State Offers Explanation For Massive Fishkill In Bay - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

State Offers Explanation For Massive Fishkill In Bay

Those specks on the water are dead fish. (Photo: WBOC Chopper 16) Those specks on the water are dead fish. (Photo: WBOC Chopper 16)

OFF SMITH ISLAND-  Commercial fishermen are being blamed for a fish kill in the Chesapeake Bay.

Officials with the Maryland Department of Environment say the dead menhaden were probably part of a commercial catch.

Officials say several commercial fishing boats were catching fish in Virginia waters and either the net broke or hundreds of fish spilled overboard and drifted north.

MDE officials say their test results show low oxygen levels in the bay did not kill the fish.

Meantime, fishing operations like the one in Virginia are under fire. Millions of menhaden are caught each year in the Chesapeake Bay but lowering that number could help improve water quality. Menhaden, like oysters, help filter and clean the water they swim in. In addition, menhaden serve as food for rockfish, yellow fin trout and bluefish. 

Some worry if menhaden are over-harvested it could result in a chain reaction and affect the entire fishing industry.     

"I think fishing is going to suffer and there's going to be a lot of jobs loss on account of it because there are so many people that depend on striped bass and trout and blue fish," said Chuck Prahl of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association Menhaden Board.
As a result of such above concerns, on Wednesday the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to put a cap on the number of menhaden that can be harvested from the bay. 

The commission listened to testimony for hours and eventually decided on a compromised number it believes will help maintain the menhaden population.

The decision to cap the industrial catch of menhaden will go into effect in 2006.

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