Overfishing Menhaden Impacts Larger Fish In Md. Waters

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Odds are it’s never been on your dinner plate, but it’s helped get other fish there.

Alex DeMetrick reports, menhaden are near the bottom of the food chain, and it makes them important enough to rescue from overfishing.

Eighty percent of the menhaden caught on the East coast are harvested in Virginia’s part of the Chesapeake.

Federal regulators say menhaden numbers are so low, the catch must be reduced by almost 40 percent.

“A fish so ecologically important, being down so far, has ramifications for the whole coastal ecosystem,” Bill Goldsborough, Chesapeake BayFoundation scientist said.

“Having more menhaden in the water is good for all the predators, not only striped bass but osprey, the blue fish,” Lynn Fegley assistant director of DNR fisheries said, “It’s a pretty valuable little fish.”

Used as bait, menhaden keep Maryland’s crab industry working.

The factory fishing in Virginia sells the fish for pet food and oil used in vitamin supplements. So many are taken, the larger fish in Maryland waters are impacted.

“Lack of menhaden means striped bass aren’t getting enough to eat, they’re getting sick and aren’t living as long, ” Goldsborough said.

“The number of menhaden we estimate to be in the ocean is lower now than it has been in 50 years,” Fegley said, “We’ve never seen numbers this low.”

The O’Malley administration lobbied other states to set the new fishing limits. Virginia opposed the high cut-back.

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