This post comes from Curt Johnson, Executive Director of the Save the Sound program.
I have menhaden to thank for a magical day back in August.
One day back in August, I arrived at the dock in my hometown on the coast of Long Island Sound to find a stunning great blue heron. The magnificent bird stood stock still until it thrust its head upwards and I spotted a small, silvery fish held tight in its bill. I loaded my boat up with fishing gear and started rowing my way into the Sound. On my journey I spotted a female osprey flying overhead, laden with an adult silvery fish, which I recognized as menhaden.
I found a calm spot to drift. With my second cast boom, I received a surprise. I still recall the thrill of a 12-pound bluefish dragging my rowboat around the reef during a charged 15-minute light-gear struggle. Unlike the other bluefish I encountered that day, this one was special: it didn’t get away!
As I scaled the bluefish, an abundance of silverside and mummichog fish gathered around to feast on the scraps of my catch. After I’d cut off the first fillet, I notice the gut of bluefish was packed with pieces of menhaden.
It’s not a stretch to say that an abundance of menhaden created the day’s magic. The foot-long adult menhaden fed the mother osprey and her babies. The year’s young menhaden, just a few inches long, darkened the river and grabbed the attention of that great blue heron. Their abundance allowed other little silversides and mummichog schools to swell, preventing them from being fed down by other species, helping restore balance in the local ecosystem.
The menhaden magic was seen at other points during the summer with the return of humpback whales, which have swum into the Sound the past couple years, chasing the adult menhaden.
Abundant nature – it’s what we all wish for. An abundance of menhaden means a resilient web of life for your Sound.
With an abundance of menhaden, the whole ecosystem of the Sound wins – from whales to great blue herons and even tiny silversides. I urge you to join me in telling the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to support the conservation of menhaden today. Join Save the Sound, and conserve for abundance.
Two ways to take action:
- Submit your comment of support through January 4, 2017
- Attend an upcoming public hearing:
December 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
CT DEEP Boating Education Center
333 Ferry Road, Old Lyme, CT
Four reasons to manage menhaden for abundance:
- More menhaden = more Long Island Sound wildlife! The Long Island Sound wildlife we LOVE–from seals to ospreys, great blue herons to striped bass–feed on menhaden.
- Bring back the whales! Humpback whales have been spotted in the Sound for the past two summers, marking their return for the first time in centuries. They were chasing and feeding on replenished menhaden schools.
- Menhaden are nature’s Long Island Sound filters! These fish filter out floating algae blooms, helping keep your Sound beautiful, healthy, full of oxygen, and free of dead zones.
- Menhaden schools are beautiful. Thousands of little yellow fins sculling along the Sound’s surface make for an amazing sight!
“We are finally saying that we value this fish not just for what it provides when it is taken out of the ocean, but for what it provides when it is kept in the ocean.” – Joseph Gordon, manager of mid-Atlantic Ocean Conservation for the Pew Charitable Trusts, quoted in the New York Times.