Dead Fish Seen Near Menhaden Boats

The state Department of Marine Resources meets Thursday with officials from Omega Protein after about 30 dead fish were found near an area where the company's boats were harvesting menhaden.

State and federal biologists say the menhaden industry is not environmentally destructive. Many environmentalists and recreational fishermen believe the industry over-harvests menhaden, which are a food fish for many recreational fish.

The DMR counted about 30 dead fish, which included only five or six redfish, during a flight over the Mississippi Sound on Tuesday, said Corky Perrett, DMR chief of fisheries. Menhaden boats had been working there, he said.

Recreational fishermen and the charter boat fleet spotted large schools of redfish feeding on red minnows in the area during the weekend, said Capt. Graig Gusa of the High Times.

On July 23, fishermen reported between 100 and 200 dead redfish, blacktip sharks and black drum in the area, where at least five purse-seine boats were fishing for menhaden.

Omega Protein spokesman Barney White said the company rarely catches sportfish when its purse seines surround schools of menhaden, which are harvested for oil and animal feed.

"Every time a dead fish floats by, somebody blames us,'' said White. "I think we're getting a bum rap.''