It has been one year since I last wrote about Menhaden. However it has taken a year of multi pronged advocacy from the Menhaden Coalition to get to the point where the Atlantic States Marine Fish Commission (ASMFC) has finally taken a significant action to reform menhaden management.
Menhaden? You might be asking yourself what the heck is a Menhaden. Menhaden are a small oily fish that is actually one of the most important fish in the sea. The tiny fish is a major prey species for Striped Bass, Bluefish, multiple bird species, whales and a host of other marine animals. Menhaden are keystone species and a major foundation of the coastal food web from New England to Florida.
It's been said that if you eat a wild fish you're eating Menhaden. They have been seriously overfished and the population is currently less than 10 percent of their unfished level. This is the lowest population level ever recorded. The ecosystem is feeling this stress as all of the species dependant on Menhaden can't find enough food from starving Striped Bass to Ospreys. Over the past 25 years under the management of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commisison (ASMFC), the Menhaden population has plummeted. The ASMFC has “managed” Menhaden for the benefit of one company, Omega Protein, which grinds them up for industrial uses like fertilizer and animal feed.
The ASMFC after years of ignoring the extreme ecosystem overfishing and depletion of menhaden yesterday passed a draft menhaden management plan addendum that will now be sent out for public comment. This draft proposal, if adopted, at their November meeting will fundamentally change menhaden management and put it on the road to ecosystem based management - this is a huge victory.
Greenpeace has been involved in the political process to reform the management of the menhaden fishery for almost a decade. This is the first meaningful step forward in all of that time. The ASMFC action is only the first step in a very long process that will eventually change the management of menhaden from it's current 'industrial exploitation is the only thing that matters' role to one where recognizing and maintaining their valuable role in the ecosystem is of paramount importance. To put this in plain English, we are finally going to ask what striped bass, bluefish, sea birds and a host of other dependent species need for dinner [select]and give them their dinner first before any industrial fisheries catch what's left. To learn about the details go to www.SaveMenhaden.org.
In the very near future we will let you know how you can join us in this fight to save Menhaden – The Most Important Fish in the Sea.
Here's an excellent news article by Candy Thomson of the Baltimore Sun.