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Daily News Analysis

Atlantic Menhaden

13th July, 2023 Environment

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  • There are declining reproductive rates of ospreys, a large raptor.
  • Researchers believe that overfishing of Menhaden, a tiny fish of Atlantic system, is the root cause for this.

Other Details

  • The reproductive numbers of the ospreys were found to be the lowest in last 50 years.
  • Breeding was declined as the favorite food of this bird, Atlantic menhaden, was depleted.

Menhaden Fish

  • This tiny silver color fish serves as the primary food source for many birds and big fishes of the ocean.
  • There is a distinct black shoulder spot behind the gill opening of this fish.
  • They can grow upto 15 inches and may weigh about a pound.
  • This species is also known by the scientific name Brevoortia tyrannus and belongs to Clupeidae family.
  • Apart from overfishing other cause of decline in their population is predation and diseases.
  • They are mainly found in East Atlantic coastal and estuarine waters from Nova Scotia to northern Florida.

Importance of this fish

  • In the coastal water ecosystem it plays a crucial role in its sustainability.
  • It can feed variety of organisms like –
    • Fish - striped bass and weakfish.
    • Other marine animals - whales and dolphins.
    • Birds - Bald eagles, Great blue herons & brown pelicans.
  • These fishes are good source of omega-3 fatty acids and contribute to nutrition security.
  • They help in filtration of large quantities of ocean water.
  • These fishes can also be used as fertilizers and animal feed.


  • Overfishing by commercial fishing industry for their use in Food products like fish oil, fish meal etc. especially around Chesapeake Bay.
  • They are also caught for their use as bait for crabs and lobsters.
  • Across Atlantic coast, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission allowed 20% more fishing, which is 233,550 metric tons, than in previous years two years.
  • It may lead to ecosystem degradation in the associated coastal areas and harm biodiversity for instance –
  • It will make survival of Osprey and striped bass hard.
  • Many species, who depend on menhaden for their food security, may disappear.
  • It may harm the recreational fishing industry of the region for instance Virginia.

Contrasting views on depletion of menhaden

  • The fishing limit set for Chesapeake Bay is one of the lowest in the 150-year history.
  • The claim of overfishing has no scientific basis.

What could be done?

  • Lowering of the limit to fish in the affected ocean areas.
  • Emergency regulations to curb excessive fishing.
  • Along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, stocks of this fish species should be rebuilt.
  • The success of methods, which resulted in increasing number of menhaden in other areas, could be applied in Chesapeake Bay. It could be achieved by temporarily cutting down the existing coastwide fish catch by 20%.

Conservation Status

  • This species was assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2015.
  • This is listed as a Least Concern fish species.

Must Read Article:

Fish Kill



Consider the following statements about Atlantic Menhaden:

1. It is listed as a vulnerable fish species in the red list of IUCN.

2. Depletion of the population of Atlantic menhaden affected the breeding of ospreys.

Which of the statements given above is/are incorrect?

A. 1 only

B. 2 only

C. Both 1 and 2

D. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: (A)