Menhaden  Photo by CBF StaffMenhaden  Photo by CBF Staff

Atlantic Menhaden: Disappearing at an Alarming Rate

Menhaden by the Numbers

70%
   
     The amount of an adult rockfish's diet historically filled by menhaden.
8%
   
     The amount of an adult rockfish's diet currently filled by menhaden. 
     The rockfish population in the Chesapeake Bay is showing signs of malnourishment
     and increasing mortality.
     
75%
   
     The amount of an osprey nestling's diet filled by menhaden in the 1980s.
28%
   
     The amount of an osprey nestling's diet filled by menhaden today
     Though the number of nests throughout the Bay region has improved, nestling
     mortality is as high as it was in the DDT era.
     
65%
   
     The annual removal of adult menhaden from East Coast waters.
2,500
   
     The number of jobs supported by menhaden-dependent species in Virginia alone.
$236
   
     In millions, the total amount fishing for menhaden-dependent species contributes to
     Virginia's economy.
     
8%
   
     The current Atlantic menhaden population compared against historical levels.

Chart showing menhaden population between 1955 and 2010
Source: ASMFC Stock Assessment Data

 

How Important are Menhaden to the Health and Economy of the Bay? 

  • Menhaden feed on plankton, filtering it from the water.
  • Menhaden are a valuable food source for a wide variety of fish including striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder, and weakfish; also for marine mammals and many sea birds including ospreys, pelicans, and loons.
  • Menhaden have declined dramatically in the diet of striped bass, and poor nutrition has been linked to striper disease. The best available science (called a "benchmark stock assessment") by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has shown that the menhaden population is at its lowest recorded level.
  • ASMFC's benchmark assessment has been validated by an independent peer review of fisheries scientists.
  • According to the benchmark, menhaden are currently being overfished, and overfishing occurred in 32 of the last 54 years.
  • The menhaden population currently is only eight percent of what it would be if there were no pressure from fishing, and the independent scientists urged steps to boost the population.

 

Learn more about menhaden. >>

Read our Q&A with CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough on our historic opportunity to save the menhaden. >>

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