[Marxism] Fwd: Not Just Another Stinky Fish - The New York Times

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 26 07:31:34 MDT 2016

Branford, Conn. — In a bay near this coastal town, the sea was boiling 
with hundreds of herring-size shiners leaping to flee a marauding squad 
of bluefish. “These waters are coming back,” Bren Smith yelled above the 
shrieking din, as sea gulls plunged near our boat, scooping up fish. Mr. 
Smith grows seaweed and shellfish in Long Island Sound, and he says he’s 
seen a lot more action out here recently.

What thrilled me about this scene was that I was witnessing what happens 
when fishery managers set strict catch limits to stop overfishing.

Those leaping silvery fish were menhaden, also known as bunker, or 
pogies. To Mr. Smith and other fishermen I spoke to, there are 
encouraging signs that the menhaden population along the Atlantic Coast 
is healthy after decades of intensive commercial exploitation. Other sea 
creatures whose lives are intertwined with them also seem to be doing 
well. Sharks, whales, bluefish, tuna, osprey and other predators depend 
in part on these fish.

“There’s all this life that wasn’t there before,” John McMurray, who 
captains his own charter boat, told me. He said it’s been a boon for his 
sports fishing business off Long Island: “In the past four years, 
striped bass fishing has gotten a lot better, bluefish as well. We’re 
even getting bluefin tuna coming inshore to feed on the schools of 

Menhaden are filter feeders. They swim in vast schools of hundreds of 
thousands of fish. Mouths agape as they feed, menhaden are living vacuum 
cleaners sucking up algae blooms that deplete inshore waters of oxygen 
and create biological deserts in the sea. A single adult menhaden can 
clean four to seven gallons of water in a minute.


With its putrid smell, bony flesh and rancid oily taste, the menhaden 
would seem the least likely candidate for “The Most Important Fish in 
the Sea,” the title of H. Bruce Franklin’s brilliant new 
environmentalist study. But Franklin is not being ironic. The menhaden 
is the most important fish in the sea if you understand its ecological 

While it is understandable that groups like Greenpeace would take up the 
cause of sea creatures at the top of the food chain, like the great 
whales or the bluefin tuna, Franklin understands that without the easily 
dismissed menhaden, those above it on the food chain do not stand a 
chance. This includes the human race as well, since the menhaden is 
particularly suited to cleaning up plankton-ridden waters. As one of the 
few marine specimens that thrive on microscopic plant life or 
phyloplanton, it is uniquely positioned to purify waters that have 
become virtual swamps as a result of the massive influx of 
nitrogen-based fertilizers from farms, lawns and golf courses. With much 
of the Gulf of Mexico having been turned into a vast dead zone by 
fertilizer run-off from the Mississippi River, there is a drastic need 
for the humble menhaden.


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