Tiny Fish, Mighty Purpose

How Baitfish Drive Sportfishing

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If you want great sportfishing,
you need healthy forage fish

Like other small but critically important forage fish, menhaden play a central role in the marine food web. These tiny, oily baitfish are an essential food source for larger fish species, including some of the most economically important sportfish: striped bass, bluefin tuna, bluefish, redfish, speckled trout, weakfish, tarpon, summer flounder, and sharks. Whales, dolphins, seabirds, and other marine species also consume menhaden in large quantities. Menhaden also regulate water quality by filtering harmful nutrients as they feed.

But not all menhaden are managed with consideration for their vital role in coastal ecosystems.

In fact, commercial harvest of menhaden has increased to meet the demand of what’s called a “reduction fishery,” which reduces billions of menhaden into livestock feed, fish oil, fish meal, fertilizers, cosmetics, and other products. More menhaden are commercially harvested each year than any other fish in the lower 48 states—more than a million are caught per trip and more than a billion metric tons are caught per year, putting predators at risk and undermining the health of the marine ecosystem.

This is why sportsmen and women are calling for federal fisheries managers to change their approach to managing forage fish like menhaden.

Serving A Larger Purpose To The Ecosystem

If nothing changes, excessive removal of these important forage fish can damage our coastal ecosystems and harm America’s outdoor recreation economy. Here’s how leaving more menhaden in the water for predators would benefit anglers and communities that rely on recreational fishing.

What We're Doing About It

TRCP has partnered with other leading voices in the recreational fishing sector—including the American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, and National Marine Manufacturers Association—to encourage fisheries managers to leave more menhaden in the water for gamefish and protect sensitive ecosystems from industrial fishing.

In the Gulf, our goals include building upon an existing coalition of concerned organizations, establishing an ecological management model for menhaden over the next three years, and supporting state legislation and policies that prioritize menhaden conservation and protect sensitive habitat from damage during menhaden harvest activities.  

In the Atlantic—where anglers have already been successful at advocating for ecological reference points in menhaden management and a new menhaden advisory committee—our goals include supporting the implementation of the new management model to benefit striped bass populations and pushing for additional conservation measures for menhaden and other forage species. 

Our Coalition


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