Omega Protein Employees and Supporters Call for Fisheries Managers To Protect Menhaden Jobs

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| Source: Omega Protein
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Clockwise from top: Gayle Sterrett, Brianna Ritchie, Ron Herring, Dana O'Bier, Charles Williams

REEDVILLE, Va., Nov. 07, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 457 Omega Protein employees and supporters have signed a petition urging the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to protect the jobs created by the Atlantic menhaden fishery. The petition, part of the public comment process for Amendment 3 to the Atlantic Menhaden Interstate Fishery Management Plan, provides the Commission with the perspectives of those whose livelihoods would be most affected by any new restrictions on the menhaden fishery, and contrasts the outside pressure generated by international environmental groups and individuals who do not live in one of the 15 Atlantic coastal states.

Amendment 3 will determine how the ASMFC implements ecological reference points, which Commissioners will use to help manage menhaden in a way that accounts for its role as forage for predators. It will also set a coastwide quota for next year, and determine how that quota is allocated among the states.

The Omega Protein petition, addressed to the ASMFC’s Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management Plan Coordinator Megan Ware, calls for the ASMFC to continue its current menhaden management approach until its scientific advisers finish their ongoing work developing menhaden-specific ecological reference points. Some environmental groups are advocating for interim reference points that reduce catch levels by up to 80 percent.

Petition signers are also asking the ASMFC to increase the coastwide menhaden quota to levels “consistent with stock status and scientific advice.” The ASMFC has found in its last two stock assessments in 2015 and 2017 that Atlantic menhaden is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing, and the Commission’s Technical Committee recently found that the quota could be raised by up to 40 percent with no chance of overfishing.

Finally, the petition requests that Commissioners determine short- and long-term menhaden catch levels before determining allocations to “ensure a fair and transparent management process.”

A number of Omega Protein employees and supporters in Virginia who signed the petition explained how important the Company and the menhaden industry are to them and the Northern Neck region.

“You try to be a good neighbor, a good steward, to operate a clean company, and I think that Omega Protein is doing all that, they’re doing all the right things,” said Charles Williams, owner/operator of Reedville Marina & Crazy Crab Restaurant in Reedville, and a former Omega Protein spotter pilot for 18 years. “As far as the community goes, the town, the county, the state, the federal government, everybody wins from Omega Protein being in business and operating.”

“My fiancée has been working for the company for six years, and he absolutely loves it. This company has been really good to him,” said Brianna Ritchie, a new employee at the company’s Health and Science Center whose fiancée works on fishing vessels. Ms. Ritchie praised the Company for providing opportunities for young people to build a career. “They push my fiancée to be a better man for himself and want more for himself. As for me, I’m truly thankful to have a great job coming straight out of college.”

“Both of my grandfathers were captains, one great-grandfather was a captain, my father was a captain, two or three uncles were captains, and now my son works for Omega Protein,” said Gayle Sterrett, a teacher and Northumberland County school board member. “They are a major employer for many of our families in Northumberland County, and they have been super generous to the school system. I don’t know what would happen around here if anything happened to the factory. It’s super important economically.”

“I’ve been in the homebuilding business since ’86, and we have the pleasure of building homes for second and third and fourth generation fishermen that work in the menhaden industry. I would say probably 25 to 30 percent of our business is tied to people who work for Omega Protein in some fashion,” said Ron Herring, a Reedville resident since 1958 and owner of a local homebuilding company. Mr. Herring also discussed the negative impact of the ASMFC’s 20 percent harvest reduction in 2012. “It certainly made a big difference in the area here. There were 30-some people who lost their employment. The community had a sense of, ‘Wow, what’s going to happen to our industry?’ It made a mental impact on us.”

“I signed the petition because it directly affects my family and the family business,” said Dana O’Bier, office manager at the menhaden bait company Pride of Virginia, and a Reedville native who serves on the Northumberland County school board. “Being on the school board, I have to look out for the community as a whole, not just my own personal family business. And Omega Protein is the largest employer, and they are a big contributor of donations to our schools. We’re a small community but really the fishing and seafood industry is the heart of our community. And even though Omega Protein is in Northumberland County, there’s a ripple effect throughout the connecting counties.”

Attachments:

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/ed920493-6c78-401d-919c-de1d32dabbda

Attachments:

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/4a476054-2399-409c-8a20-cec81235e9dd

Ben Landry
Omega Protein
(713) 940-6183
blandry@omegaprotein.com