Advocate worries overfishing could affect New Jersey ecosystem

Posted: Updated:
AVON -

A New Jersey marine life advocate says that he is worried that overfishing off the New Jersey coast could have a negative impact on the state’s ecosystem.

Capt. Paul Eidman takes tourists on whale-watching boat tours at the Jersey Shore. Sightings of whales have increased lately due to a large school of bait fish in the area, which whales feed on.

But Eidman says that he is concerned about overfishing in the area. He says that he recently saw a boat named Rappahannock just outside of state waters. He says that the vessel is owned by Omega Protein and can carry up to 2 million menhaden, an important bait fish also known as bunker fish.

“This causes what we feel…is called localized depletion. You're removing this big chunk of fish out of a local ecosystem and then you have to wonder where [the animals] are going to go and feed now,” he says.

WATCH: Whale spotted off New Jersey coast
RELATED: Crews successfully disentangle distressed humpback whale

Eidman says he's never seen the Virginia-based ship come this far north for a catch. It is perfectly legal - the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission sets annual limits on the amount of menhaden that can be caught. This year the limit was raised by 8 percent.

“If this is repeated you could take too many fish out of the ecosystem to replace and obviously all the apex predators leave and we are left with a void in the ecosystem,” Eidman says.

Omega Protein responded to Eidman's concern and said that he was making false accusations. 

"Of the tens of millions of fish spotted in the region, the F/V Rappahannock caught just a very small percentage, leaving the vast majority to serve their role in the ecosystem," the company said in a statement.

Eidman says pressure must continue to be put on the ASMFC to recognize menhaden as not only an important economic industry, but also a vital part of the food chain. This will keep the whales and other species from moving on.

Menhaden are used mostly for fish oil dietary supplements, animal food and a variety of other commercial products.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."