Anyone concerned with the health of Chesapeake Bay, or indeed the health of the fishery of the entire East Coast, needs to pay attention to the current state of menhaden.
Small, bony and oily, menhaden (bunker) are usually not consumed by humans – at least directly. But menhaden are the forage base for striped bass, bluefish, cod, sea trout, bonito, tuna, haddock, halibut, mackerel, swordfish, king mackerel, summer flounder and numerous other predator species to the point that renowned 19th-century ichthyologist G. Brown Goode stated that people eating Atlantic saltwater fish consume “nothing but menhaden.” (Since menhaden are used to bait crab and lobster pots and “reduced” (boiled, dried and ground) menhaden are used for fertilizer, as feed for chicken, pigs and cattle and as fish oil supplements, they are a significant factor in nearly any human diet.)
A 2001 article in “Discover” magazine by H. Bruce Franklin dubbed menhaden “The Most Important Fish in the Sea,” the title of the widely-quoted article and subsequent book, and a label that has caught on among both the scientific and lay communities.
Franklin also proclaims that vast schools of filter-feeding menhaden filter the water, promoting growth of healthful subaquatic grasses and limiting the spread of algae blooms.
Menhaden, are one of 23 species managed by The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a deliberative body of 15 Atlantic coast states formed in 1942 and chartered by the United States Congress in 1950 with the mission “To promote the better utilization of the fisheries, marine, shell, and anadromous of the Atlantic seaboard by the development of a joint program for the promotion and protection of such fisheries, and by the prevention of physical waste of the fisheries from any cause.” Read the rest of the menhaden article here