Not your ordinary fish tale

Menhaden: The Most Important Fish in the Bay examines the role of a little-known, oily, little fish in the Chesapeake Bay. From its original concept as a classic man-versus-environment story, the film evolved to reflect the complexity of sustaining a menhaden fishery that many diverse interests depend on. The outcome: a story that seamlessly weaves together different perspectives on the menhaden fishing industry and its culture utilizing engaging personal vignettes, scientific data and creative visual storytelling techniques. Techniques include archival footage blended with cinematic live-action footage, musical performances and original, handmade animations.

This film debuts at a particularly opportune time to contribute to the ongoing public conversation about the future of menhaden fisheries along the east coast. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is charged with deciding how to implement a reduction to the menhaden catch beginning in 2013 and is accepting public comments. For more information visit the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission website.


What is a menhaden?

Atlantic menhaden, also known as bunker, pogey and alewives, are forage fish that swim in dense schools in the Chesapeake Bay and in Atlantic coastal waters. As filter feeders, they remove phytoplankton while filtering four gallons of water per minute. As the base of the food chain they are fed on by prize fish such as striped bass and blue fish. Menhaden are used for bait by crabbers, commercial and recreational fishermen. They are also caught and reduced to produce fish meal, fish oil and other commodities.

Based on scientific surveys, conservationists are concerned that too many menhaden are being removed from the Bay which in turn impacts the health of the Bay as well as other fish, wildlife and people who depend on the fish. In contrast, the reduction and bait industries do not agree that the menhaden population is dwindling. Despite their differences, menhaden sustainability is the common ground uniting all these stakeholders in the menhaden debate.