This New York Times story tackles the plight of an east coast bait fish, the Menhaden. The story is hits my family’s way of life so hard, I’m to dusting this blog off to launch into one of those rants I used to enjoy so much.
The situation boils down to this: one company, Omega Protein, is raping your ocean for profits.
This stinky little fish props up the entire east coast fishery and affects the abundance the food you eat and the health of the entire Atlantic ocean. The Menhaden filters algae from our water (1 adult filters 6 gallons of water a minute) and supplies every food fish from the piranha like bluefish to the massive Bluefin tuna with nutrition. The numbers of these valuable food fish have fallen dramatically from both overfishing and lack of a food supply – the Menhaden.
Source: Wikipedia article on Menhaden.
From the article…
For the last decade, one company, Omega Protein of Houston, has been catching 90 percent of the nation’s menhaden. The perniciousness of menhaden removals has been widely enough recognized that 13 of the 15 Atlantic states have banned Omega Protein’s boats from their waters. But the company’s toehold in North Carolina and Virginia (where it has its largest processing plant), and its continued right to fish in federal waters, means a half-billion menhaden are still taken from the ecosystem every year.
The author goes on to describe Omega Protein’s actions as an “egregious privatization of what is essentially a public resource”, and he’s right. I’ve seen their massive, brooding, battleship grey ships and netting practices first hand. Any fishermen on the east cast can tell you about the dwindling numbers of Menhaden in the water over the last 15 years.
The solution? Ban Menhaden fishing in federal waters. Ban netting for it in the last two east coast states that allow it. North Carolina and Virginia. Allow the Menhaden to return, water quality to improve and the vast array of food fish species that rely on the smelly little bugger to grow in population, fueling the recreational fishing industry which would more than make up for the loss of a single company in Houston.
A more immediately attainable solution? Stop buying omega 3 fish oil pills.