Not Just Another Number

Menhaden, “The Most Important Fish in the Sea”

Menhaden. A tiny fish that’s a big deal in the Mid-Atlantic. At just about a foot long, these fish hold the delicate balance of our area’s ecosystem in the palms of their hands (or should we say, “openings of their gills?”)

Birds like the majestic bald eagle and osprey rely on them as a food source. Striped bass and bluefish are predators of menhaden. Without menhaden acting as magnet for these sportfish, you likely won’t have a very successful day out on the water. In fact the increased whale sightings up and down the seaboard are also thanks to menhaden.

Menhaden are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The ASMFC is charged with reviewing the best available science to ensure sustainability of the species. Last year the Commission took a huge step in voting to manage menhaden ecologically by using “Ecological Reference Points (ERPs.)”  This means that, in the future, the ACMFC will not only review science related to the number of menhaden in its habitat, but also its important role in our complex food web as a forage fish.

ASMFC is now holding public hearings across the Mid-Atlantic leading up to a mid-November decision on how and when they should implement ERPs. The ASMFC provided a range of options on the issue (called “Issue 2.6” in the management plan) and asked the public for feedback.

Delaware Nature Society, National Wildlife Federation’s Delaware affiliate, and other Atlantic coast affiliates support Option E, which is based on common sense and best available science. It would provide for our ecosystem’s needs by implementing interim ERPs now while final ERPs are set five or six years down the road.

We attended Delaware’s public meeting in Dover in September and were thrilled to see so many individuals from every corner of the state stand up and support Option E. Recreational fishermen, conservationists, community leaders, and advocates for children in nature all agreed at our Delaware hearing – managing menhaden through Option E of Issue 2.6 of the Menhaden Management Plan NOW is the best option for our environment, our economy and future generations.

If you were unable to attend a public hearing in your state, there’s still time to act. You can submit your public comments to with “Menhaden Draft Amendment 3” in the subject line and let the ASMFC know you support Option E in Issue 2.6.  Comments are being accepted until 5:00p.m. on October 24, 2017 – Please act now!

About the Author

Chris Klarich joined Delaware Nature Society in May 2017 as the Campaign Manager. He graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in political science in May 2012. Since then, Chris has worked on various campaigns for both environmental advocacy groups and pro-environment candidates.

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