STUART REVERCOMB: Little Fish – Big Problem

Most people have no idea how big a role menhaden play in their diet. They’ve never eaten one but they’ve eaten plenty of things that do.

More pounds of menhaden are landed annually in the United States than of any other fish (save pollock) and most of them go into food meal for animals and fertilizer for crops. Just about everything you eat is available due to these diminutive little fish.

Menhaden are the fish the Powhatan tribe advised pilgrims to use around their corn plants – likely saving the entire colony.

Now the problem. This 10-12 inch plankton skimmer is also the base food for whales, dolphins, herons, terns, gannets, bluefish, striped bass, tunas, et cetera, et cetera. So no menhaden – no anything else.

It’s just not a fish we can lose.

Lucky for us, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has been closely monitoring levels of menhaden since the early 2000’s and recently re-established tighter harvest numbers on them.

Not so lucky for us, one rogue company “Omega Protein” is ignoring the quota completely and continues to harvest 90% of the annual take – over 500 million fish – some 260 million of them from the Chesapeake Bay alone.

Earlier this week Virginia Governor Ralph Northam asked U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to place a moratorium on the catching of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay.
Let’s hope he gets a good response.

Just ask the pilgrims – as go the menhaden, so go the rest of us.

Stuart Revercomb