The level of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay is at 8 percent of what it would be if people weren't fishing it; now, fishing regulators are limiting the catch to try to rebuilt the population. Pictured above is a menhaden fish kill in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
Fisheries regulators have cut harvest limits for menhaden, a small fish with a big ecological role in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has voted to set new fishing limits for menhaden. Menhaden are small, oily fish, and while people don't usually eat them, just about everything else does: eagles, ospreys, striped bass. That's why biologists call them a foundational species. Humans use them for fish oil, bait, and animal feed.
But the fish has reached it's lowest recorded population level ever, at roughly 8 percent of what it would be if humans weren't fishing for it. So the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted to cut the annual harvest by 37 percent, and set a new population target.
Out of 14 states, only New Jersey and Virginia voted against raising long term population targets. One of the country's largest menhaden processing plants is located in Reedville, Va. in the Northern Neck.