If fisheries had superstars, this little fish would be Lady Gaga. Atlantic menhaden, the fish otherwise known as the most important fish in the sea, plays a rock star role in the Atlantic marine ecosystem. But it’s under threat. Will you speak up for Atlantic menhaden one more time, and ensure that the Lady Gaga of the fish world has a bright future?
Born that way
Atlantic menhaden earns the glamour of being ‘the most important fish in the sea’ the hard way. A small silver fish in the herring family, it plays a vital role in the food web of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico as a prey species that keeps numerous other fish, seabirds and marine mammals well fed.
Coastal ecosystems aren’t the only ones that benefit from Atlantic menhaden though. An industrial reduction fishery vacuums vast quantities of menhaden out of the ocean each year, turning them into lipstick, swine feed, and fish oil, and earning a sizable profit for their shareholders. For years they’ve been uncomfortably involved in shaping menhaden management. It’s taken an impressive poker face to argue that removing 65 percent of the adult menhaden population from East Coast waters yearly isn’t doing damage—especially after a 2010 stock assessment confirmed that menhaden numbers have declined sharply.
Recreational anglers, environmentalists and the public are all clearly tired of this bad romance. Last year 91,000 of you spoke up, leaving the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission little choice but to respond.
After the outcry, managers took a historic vote that could reduce menhaden harvest by as much as 37%. They’ve spent the last year figuring out how to make that happen. In April, you weighed in and told them not to wait another 10 years—in spite of industry pressure to do just that. Now it’s time to ask them to make real, substantial cuts in coast wide catch with the unambiguous objective of rebuilding the stock.
This is menhaden’s moment of truth. You’ve gotten us this far, and we need you to see it through. We can’t promise it will be the last time we ask for your support on menhaden (but we hope so, because we’re really starting to stretch the limits of ways to ask you on this one) but we urgently need you to act now.
Will you ask managers to adopt long-promised catch reductions and limits? Then we can all just dance.