Environment & Biodiversity

Atlantic Menhaden is a species in the news

  • Researchers determined that the population of ospreys, a fish-eating bird, is declining due to a decrease in the amount of Atlantic menhaden, which is their principal food source.
  • Commercial fishing practises are blamed for the decrease of menhaden, a little silvery fish.
  • The drop in osprey reproduction reflects the larger ecological consequence of decreased menhaden populations.

Concerning Atlantic Menhaden

  • The Atlantic menhaden, scientifically known as Brevoortia tyrannus, is a fish species of the Clupeidae family.
  • They are typically found along North America’s Atlantic coast, from Florida to Nova Scotia.
  • Atlantic menhaden serve an important ecological role and are economically and ecologically significant.
  • The part of Atlantic Menhaden in the Coastal Ecosystem: Menhaden play an important part in the ecology of coastal waters along the Eastern Seaboard, supplying food for larger fish, marine animals, and birds.
  • Menhaden are nutrient-rich, carrying omega-3 fatty acids, and have the ability to filter large amounts of ocean water while devouring smaller animals such as plankton.

Commercial Fishing Impact:

  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission increased the authorised catch of menhaden for the next two years to 233,550 metric tonnes, a 20% increase above previous years.
  • Quota for the Chesapeake Bay’s reduction fishery, where menhaden are used for bait and fish products, was kept at 51,000 metric tonnes by the commission.
  • Ecological Concerns: Critics believe that removing large quantities of menhaden degrades the ecology, harming animals such as ospreys and striped bass that rely on menhaden.

Menhaden depletion and low reproduction

  • Researchers discovered only three baby ospreys out of 84 nests investigated in Mobjack Bay, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay, in mid-June.
  • Scientists from the College of William and Mary, who have been studying the local osprey population for over 50 years, discovered the lowest reproductive number.
  • The fall in breeding success is linked to the depletion of Atlantic menhaden, the principal food source of the osprey.

Lawsuit and Ecosystem Protection

  • Recreational Fishermen Lawsuit: A group of Maryland recreational fishermen sued the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, alleging that the commission contributed to the loss of menhaden by approving quotas that affect fish populations and the recreational fishing sector.
  • Commercial Fishing Methods: Critics point to the harmful impact of industrial fishing methods used by corporations such as Omega Protein, which collect menhaden in unsustainable amounts, contributing to the extinction of other species and harming ecosystems.
  • Non-profit organisations fight for the restoration of menhaden populations along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts in order to maintain a healthy ecology.

Beyond the Chesapeake Bay, there are encouraging signs

  • Menhaden Recovery: Menhaden populations have increased outside of the Chesapeake Bay since the Atlantic Commission implemented efforts to address overfishing in 2012, resulting in a two-year recovery of the fish population.
  • Ecological Impact: As menhaden numbers have recovered, predators such as humpback whales, tuna, sharks, and bald eagles have returned to the shores of New York and New Jersey.
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