New Jersey Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Conservation Foundation Menu
NJCF Homepage Contact Us Donate Events Search NJCF
New Jersey Land Conservation Organization
Donate to New Jersey Conservation Foundation
State We're In New Jersey Conservation Foundation Blog
Save menhaden, a humble but mighty fish
10/19/2017 Volume XLVII, No. 42

Chances are, you haven’t heard much about the saltwater fish known as menhaden, or bunker. Recreational fishermen don’t catch them, you won’t find them on a menu, and you’re unlikely to see them on a poster or T-shirt.

But if you’ve ever seen an osprey flying overhead with a fish in its talons or a huge humpback whale breaching, you probably have the humble menhaden to thank!

Menhaden is what’s known as a “keystone” species, one that plays an exceptionally important role in the food chain. If a keystone species is lost, the ecosystem changes dramatically or ceases to function, causing a domino effect on other species.

Menhaden are found up and down the Atlantic coast, from Maine to Florida. They’re small, bony and oily, averaging 15 inches in length, and they eat by filtering plankton from the water.

Many species depend on menhaden for food: birds like ospreys, bald eagles, common loons, cormorants and northern gannets; marine mammals like humpback whales, harbor seals and dolphins; and fish like striped bass, tuna, bluefish, weakfish, sharks, and flounder.

Menhaden is valuable to the commercial fishing industry, which nets the fish for two main purposes. About 80 percent is sold to the “reduction” industry and processed for fertilizer, fish meal and nutritional supplements like omega 3 fish oil. The rest of is sold as bait for crabs, lobsters and sport fishing.

With so much depending on this one fish, caution is needed to ensure menhaden are not over-harvested and remain available to wildlife.

The resurgence of once-rare species like ospreys, bald eagles and humpback whales along the New Jersey coast has been credited in large part to abundant menhaden.

According to biologist Ben Wurst of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, menhaden are critical food sources for osprey chicks. During osprey nesting surveys conducted along the Atlantic coast, he said, evidence of menhaden was found in almost all nests.

 “With healthy numbers of menhaden, the osprey population will remain stable. With less, the osprey population will decline,” said Wurst.

At one time, New Jersey’s osprey population was down to only 50 nesting pairs due to the pesticide DDT and habitat loss. But in recent years the population has rebounded to about 600 nesting pairs, a true conservation success story.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will vote in November on a management plan for menhaden - essentially deciding how much of this keystone species should remain available for larger fish, marine mammals and coastal birds.

The Commission is accepting public comments on a draft amendment to the menhaden fishery plan until the end of the business day next Tuesday, Oct. 24. The amendment proposes a range of methods to determine if menhaden are overfished and, hence, if commercial fishing limits should be reduced.

To maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem and food web, the best method is “Option E,” which will help ensure that menhaden are responsibly managed to benefit both humans and wildlife. This option recognizes the growing need of other species – including those on the rebound – for a steady food source.

“We need to manage our fisheries recognizing all the ecological interconnections that exist,” said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal protection organization based in Sandy Hook. “The health of the menhaden population is directly related to the health of osprey, whales and other ocean wildlife. We need to make our decisions aware of the fact that we can’t have one without the other.”

Speak up for menhaden – and all of the species that rely on this keystone fish! Please contact the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and urge members to choose Option E in Section 2.6 of Amendment 3's draft to the Atlantic menhaden’s Fishery Management Plan, and support ecosystem-based management.

Email the Commission at, and include “Draft Amendment 3” in the subject line. You can also go to the National Audubon Society’s action center at

To view the menhaden fishery plan, go to

And for more information on preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at



NJ Natural Lands Trust celebrates 50 years

Must love bats!

Move and improve your health!

Renewable energy: Save money and our land, water, air and health

Speak up for endangered species!

Save the bugs!

Check out New Jersey's fall bird migration

A little bit of respect...for native plants!

Explore New Jersey's wildflower meadows

All aboard floating classrooms

Catch the Perseids meteor shower!

Check out the 'fun' in fungi

Too hot to think? Studies shows heat affects your brain

Love NJ's outdoors? Take action now!

New Jersey's official reptile, the bog turtle

Sea level rise and New Jersey: Not perfect together

These New Jersey plants have an appetite for insects

Explore the Pine Barrens through paddles, hikes and tours

Like to jog? 'Plog' instead and keep NJ clean

Love Jersey fruit? Thank our native pollinators!

Good news for globally rare swamp pink lilies

Say cheese! Remote cameras aid wildlife research

Begone, single-use plastic bags!

3,000 birds and counting for 'bluebird grandfather'

The Pine Barrens gets some help from its friends

A clean energy future for New Jersey

Cowtown and rare grassland birds, perfect together

Fight light pollution during International Dark Sky Week

New film tells story of how Petty's Island was saved

Ten years of nipping invasive species in the bud

Welcome spring in a county park

Go for a walk and feel better!

Grab a friend and go outside

Recycle your way to zero waste!

Last call for winter wildlife watching on Jersey coast

Without its 'understory' layer, the forest will collapse

From whale songs to poetry, a remarkable journey

A cleaner, greener New Jersey

Let's keep New Jersey the Garden State, not the Pipeline State

New Jersey's winter hikes

'Trees don't vote' but Byrne saved Pine Barrens anyway

Governor-elect Murphy should set new course on the environment

Protect soils to keep the garden in our state

Clean, plentiful water is New Jersey's lifeblood

A breath of fresh air for New Jersey?

Keep Liberty State Park free and open

A green agenda for Governor-elect Murphy

Life, liberty ... and a clean environment

New Jersey's aging water infrastructure

The land before time: NJ's Kittatinny Ridge & Valley


October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011


New Jersey Conservation Foundation on FacebookNew Jersey Conservation Foundation on TwitterNew Jersey Conservation Foundation on FlickrNew Jersey Conservation Foundation YouTube ChannelShare      
New Jersey Conservation Foundation           Bamboo Brook, 170 Longview Road, Far Hills, NJ 07931           908-234-1225 
home  | nj statewide eventscontact us  |  sitemap  |  privacy policy  |  DONATE