FORT MONROE, Va. (WFXR) — For years, conservation and sportfishing groups have called for the Commonwealth of Virginia to take some sort action against reduction menhaden fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia is the only state on the east coast to allow reduction fishing in estuaries like the Chesapeake.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) now has a proposal before it, but it is probably not what those conservation and sportfishing groups expected.

They wanted a ban on menhaden reduction fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. Instead, the proposal before the VMRC would institute a reduction fishing ban within a mile of shore, and it would block fishing near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel complex.

The current proposal addresses recent net spills that caused tons of dead fish to wash up on stretches of shoreline. Two spills over the summer at the height of the tourist season littered beaches with foul-smelling, dead fish.

Sportfishing and conservation groups say menhaden, a type of baitfish that several larger species feed on, are overfished in the Chesapeake. They say forage numbers are down, and as a result, gamefish numbers are on the decline.

Omega Protein, which is the primary reduction fishing operation on the Chesapeake, harvests menhaden with purse seine nets. Spotter planes are used to locate schools of menhaden, and then net boats move in to catch them.

Omega denies the the claims that menhaden are overharvested in the Chesapeake. The company says sportfish numbers are dropping because recreational anglers are overharvesting them.

The VMRC will consider the proposal at its meeting on December 6.