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The Omega Protein plant in Reedville, Virginia, marks the sole processing facility for the menhaden fishery on the East Coast. Thirteen out of 15 Atlantic states (Virginia being one of the exceptions) have banned the fishing practice used by Omega Protein - which uses spotter planes to find schools of fish whose locations are then relayed to teams of boats that rapidly circle the fish with nets. The bulk of fishing now takes place in the Chesapeak Bay, the menhaden's nursery.
Menhaden - an oily fish used in nutritional supplements, fertilizer, chicken feed and makeup - faces severe population pressure, as this fishery has largely remained unregulated by the Virginia office of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the state agency that manages it. Menhaden has so far been little studied, but new stock assessments that show the fish hovering around critical population sustainability levels are drawing more attention to the fish. (Photo/Morgan Heim)