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Monty Deihl, Omega Protein's director of fishing, has once again wasted ink in this paper trying to justify his company's vacuum cleaning menhaden from our waters ["The right conservation considers fish and jobs," Jan. 17]. His latest endeavor jumbles facts and figures to confuse the issues for Omega Protein's benefit. The simple truth is, reducing the level of menhaden extraction from their environment will increase the possibility of more egg-to-juvenile survival.
Sure, there are fluctuations in class year retention with all species, but the cold hard truth is that menhaden are severely overfished and have been for decades. By reducing the "take" of menhaden, the thousands of jobs generated by sport fishing will be protected. Lose the menhaden and there goes Omega Protein and all the little businesses that rely on the sportsmen. Sport fishermen don't target menhaden but pursue the apex predators that depend on this most important fish in the sea.
I'm amazed that Jim Kellum of Ocean Baits would jump into bed with the giant extraction company to protest reducing the menhaden take. Just because his company had an easy time catching menhaden this year doesn't mean there will be glory years to come. Menhaden move, and where they may be abundant one time doesn't guarantee another similar event in the same location.
I also would like to correct the assumption that menhaden are harvested. A farmer plants his crops and then harvests the fruits of his labor. Menhaden are extracted; there are no menhaden hatcheries to supplement those taken by the commercial extraction companies.
Common sense should tell our General Assembly that sound scientific management of this resource should be placed with the Virginia Marine Resource Commission.