FORT MONROE, Va. (WFXR) — Reduction fishing for Atlantic menhaden or bunker in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay has gotten a reprieve.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (MRC) has decided to turn down a proposal to implement a one-mile buffer zone that would prevent reduction fishery operations within a mile of shore. The proposal also include a half-mile buffer zone near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Complex.

Instead, the MRC voted 5-4 in favor of a motion to propose a memorandum of understanding with reduction fishing operators. Omega Protein is the primary reduction fishing operation on the bay. It uses net boats, spotter planes, and technology to catch menhaden. The fish are then reduced to fish meal and fish oil.

A number of sportfishing and conservation groups have called for a ban on reduction fishing for menhaden in the Chesapeake. They claim menhaden are being overharvested from the bay, and that sportfish numbers have declined because of it.

Omega Protein claims science is on its side, that Atlantic menhaden stocks are strong, and that sportfish numbers are declining because of overharvest by sports anglers.

The MRC outlined the memorandum of understanding motion in a email to Outdoors Bound and WFXR News:

Motion to propose a memorandum of understanding:

Fishery agrees to not fish in the state territorial waters inside of the Chesapeake Bay on Sat-Mon of Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Fishery agrees to not fish in the state territorial waters inside of the Chesapeake Bay on July 4th and the federally recognized holiday of the week.

Fishery agrees to not fish in the state territorial waters inside of the Chesapeake Bay on all Saturdays and Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The Fishery agrees not to fish within ½ mile of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel as a measure of cooperation to minimize user conflicts with the recreational angling community.

The Fishery agrees to work collaboratively with the Governor’s office and General Assembly members to address geographic buffer along the densely populated areas of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, in the Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Beach region.

Legal experts say such memorandums are often not legally-binding. It is unclear how enforceable such a memorandum would be.

Virginia is the only state on the east coast that still allows reduction fishing in estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay.

There is a proposal before the Virginia General Assembly to ban reduction fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, but similar efforts have been rejected by lawmakers in the past.