Protect ocean's most vital fish: menhaden

On Friday the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is set to cast crucial votes on the future of the Atlantic menhaden, sometimes called the most important fish in the sea. Small, bony and oily, the Atlantic Menhaden doesn't make much of a meal for people, but it is an important food source for fish, marine mammals and seabirds.

The industrial fishing fleet takes menhaden by the hundreds of millions in what's called a "reduction" fishery: they're "reduced" by grinding and boiling into a variety of products including fertilizer and feed for livestock and aquaculture. It's the East Coast's largest fishery by weight, yet it is largely unregulated. There is still no limit on how many menhaden can be caught at sea. Over the past three decades, the Atlantic menhaden population has plunged 90 percent to historically low levels.

As a charter boat captain and fisherman with nearly 40 years of experience on the water, I have witnessed the decline of many fish species that depend on Menhaden for sustenance.

I ask that the Connecticut commissioners of the ASMFC vote to enact a plan that will end overfishing of Atlantic Menhaden, "the most important fish in the sea."

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