After an extensive process of auditing the United States Menhaden industry for sustainability and fishing practices, Friends of the Sea has certified the industry as a “Friend of the Sea.”
Friends of the Sea, which is an independent organization known for its thorough certification procedure, used the following guidelines to certify applicants for sustainability: (a) target stocks cannot be considered overexploited; (b) the applicant’s fishing methods cannot impact the seabed, and (c) generation of less than average (8%) discards. Omega Protein has met this criterion.
“The menhaden fishery, the second biggest fishery in the United States, has been found compliant with Friend of the Sea standards by an independent audit,” comments Dr Paolo Bray – Director of Friend of the Sea. “This is a great result for Friend of the Sea, which would have not been possible without Omega Protein’s strong environmental commitment. Omega Protein is also a large international fishmeal producer – others are going to be audited in the next few months and a first Friend of the Sea sustainable fishmeal will soon be on the market. We expect the collaboration of fishmeal producers: the aquaculture market is ready and already demanding certified sustainable fishmeal.”
Omega Protein is the world's largest manufacturer of heart-healthy fish oils containing Omega-3 fatty acids for human consumption, as well as specialty fish meals and fish oil used as value-added ingredients in aquaculture, swine and other livestock feeds. Omega Protein makes its products from Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus), an Omega-3 rich fish that is abundantly available along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coasts.
“We believe Friend of the Sea’s approval further emphasizes Omega Protein’s marine conservation and environmental protection efforts. Our well managed fishery has gone on for centuries and this is further evidence that it is sustainable.” states Joseph L. von Rosenberg III, President and CEO of Omega Protein. “We want consumers to know Omega Protein is a Friend of the Sea.”
The database of gulf menhaden is among the best in the United States. Accurate landings data exist back to 1946 because of full disclosure from the industry. Menhaden is fished by a relatively small number of vessels operated by few companies, making the data also very precise. The 2006 NOAA/NMFS/SFSC/ASMFC Official Stock Assessments Reports for Atlantic Gulf Menhaden convened that the stocks are not considered to be overfished. FAO, in its 2005 “Review of world State of Marine Fisheries Resources” considers Atlantic menhaden as not overexploited.
The United States Menhaden fishery is considered to have zero percent discard rate according to FAO “Discards in World Marine Fisheries. An Update”. Bycatch of other fishes in menhaden purse seines has been examined repeatedly since late 1800s. Taking of non-target species is a relatively rare event, and the overall bycatch is insignificant.
The Company utilizes a fleet of purse seine fishing vessels supported by spotter aircraft to supply menhaden to its four processing facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia. It provides more than 1,000 jobs in the states where it operates. All Omega vessels use an excluder nozzle to exclude larger predator species. Then an additional excluder screen is used to exclude the larger species and return them to the water via excluder chutes.