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  • Writer's pictureArielle Kouyoumdjian

Climate Stories From Around the Globe: Featuring Ben M.

Ben's persuasive piece asks Virginia fisheries to face the truth about their environmentally exploitative practices. Chesapeake Bay ecosystems pay the price for the state's coorperate greed.

Menhaden Fisheries

By Ben M., Northern VA, age 17

Often overshadowed by regional favorites like mackerels and various trout species, the humble Menhaden is the most underappreciated keystone species found in the Chesapeake Bay. They bridge  the gap between producer and consumer: Menhaden eat vast quantities of algae that would otherwise starve aquatic plants of sunlight, and are also a primary food source for larger predatory fish, mammals, and birds. However, corporate greed threatens this delicate balance of life; the Canadian-owned Omega Protein Corporation and their bought-and-paid-for Virginia lawmakers continue to wreak havoc on the Menhaden population. Every other state on the Atlantic coast has outlawed fishing for Menhaden in their state waters, but Virginia continues to support Omega, allowing them to catch 75% of all Menhaden from the Atlantic seaboard. The other fourteen states on the east coast combine for the other quarter.

Most of these fish go to practical causes such as fertilizer and animal feed, but Virginia’s lack of discipline when deciding how many to catch is starting to have disastrous consequences on the rest of the Bay. Species such as Striped Bass, which brings in over 500 million dollars annually, are experiencing significant declines in local population primarily because of Menhaden overfishing in the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia must step up to re-align itself with every other reasonable state on the Atlantic and outlaw or severely restrict Menhaden fishing within the Bay, which will protect not only the Menhaden species but every other animal within the aquatic food chain. 

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