Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Sandy has forced the cancellation of a public hearing Tuesday on a controversial proposal to curtail the coastwide catch of Atlantic menhaden.
Fisheries officials decided Monday that predicted storm condtions precluded going ahead with a hearing from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Easton Armory.
The Tuesday session was one of two forums in Maryland - and one of a series along the Atlantic coast - to take public comment on a proposal to reduce the catch of menhaden by up to 50 percent. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates near-shore fishing, is slated to decide the issue in mid-December in Baltimore. Conservationists and others are urging a sharp reduction in catch, while cuts are opposed by Omega Protein, which operates a large menhaden fishing fleet out of Virginia. Commercial watermen in Maryland also oppose cuts, arguing that menhaden are essential as bait for the crabbing industry.
A second Maryland hearing is still scheduled for Thursday night in Chesapeake Beach, weather permitting.
"Hopefully damage there will be minimal and we can go on as scheduled," said Lynn Fegley, deputy fisheries director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and one of the state's representatives on the Atlantic Coast commission. That session is slated for 6 to 9 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center, 4075 Gordon Stinnett Ave.
For those who can't make the scheduled hearings, public comment may be submitted in writing through Nov. 16. Send it to Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, 1050 N. Highland St., Suite 200 A-N, Arlington, VA 22201 or email to email@example.com.