- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
James Drake’s Dec. 12 Outdoors column “Deciding the fate of menhaden,” repeats many of the most commonly recited arguments used by environmentalists in the menhaden debate. Unfortunately, most of these facts are selective or misleading, resulting in a partial picture of the fishery.
Mr. Drake begins by incorrectly describing menhaden’s role in the environment. While he writes that menhaden are filter feeders that improve water quality “simply by swimming around,” recent science has reached different conclusions. A 2010 study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found menhaden contribute little, if any, to improving water quality.
Mr. Drake is similarly inaccurate when he claims that menhaden are at 10 percent of “typical” population levels. This ignores the full history of the fishery, which has naturally fluctuated between periods of high and low abundance, mostly driven by environmental factors outside of the control of the fishery. Scientific organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have recognized that, over the long term, environmental factors, and not commercial fishing, have the strongest influence of the growth of the menhaden population.
Mr. Drake also equates opposition to sharp cuts in menhaden harvests to “the corrupt and devious side of the political game,” and “Omega Protein, a lucrative and politically connected company.” But a broad coalition of groups, including the local United Food and Commercial Workers union and the Maryland NAACP, also oppose the harshest measures being advocated. These groups are not opposed to excessive cuts because of political purposes, but because they do not want to cause unnecessary job loss in the fishery.
Ben Landry, Reedville, Va.
The writer is director of public affairs for Omega Protein.