Friday, March 1, 2024

Petition Calls on Enhanced Regulation of Menhaden Vessels’ Vacuum Pump Water

(Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — A coalition of recreational fishing and boating groups has endorsed a petition that says the vacuum pump water released by industrial menhaden fishing vessels in Virginia waters contains waste discharges that are not permitted under the state water quality code.

The petition is calling on Virginia’s State Water Control Board (SWCB), a division of the Department of Environmental Quality, to regulate the contaminated wastewater as a point source pollutant, similar to a sewage or factory outflow. 

The petition was put forth by Andy Cortez, a Virginia conservationist. It states that the vacuum pump water contains levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, suspended solid waste, and organic matter that are not in compliance with at least three state water quality codes.

The petition requests that SWCB either amend existing Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permit regulations or develop a new regulation.

“The discharge from these commercial fishing boats is producing a point source pollutant that exceeds what is acceptable under state law,” said Cortez. “These vessels are demonstrating a blatant disregard for the health of Virginia’s waterways, and it’s time that they be regulated in ways that help protect some of our most valuable and vulnerable resources.”   

Among the groups endorsing the petition are the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, and Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. 

The petition is the second within a month raising concerns about the impacts of the industrial menhaden fishery within Virginia waters.

An earlier petition urged the state’s fishery regulators to limit allowable fishing zones of the industrial menhaden fleet, based on the depth of their seine nets that often extend deeper than the waters they fish.

The public is encouraged to comment online on the water quality petition until Sept. 4.

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