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


Ice and sandstone mountains in the spectacular

Image | July 11, 2005 at 11:31

Ice and sandstone mountains in the spectacular Red Fjord.

Although they can be massive

Image | July 11, 2005 at 11:28

Although they can be massive, icebergs are not stable. They melt unevenly, and roll over without warning. You can see here from old waterlines that this one has rolled slightly. In fact, what you're looking at could once have been the...

The blue ice color is due to a combination

Image | July 11, 2005 at 11:25

The blue ice color is due to a combination of a hexagonal ice crystal structure, and many tiny air bubbles trapped as the glacial snow compacts into ice over years. All parts of the spectrum are absorbed, only blue is reflected.

Reflection of a slightly weathered iceberg

Image | July 11, 2005 at 11:22

Reflection of a slightly weathered iceberg.


Image | July 11, 2005 at 11:20

Nine-tenths of an iceberg is below the surface.

Icebergs and glaciers

Image gallery | July 10, 2005

Five hundred Greenpeace volunteers create

Image | July 9, 2005 at 19:00

Five hundred Greenpeace volunteers create a human peace sign in the Esplanade Tracodéro to commemorate the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior.

Heading north... thinking of London

Blog by nicole | July 8, 2005

We are headed north in thick fog. The ship is rolling a bit now that we are in an area with little sea ice. Thom has the BBC on in the radio room. Crewmembers are stopping in to listen as work permits. Almost all of us have...

Melanie's time check

Blog by nicole | July 7, 2005 1 comment

It's the wee hours of July 6, 01:15 in the morning to be exact. Arne is up in the crow's nest maneuvering the ship through heavy pack ice in Scoresby Sound. At some point in the next five or six hours we will hopefully be out in open...


Blog by nicole | July 7, 2005

Last night we arrived at Ittoqqortoormiit near the mouth of Scoresby Sound, and went to anchor a bit off shore surrounded by floating ice chunks. One of the younger villagers paddled out in his kayak. He chatted with Millie,...

4191 - 4200 of 4771 results.