Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Matter of Menhaden

Welcome to Menhaden Week!  The little fish is in big trouble and the governing body, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, will vote on the fish’s fate at the end of this week. 

Menhaden is a little fish but a power pack of nutrients crucial to feeding bigger fish and mammals.  Also called bunker, bug eyes, fat back, and American sardine, the name menhaden comes from the Native American word Munnawhatteaug, which means "that which manures" (fertilizer).  Native Americans buried the fish next to new plant seedlings to promote growth.

Today, menhaden cannot grow fast enough.  The fish is rapidly disappearing from east coast US waters.  Here's a short video about what's going on and why menhaden matter.

"Atlantic menhaden stocks have declined 86% in the last three decades, due to sustained industrial overfishing.  The commercial menhaden fishery is made up of two sectors, a reduction fishery that comprises approximately 80 percent of landings, and a bait fishery that harvests the remaining 20 percent," according to Menhaden Defenders.

You get a good idea why over 128,000 people ( a new record) wrote the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to ask for catch reductions. 

What can you do to help Atlantic menhaden?

9 Ways to Take Action for Menhaden:

1. Write your ASMFC commissioners.
2. Attend ASMFC meetings. 
3. Attend the meeting in Baltimore this Friday (12/14/12).
4. Write your government.
5. Join menhaden campaigns.
6. Contribute to organizations supporting menhaden.
7. Avoid products containing fishmeal.
8. Write Omega Protein.
9. Go to the beach.

1. Write a note to your state’s Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission members (they decide how many menhaden to take out of the fishery).  Ask them to give menhaden a break.  There are 3 commissioners each for the 15 Atlantic states: ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, and FL.

Click “Commissioners” here to look up your reps and get their email addresses.  

Say whatever you want in your note but you may as well tell them why you love menhaden.  “They’re kinda cute.” or “I like those buggy eyes.” or “Catching striped bass is fun.”  Stuff like that.  Here’s some helpful talking points.

2. Attend the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meetings.  Say something, even if it’s only “I’m from xx (your state) and menhaden are important to me.”  Go ahead, have fun expressing yourself. 

3. Attend the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting in Baltimore this Friday, December 14th.  It’s free and open to the public.  I’ll see you there! 

Where exactly: Best Western Plus Hotel and Conference Center, Chesapeake Room, 5625 O’Donnell Street, Baltimore, Maryland; 410.633.9500.

4. Write your representatives in Congress and your Governor.  Find Senators here.  Find Representatives here.  Tell them menhaden are important and you.  They need to know the importance of this little fish to their voters. 

5. Join menhaden campaigns.  Stay informed, find opportunities to take action, and be inspired.  Pew is leading the charge and Menhaden Defenders are also in the fight with their Join the Battle for the Bunker campaign. 

6. Contribute to organizations like Earthjustice and the Sierra Club who have boots on the ground fighting for this fantastic little fish.  Any amount helps. Your kind generosity is always appreciated.

7. Avoid foods and products that contain fish meal.

8. Write to the Omega Protein company.  Ask them to give menhaden a break.  A serious break. Omega pulls the most menhaden out of the sea – 410 million pounds a year and counting for products like paint, water repellents, dog food, plant fertilizers, and supplements. 

9. Go to the ocean, get on it, get in it, walk along it, gaze at it.  Be refreshed and reminded of what's important.

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