Menhaden has been called “the most important fish in the sea,” but the bony little fish barely registers on most people’s consciousness. And, some fishermen and scientists say that the fish, also known as bunker, is barely registering on fish sonar or in their nets, at least compared to its historical abundance — though that is hotly contested by others. Menhaden is a staple of sport fishing as bait and chum, but its even more central to one of the largest commercial fisheries on the East Coast, which captures large quantities of the fish and grinds it down into fishmeal, a key part of the diet of chicken and cows we eat, and fish oil, which is one of the most popular food-additives out there. Now, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is about to put new rules in place for the menhaden fishery, and the men and women who pursue the fish are weighing in on them. Joining us to make sense of the dispute, and why we should care about this easily overlooked fish, are H. BRUCE FRANKLIN, a Rutgers English professor whose 2008 book, The Most Important Fish in the Sea, made its case for menhaden right there in the title. We’ll also be joined by Capt. PAUL EIDMAN, who runs Reel Therapy fishing charters out of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and founded Menhaden Defenders to promote conservation-minded angling and unity within the recreational fishing community. And we’ll hear from JEFF KAELIN, of Cape May-based Lund’s Fisheries, one of the largest seafood companies on the Eastern Seaboard, and an officer with the Sustainable Fisheries Coalition.
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