Menhaden, or pogies, are a small, oily fish that play an extremely important role in the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Menhaden spend their short lives swimming in large schools filtering algae out of the water and converting it into their highly nutritious flesh. This provides a crucial link between the primary producers of energy --plants -- and the upper levels of the food chain, including red drum, sharks, dolphins, pelicans, and a host of other sea life that rely on menhaden.
Unfortunately, two companies, Omega Protein and Daybrook Fisheries, catch on average more than one billion pounds of menhaden in the Gulf of Mexico each year. All of these fish are "reduced" into products such as fishmeal and fish oil for animal feed and other industrial uses. In addition to the one billion pounds of menhaden caught by the industry, the industry also catches and kills an estimated ten million pounds of other sea life.
In 2008, GRN and our allies in the “Save our Bait” coalition helped convince the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to recognize the importance of menhaden and cap the amount caught in Texas state waters. This cap was a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to ensure that menhaden stay abundant and fulfill their vital role in the ecosystem. We continue to advocate for state and federal fishery managers in states such as Louisiana and Mississippi to enact common sense reforms that will protect these fish that are so essential to the Gulf’s ecosystem.