Those of us in Mississippi who object to the take of menhaden by the menhaden reduction industry (almost exclusively Omega Protein boats) at the current level do so with specific reference to the impact of the fishery on the Mississippi Sound.
The update of the stock referenced in the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission report is a Gulfwide assessment. The number of sets by these boats is notable, and each set is estimated to take 17 to 21 metric tons (converted at an assumed average of 19 mt = over 40,000 pounds per set).
Also unknown to the public is the bycatch from these sets. Red drum is a historical issue that should remain excluded, but since virtually every predator fish, marine mammal and seabird feed on menhaden, the impact this taking of menhaden in our Sound has on the predator-prey relationship is unknown. I am aware of studies that have looked at gut/stomach content of predators. What shows up are high indicators of spotted seatrout, red drum and many other favored predator fish. If these predators feed on menhaden, it is logical to assume that they are more likely to show up as bycatch.
I do not seek to destroy or eliminate this industry. My intent is to have Omega Protein conscious of what impact their taking of a clearly important public resource has on the total ecological health of our beloved Mississippi Sound and our management to consider public welfare as well as industrial factors.
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Chairman, Government Relations Committee
Coastal Conservation Association Mississippi