is not just a major employer in the state with a steady flow political contributions, it’s also an historic tradition in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Even so, a couple of state Senators have agreed to handle the legislation in the upper chamber.

“(State Senator Frank) Wagner said his call for change was born over a summer lunch at a Virginia Beach seafood restaurant near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel…” — writes Tolliver.

Read the rest of story here. The ending rocks.


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