RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — A bill has been introduced for the next session of the Virginia General Assembly to place a two year moratorium on Atlantic menhaden reduction fishing in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. State Delegate Tim Anderson (R)-Virginia Beach is sponsoring the bill.

Menhaden are a baitfish that serve as forage for a wide number of larger and sportfish species.

The method of fishing has been criticized by sportfishing and conservation groups. Omega Protein operates a fishing fleet that targets menhaden. Critics say menhaden numbers have been driven down in the Chesapeake because of it, and that sportfish numbers have dropped as a result.

Omega has insisted in the past that the science is on its side, that menhaden numbers are healthy, and that the reason sportfish numbers are down is because of overfishing by sportfish and commercial anglers.

Anderson’s bill would also establish an advisory committee to do research on reduction fishing during the moratorium. The committee would provide data on its findings to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).

A separate petition to ban reduction fishing in the Chesapeake is still before the VMRC. The commission could act on that request in December.