The saying goes that "looks can be deceiving," and it's an accurate expression for the menhaden fish. This little fish plays a powerful role in the undersea world. The menhaden may be near the bottom of the food chain, but it supports many species from popular sport fish all the way up to Atlantic whales. And if the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean are where the menhaden call home, this little fish could win the Good Housekeeping Award. That's because the menhaden is a filter-feeder, meaning it cleans impurities in the water. That's crucial to the Chesapeake Bay, where water pollution from farm and sewage runoff is creating increasingly severe problems for the bay and its inhabitants.

But this hard-working little fish is disappearing fast, and its job in the food chain is irreplaceable.

Finding Nemo: What happens to a little fish sucked out of its environment?

The menhaden is not only a small fish, but it's also rather bony - not exactly appetizing for most people. But there is an enormous fishing operation sucking millions of these little fish out of coastal waters every year. In fact, menhaden make up America's second largest fishery. So, if people aren't eating the menhaden, why is this little fish being targeted?

The Omega Protein company vacuums massive quantities - hundreds of thousands of tons - of menhaden through state-of-the-art factory fishing vessels that locate entire schools of these tiny fish. The company then processes menhaden for use as protein supplements and fishmeal.

Ironically, much of Omega's fishmeal is sold to feed livestock or fish farms - uses that harm marine ecosystems and threaten fishing communities. In fact, one of the main uses for Omega's fishmeal is as chicken feed, adding to the high-nutrient wastes already choking many bays and estuaries - including the Chesapeake.  Runoff from chicken farms is also connected to the outbreak of toxic algae in the mid-Atlantic region. Omega fishmeal is also used as food for large-scale fish farms, which privatize the oceans and threaten wild fish stocks and traditional fisheries through pollution and parasitic infestations, among other dangers. Most of the remaining fishmeal goes into pet food. 

Menhaden populations today are at near record lows, and there are reports that some of their predators are starting to go hungry. The time to act is now, before the tiny menhaden is lost forever.

Latest Update

Fishing Cap Nixxed to Appease Big BusinessRead the full story.

The latest updates



Blog by nicole | August 2, 2005 1 comment

Greetings from Narsaq on the west coast of Greenland. Yesterday at 3:30 a.m. the ship entered Prince Christian Sound, the eastern entrance to a maze of fjords that zig zag through the southern tip of Greenland and join the east and...

A great expanse of ice

Blog by nicole | August 1, 2005 1 comment

Today I had an interesting experience. I accompanied a scientist up onto the ice sheet to drill for ice core samples. I'll make the distinction between glaciers and ice sheets by saying 82% (at least) of Greenland is covered by a...

To Kyoto, or not to Kyoto, that is the question!

Blog by nicole | August 1, 2005

For the Bush administration, the answer to that question has been clear since 2001: "No." However, simply saying "No" to Kyoto seems to be a more and more difficult position to maintain for the White House. It does seem like the Bush...

Storm Warnings Intensify

Feature story | July 31, 2005 at 18:00

As this season’s hurricanes slam into our coastlines, MIT scientists have hit us with a dose of reality: global warming is to blame. If you thought that hurricanes were creating greater damage, it hasn’t been your imagination. And the most...

What does it mean to be so far north on this planet?

Blog by nicole | July 28, 2005 9 comments

Being an Indian it's hard to explain but I will try...home is the tropics, and the North was always the Himalayas. The roof of the world was Tibet... What a tiny picture of the world, eh? One email and it is split wide open. An offer...

Impossible colors

Blog by nicole | July 28, 2005 3 comments

We are sailing back down Sermilik fjord, passing hundreds of icebergs - some of them real giants. By all rights, we should be pretty jaded by now, having spent the past weeks staring at icebergs, glaciers and sea ice, but every now...

Un domingo distinto

Blog by nicole | July 28, 2005 3 comments

Parecia un domingo "normal", si se lo puede llamar asi a un domingo a bordo del rompehielos Arctic Sunrise, navegando por las costas de Groenlandia y empezando a ver hielo flotando por todas partes despues de un par de dias navegando a...

The Passing of a "No Nonsense" Environmentalist

Feature story | July 27, 2005 at 14:51

Less than six months ago, the world mourned the loss of Sister Dorothy Stang – a lifelong advocate for the disempowered in the Amazon. She was assassinated by two gunmen in Brazil for her efforts to protect our ancient forests. Now, activists...

Lake - o - meter (patent pending)

Blog by nicole | July 27, 2005

We have many pieces of highly sophisticated technological equipment at our disposal here on the Arctic Sunrise . One of the newest is our Lake-o-meter (patent pending). While it may look suspiciously like a length of rope with a...

Something Fishy’s Going on

Feature story | July 26, 2005 at 18:00

On July 23, fishermen, scientists and local residents gathered in sailboats, canoes and kayaks to spend a beautiful Saturday with us on the Chesapeake Bay. But we weren’t at our nation’s largest estuary to work on our suntans; we were protesting...

4191 - 4200 of 4816 results.