Menhaden — the largely unrecognized lynchpin of the saltwater food chain whose stocks have shown signs of decline in recent years — had a good day this week: the ASMFC’s Menhaden Management Board approved the first ever Atlantic menhaden harvest reduction, setting the reduction at 20%.
Menahaden are known to anglers by various nicknames — “bunker”, “pogy”, “bugeye” — and have been known to them for a long time. The name itself, “Menhaden,” derives from the Native American word fertilizer. A small, bright silver, oily-fleshed fish with a number of spots behind its gills, menhaden are a large part of the diet of striped bass, bluefish, and tuna, to name a few. In addition to supporting popular New England sport fish, they also have many commercial applications, including the production of omega-3 oils for human consumption, active ingredients in Rust-Oleum, and feed to livestock. They are important today, it would seem, as they were back when.
But they have come under increasing pressure — with increasing calls to protect them. (Check out Menhaden Defenders for more info.) This news about the harvest reduction is good for menhaden, and for the salt water species of New England and the East coast.