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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.

Where We Work

The TRCP has partnered with other leading voices in the recreational fishing sector—including the American Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, and others—to encourage fisheries managers to leave more menhaden in the water for gamefish and protect sensitive ecosystems from industrial fishing wherever this practice is still taking place. Click on an area of focus to see our most recent efforts and get involved.

  • Atlantic Coast

    The TRCP has been working to improve management of Atlantic menhaden since 2017, and our community has already secured some important wins.

    After years of advocacy from anglers and recreational fishing business leaders, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted unanimously in August 2020 to consider “ecological reference points” in menhaden management and account for the small baitfish’s impact on fish all the way up the food chain. This is key for our recreational fishing opportunities, because studies show that menhaden reduction fishing contributes to a nearly 30-percent decline in striped bass numbers. At the urging of anglers, the Commission also created a new menhaden advisory committee and voted to reduce the Atlantic menhaden quota by 10 percent.

    Now, our efforts 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.

    Atlantic

Our Coalition

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