Yup. You, little menhaden, are a Big Fish On Campus. And so many seem to depend upon you. Labeled a forage fish, you are deemed highly important to the survival of other finfish, like striped bass, and birds like ospreys, brown pelicans and bald eagles. A story in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News this week stated, “Without menhaden, environmentalists say, the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay ecosystems would come crashing down.”
Wow. No pressure there, little fella.
Humans don’t have the same desire or need to snack on you. But that doesn’t mean they leave you alone. They prize little ole you and your omega-3 fish oils. Sure, it keeps them healthy, but those oils aren’t keeping you living longer, are they? They also use you to feed livestock and farm-raised fish, and fishermen use you as bait.
On the other hand, it appears lots of people want to keep your population numbers high. Some 91,000 letters about you were sent to the Atlantic States Marine Commission prior to its vote this week on how best to manage you. The commission voted 14-3 to cut the menhaden harvest for 2013 from 183,000 metric tons a year to 174,000 metric tons.
Does that news hearten you, menhaden? It pleased environmentalists (though probably not the folks at Omega Protein who have long fished Chesapeake Bay for you). Others aren’t as sure you need quite as much protection. Check out the forthcoming January 2012 issue of National Fisherman, in which “Washington Lookout” columnists David Frulla and Shaun Gehan question the need to micromanage menhaden stocks.