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The Menhaden: Fish in a Coal Mine?

Here’s one green initiative Via Meadia supports: tackling the global problem of overfishing. The depletion of key species threatens the global food supply (and a vital source of protein for the poor) and given the speed at which overfished species can collapse it is the single most urgent environmental problem before us.

As the NYT reports, the menhaden is a fish not normally found on a plate in a restaurant but it is vital to the ecosystem and has been overharvested to the point of population collapse. Now it has some protection, in the US, from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission:

Millions of pounds of menhaden are caught along the Atlantic Seaboard each year, most by Omega Protein, a company that grinds it and reduces it to fish meal and oil that goes into fertilizer, feed for livestock and farmed fish, pet food and even dietary supplements. But menhaden — which is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and is also known as bunker or pogy, depending where you live — is also an ecological building block, serving as a crucial food for larger fish like tuna, striped bass and bluefish, as well as birds and marine mammals.

Menhaden, also known as mossbunker, bunker, and pogy, and Brevoortia patronus

Whether the fish is pretty and delicious – like tuna – or creepy and delicious – like the Patagonian toothfish (also known as the Chilean seabass) – or marginally edible but still important – like the menhadan – overfishing threatens a vital resource.

We need a strong environmental movement and we need a green voice in the government.  Hopefully over time greens will get better at developing workable goals and appropriate policy recommendations on complicated issues like climate change; hopefully also more energy will go to problems like the protection of coral reefs and endangered fisheries where aroused public opinion can make an important difference.

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  • Scott

    I find your posts longing for a strong but more rational environmental movement among your most compelling. It would be interesting to read a profile of an environmental group meeting such a standard. There must be one out there, right?

  • Luke Lea

    @ – “Here’s one green initiative Via Meadia supports: tackling the global problem of overfishing.”

    Apart from global warming, it would be interesting to see a list of environmental initiatives you DON’T support. And maybe another column of the ones you do. E.g. in which column would you put clean air, clean water, acid rain, arsenic, radiation exposure, genetically modified foods, saving endangered species (snail darter vs. lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), etc.? On what principle do you decide?

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