Virginia Lawmakers May Limit Menhaden Fishing | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Virginia Lawmakers May Limit Menhaden Fishing

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Menhaden may be the most important fish you've never heard of. You don't find them in restaurants, but you might in health supplements.

They're used to make fish oil, which turns up in everything from omega-3 pills to breakfast cereals. They're used as bait for fishermen and crabbers, and in the Bay, tons of birds and larger fish eat them, too.

A few years ago, their population fell to 8 percent of their historical levels. That sparked a ferocious fight between environmentalists and the industry, over whether to limit the catch. Fishermen were divided on both sides of the debate.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted last month to cut the harvest for two years while a population survey is done. The Virginia General Assembly appears ready to comply with that decision.

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