Net Gains and Losses

Is the Omega Protein company overfishing the most important fish in the sea?

Fortunately for Omega, the House bills to ban reduction fishing in Atlantic federal waters, which would have virtually destroyed the company, died.

Although the preliminary review of the 2010 Atlantic menhaden stock suggests the industry is reaching the threshold for overfishing, Omega will continue to draw the bulk of its stock from the Atlantic.

In the absence of an official overfishing decree or further state regulations, there is no need for the company to switch the focus to the Gulf. And it's unclear if an exclusively Gulf draw could even sustain Omega as it exists today. But if there's an increased Gulf harvest, Gulf conservationists and anglers are worried they might see the kinds of problems their Atlantic counterparts are fretting over.

However, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission says that's just a "perception." The "reality" is that "the Gulf menhaden fishery has been relatively stable since 2001" and besides, most Atlantic reduction boats are "ill-suited" for the Gulf anyway.

And if you think Gulf menhaden are disappearing to the point where predator fish have nothing to eat, the commission will set you straight on that "perception" as well, because any fool knows that it's really the bay anchovy that holds things together in the Gulf.

For everyone's perception, there's a reality. The problem is just finding out which is which, before menhaden go the way of the dodo.

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