RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – Del. Tim Anderson (R-Va. 83rd District) says decades of menhaden harvesting in the Chesapeake Bay has been long enough.

He’s calling what happened off Silver Beach earlier this month along the Eastern Shore “an environmental catastrophe”.

Omega Protein says a net broke on one of its menhaden boats on July 5 which led to dead fish washing up on the private beach. Anderson says it ruined the 4th of July holiday weekend for tourists and locals.

10 On Your Side toured the area on July 7 and saw where cleanup crews had bagged thousands of dead fish, and the black bags ended up in a dumpster which Anderson saw when he visited the area last Sunday.

“All these dead fish were in this dumpster. It was a monster container, 7 feet by 21 feet, and it was mostly full,” he said.

Anderson says elsewhere along the Eastern Seaboard, menhaden fishing must be done in the open ocean and not in inland waters or a bay.

“It’s 100% illegal everywhere else on the East Coast,” he said in a Friday morning interview.

Omega Protein spokesman Ben Landry responded to 10 On Your Side regarding Anderson’s comments and social media posts:

“While I appreciate Delegate Anderson’s exuberance, there is no doubt that he is misinformed regarding Virginia’s historic menhaden fishery. I would strongly urge him to reach out to the experts at the ASMFC, VMRC and VIMS to educate himself on the extensive research that has been conducted to understand the Atlantic menhaden population and its interaction in the ecosystem. Delegate Anderson is ignoring the well-established fact that menhaden is not overfished, nor is overfishing occurring. By stating otherwise, he is being dishonest and purposefully misinforming the public.

Also, I would like to extend an open invitation to Delegate Anderson to visit our operations in Reedville so that he may better understand our harvesting as well as meet our blue-collar, largely minority, workforce whose jobs would be significantly impacted by his proposals.

Omega Protein has operated responsibly and harvested menhaden sustainably in the Chesapeake Bay since 1878 and we intend to continue this tradition for generations to come.”

Anderson says he’d accept the invite for an Omega plant tour, adding that he doesn’t want to shut them down. He just wants Omega to fish in the ocean.

“We want to see these boats out of the Chesapeake Bay. We want to see them in the Atlantic where the other states require this type of harvesting to occur.”

On July 20, Anderson sent a letter to the governor requesting a ban on reduction fishing in the bay noting that former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam requested the federal government to declare the waters overfished when he was in office.

Read the full letter HERE.

The company harvests menhaden because they are rich in fish oil which is useful in food additives and animal feeds. The process is known as reduction fishing.

“I absolutely intend on producing legislation that will require that reduction fishing to be eliminated (in the Chesapeake Bay) in Virginia,” Anderson said.

Anderson says for years, Omega has been able to fish in the bay because of its influence in Richmond.

“These corporations have made monster contributions and the politicians are literally looking the other way.”

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