Friday, January 9, 2009


Menhaden have been surrounded in controversy for over a hundred years. Some contend that this fish is a critical component of the ocean food chain and that stocks are being depleted thus affecting a vast collection of dependent species negatively. Others claim that this is an abundant resource (though declining) and that it is being managed and harvested responsibly. Menhaden are used for commercial bait, processed for their oil (Omega 3), made into cat food and fertilizer. The scales are used in cosmetic products. One afternoon I was out fly fishing with Capt. Scott Howard and we came across purse seiners working a net full of menhaden close to Scarborough Beach. It was pretty interesting to watch the crews tend to the nets as the haul was vacuumed on board one of the boats. The one and a half minute video documents the event. I remember being struck by the look of the pink effluent coming out the side and thinking, man I wouldn't want to be surfing in that slick...and...aren't these boats a little close to shore? ><{{{">

Video by Steve Stracqualursi Illustration by El Pescador


Unknown said...

For those that are interested, Bruce Franklin's book "The Most Important Fish In The Sea" is a great in-depth look at the history of this incredibly destructive fishery in the US.

Maine used to be the epicenter of the menhaden harvest - now they've been fished down to such low levels that it was the talk of the coast when adult menhaden showed up in significant numbers during the summer of '08


Tim Pask said...

That video really brings your comments to life. Its one thing to read about it, but seeing it takes the threat to a whole new level. As fishing methods continue to get more effective, all of the ocean going stocks have a bleak outlook in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Looks like they could clean out the bays where I fish in an afternoon. Also, thanks for the menhaden book recommendation. Buying it today.

El Pescador said...

Thanks for the book info Matt B. and for the comments Tim and Fishing Jones. I think we'll all be hearing more about menhaden in the coming months. One good bit of news related to Omega 3, science has figured out a way to extract this substance from plants. Once that becomes commercialized maybe that'll take some pressure off the menhaden.