by D.J. Rippert
Northam channels Tom Brady. The ongoing battle between The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dominion Resources) and Brevoortia tyrannus (aka menhaden, bunker, pogy, mossback, etc) has reached a new low. Our always corrupt General Assembly decided it didn’t like the latest ruling of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and tabled the legislation that needed to pass to put Virginia in compliance with the ASMFC ruling.
This action opens the door for the ASMFC to declare Virginia “out of compliance” to the Federal Departments of Commerce and the Interior. From there, Commerce and Interior can, at their choosing, impose a moratorium on all menhaden fishing in Virginia until Virginia comes into compliance. Apparently, the clowns in Richmond took one look at President Trump’s orange hair and decided they had a friend who would look the other way as the Commonwealth raped the Chesapeake Bay once again. However, newly installed Governor Northam is not so sure. He has proposed last-minute legislation to implement most of ASMFC’s ruling. If passed, this would avoid allowing the Trump Administration to decide what to do with the state that put forth Hillary’s running mate, contributed 13 electoral votes to her, and elected Terry McAuliffe as its past governor. Northam’s “Hail Mary” pass is in the air.
Who knew pigs hated fish? When it comes to killing menhaden Virginia stands alone. Virginia is the only state on the East Coast that allows large scale extraction of menhaden. Despite the presence of large schools of menhaden up and down the Atlantic seaboard Virginia manages to kill 80% of all the menhaden taken on the East Coast. In fact, that large scale extraction is the province of a single Canadian company, Omega Protein, operating out of Reedville. Seven ships, assisted by spotter planes, locate menhaden schools and use giant suction tubes to scoop the fish out of the water and into their holds. They are eventually used to make dietary supplements, dog food, livestock feed and other generally low value items.
So, why is Virginia the only East Coast state to allow this level of butchery? Because Virginia is also the only East Coast state that allows unlimited campaign contributions from corporations to state politicians. And guess what? The pigs of Richmond are at the trough, snout deep in slop, contentedly “oinking.” Over the years Omega Protein has stuffed $539,499 into the pockets of our state politicians. In return, The General Assembly has passed a law making menhaden the only fish in the sea that the General Assembly regulates. Or, more accurately, fails to regulate.
Menhaden have more teeth than ASMFC. ASMFC was chartered back in 1942. However, it was essentially an advisory body to state regulators. That all changed when the striped bass (or rockfish) fishery collapsed in the early 1980s. Individual states wouldn’t implement effective limits on striped bass fishing for fear that their fishermen would lose to other states. So, in 1984 Congress passed the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act and gave ASMFC semi-regulatory authority. Any state that failed to implement ASMFC’s rules would be reported to the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior. Those departments would determine if they agreed that ASMFC was correct in holding the state in non-compliance. If they agreed, ASMFC could impose a moratorium on fishing for the species that was in non-compliance in the state. ASMFC dramatically curtailed the limits for striped bass, and by 1995 the striped bass population was declared to be fully restored. As it became clear that ASMFC had succeeded where the individual states had failed, Congress gave ASMFC authority over all East Coast fishery management.
Flaky fluke ruling. The big failing of the ASMFC process is the need to appeal to the Departments of Commerce and Interior in order to get deemed non-compliant. In twenty cases since 1993 states have been non-compliant. Nineteen times the departments of Commerce and Interior agreed with ASMFC. Then came the first Trump Administration ruling in a case over summer flounder (aka fluke) in New Jersey. ASMFC wanted the minimum size raised from 18” to 19”. New Jersey wanted to stay at 18” and concocted some bad science to plead “conservation equivalency.” The Trumpies sided with the Garden State and the ASMFC’s authority was undermined.
So, you feeling lucky, Clowns? In November, 2017 ASMFC ruled on a number of questions regarding menhaden. By and large, conservationists and recreational fishing interests considered the ASMFC rulings a disastrous loss. The catch limit was raised 8% and is now higher than the limit in 2012 when the fishery was severely compromised. The gains that have come from the 20% reduction in 2012 are likely to disappear. Virginia still will kill 80% of the menhaden killed on the East Coast to help a Canadian company make dog food.
The one ray of sunshine was a cap on fish taken from the Chesapeake Bay. The level of the cap is about the actual catch in the Bay from the last few years but it’s lower than the previous cap (which was never reached). Pigs will be pigs and that Omega money is still in the tough so, The Thundering Herd of Corruption in Richmond wants to table the legislation, fail to comply and take their chances with the Trump Administration. Gov Northam’s legislation would probably avoid all that but it still has to get through the Clown Show and the ASMFC clock is ticking.
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