Menhaden: Learn this word.

And listen to this amazing, terrifying podcast at Electric Politics (h/t, SPK).

Menhaden is a species of fish that lives on the USA’s East Coast and the Gulf Coast. Menhaden are, according to “eminent literary expert and historian of American culture” Dr. H. Bruce Franklin, The Most Important Fish in the Sea. That’s the name of his book (available at Amazon).

In the podcast interview (and in his book) Franklin describes a fish that forms a linchpin of coastal ocean ecology. Decades ago, vast schools of menhaden filtered coastal waters to crystal clarity, while consuming enormous amounts of algae and then providing food for countless other animals.

Not anymore.

Today the populations of menhaden have been reduced to a small fraction of their former vast numbers, and now a company called Omega Protein is rapidly fishing this species completely out of existence. As a result of their oceanic strip-mining, giant algal blooms are spreading, dying, then sinking to the bottom, eaten by anaerobic bacteria that deplete the water of all oxygen.

Dead zones.

Now for a shocking (/snark) connection: Houston-based Omega Protein is a new name for an older company – Zapata Oil – George Bush the elder’s company! 😀 As you might expect from a Bush-run company, they have zero sense of environmental responsibility. Money is all that matters, and they don’t even care if they fish themselves right out of business, much less destroy all life in the waters of the Eastern Seaboard. 😀

Above: Menhaden with their mouths open, busily filtering algae from the water. What thanks do they get? Everybody else eats them! (Photo: Gene Helfman)

Bluefish, tuna, bass, swordfish, crabs, sea birds, and some marine mammals feed furiously on menhaden because they are rich in omega3 fatty acids. Once the menhaden are gone, so too are all these animals.

On top of that, without menhaden to eat the algae, the water becomes cloudy (and sometimes toxic), which blocks sunlight to oxygen-producing plants like seaweed.

Dead zones.

Even with all these negative repercussions, the outlook potentially is good. Menhaden is an incredibly fertile species. Because so many other species prey upon them, they breed very quickly, and so potentially they could re-stock themselves in a relatively short time. That is, if they aren’t driven to extinction.

The terribly bad news is that Omega Protein is a BushCo operation, thus they have installed the usual industry cronies in the fishery regulatory agency.

Bushes have this problem: They think they own the world, and nobody else has even a right to complain if they plunder the planet and leave a smoking ruin in their wake. It’s not just what they do; it’s what they are. The Bush family is worse than the Nazis; they’re the people who financed the Nazis.

Here’s some more information on menhaden, along with contact information:

Simply put, Omega Protein must stop harvesting menhaden for several years. We all know that you can’t trust Bushes to follow regulations (or – HA – to regulate themselves!). All we need to do is quit wiping out this species for a handful of years, and it will come back all on its own. BushCo doesn’t care, so we have to force the issue to keep the whole Eastern Seaboard from becoming one big dead zone. Add that to Psycho Smiley’s list of happy horrors. 😀

Amazon link:

===================LINKS UPDATE======================
Chesapeake Bay fisheries management plan (FMP) is the document that caps fishing for particular species.
Believe it or not, a couple Republicans (Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland and Jim Saxton of New Jersey) have sponsored a complete ban on industrial fishing for menhaden, House Bills 3840 and 3841.

Useful Links: Some of these actually took some googling…
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (lotsa good links here!)

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
Hey, there’s a photo of all those nice people!

2007 review of compliance for menhaden fishery 8-pg pdf.

Here’s some news about recent congressional legislation and who is involved:

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • And I thought my post above on the Bear Stearns bailout was depressing.

    The only thing this story lacks is some Bush double speak. I wouldn’t be surprised if Omega Protein changes its name someday to Menhaden Preservation, Inc.

  • ye gads. and lest i fail to mention, thanks for this post.

    (…a scene from ‘Where The Buffalo Roam’ comes to mind where the Nixon character says to Thompson, “F**k the doomed.”…)

  • This guy 😀

    It’s a smiley that usually means “I’m really happy.” However, in the context of a Bush admin asshole writing a cheery email to a co-conspirator about how they’re going to screw somebody illegally, the smiley takes on a psychotic and sinister meaning.

    I just googled it, and found that I’m late to this party.
    Good times for Smiley! 😀

  • Googled it, and found this story.

    No quick and easy answer for this one. The Pacific dead zones are caused by the upwelling of oxygen-deprived water that is stirred up by winds.

    Scientists studying a 70-mile-long zone of oxygen-depleted water along the Continental Shelf between Florence and Lincoln City have concluded it is being caused by explosive blooms of tiny plants known as phytoplankton, which die and sink to the bottom.

    The phytoplankton are eaten by bacteria, which use up the oxygen in the water. The recurring phytoplankton blooms are triggered by north winds generating a rollover of the water column in a process known as upwelling.

    “We are seeing wild swings from year to year in the timing and duration of the winds that are favorable for upwelling,” Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine ecology at Oregon State and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, said from Corvallis. “This increased variability in the winds is consistent with what we would expect under climate change.”

    The article didn’t discuss any species of fish that eats the plankton. I’m sure menhaden would be happy to help…
    Good times for Smiley! 😀

  • From tomorrow’s CSM

    Los Angeles – Dave Bitts, a Eureka-based salmon trawler for more than 30 years, says he could lose half his yearly income, and coastal towns from Oregon to the Mexico border will lose a mainstay of their economy and culture.

    Savina Duran, manager of Sea Harvest restaurant in Moss Landing, Calif., says diners will have to forgo a hot-ticket menu choice – wild, fresh, local salmon – for cheaper, farm-grown varieties from elsewhere.

    Steve Scheiblauer, harbor master for Monterey, Calif., says the town could lose the quaintness of a coastal California fishing village as fleets of fishing boats disappear from the harbor.

    Their concerns come with the cutback – and possible shutdown – of ocean salmon fishing in California and Oregon. It could happen because US government assessments showed the spawning chinook at half the minimum number needed for current statewide industry demand.

    A total shutdown of salmon fishing – one of three options to be decided by April 6 – would be the biggest fishing closure in West Coast history, experts say.

    “The status of Sacramento [River] fall chinook has suddenly collapsed to an unprecedented low level,” says Donald Hansen, chairman of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) – a quasifederal body that assesses and recommends environmental policy to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The effect on California and Oregon salmon fisheries is a disaster by any definition.”

    After warning that steps would be taken, the PFMC on Friday released three options. One includes minimal salmon fishing for scientific study; a second, small fishing ranges and short seasons shared by recreationalists and commercial fishermen; a third, a ban on salmon fishing altogether from Cape Falcon, Ore., to the American-Mexican border for a year.

    “No matter which option is ultimately chosen, it is clear that salmon fishing on America’s West Coast is about to be severely limited,” says Peter Dygert, a fishery biologist with NOAA.

    Environmentalists, fishing groups, and regulators agree that a slew of factors have contributed to the decline of salmon in the past century. Those include diversions of fresh water of the state’s northern rivers to the populated south, pollution, habitat loss, changes in hatchery operations, and the proliferation of predators such as sea lions.

    There’s a bit more…

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