Menhaden Matter!

All summer, I kept hearing about North Atlantic right whales being found, dead, along the Atlantic coast.  Their populations already low, a record 13 were killed by collisions with watercraft or entanglement with fishing gear from New York to Nova Scotia.  Why were they so close to shore?  Their migrating food, a fish in the herring family, was there too.   Could changing fishing practices protect them? 

Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus)
Alternate common names: 
Pogy, Bunker, Fatback

Atlantic menhaden drawing.
Courtesy: Maine Department of Marine Resources

Adult Size: 12” to 16”

Commercial Uses: Fertilizer, Omega-3 supplements, Cat and Dog Food, Bait for Larger Fish, Oil Paint, Cosmetics, Soap, Ink, Tempering Products for Steel.

Food For: Humpback and right whales, bottle nose dolphins, osprey, bald eagles, and larger fish such as bluefish, striped bass, cod.

Filter Feeders: Can filter up to 4 gallons of water per minute, eating algae and zooplankton.  They can control red algae, which make up red tides.  (Red tides blooms reduce oxygen and kill fish.)

Migratory: Menhaden spend the summer near the coast in New England and travel to southern, off-shore waters in the winter.  Travel in  schools of thousands or tens of thousands, some schools as large as a football field!

History: Native Americans and early Colonials used fish to fertilize crops, such as corn.


Additional Reading:

No comments:

Post a Comment