Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus)- Information and Fishery  


New York Times Op Ed Menhaden Comment

In November 2016, we sent a comment to the New York Times in response to an Op Ed. article by Richard Schiffman, Not Just Another Stinky Fish.


When Dr. Everett left the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as Chief of the Research Division in 2002, he had several science papers on his To-Do list and also wanted to do some consulting. Ultimately the science papers had to take a back seat while his consulting company (Ocean Associates, Inc.) grew. During that growth period, he enlisted a noted researcher to be on his menhaden scientific paper team. This researcher mentioned that menhaden don’t eat blue crabs - "When they get one in their mouth they shake violently.” The researcher was asked how many crabs were left alive in the tank at the end of the day and he said “none.” The crabs were likely being broken up because of their spines. He said his fish were medium-sized adults.


When Dr. Everett testified before the House of Representatives, a trophy menhaden was on the table before the committee. Its mouth was about 5 inches across and the fish had weighed several pounds. It had not likely eaten much algae for it's last 15 years.


Our NYT transmittal follows:


To the Editor:


Re “Not Just Another Stinky Fish” (Oct 26, 2016):


Menhaden are a key food for many species yet their ecological role is more complex than Mr. Schiffman suggests. While these fish do filter large volumes of water - a presumed benefit for the Chesapeake Bay where excessive algae diminish water quality, they feed on algae efficiently only when very young. Menhaden are omnivorous, likely consuming anything that fits in their large mouths. When young, they eat both algae and animals, such as small crustaceans, that eat algae. Migrating from bays to the ocean in autumn when they are 9 months old, menhaden permanently shift to a primary diet of animal life. Maintaining high numbers of menhaden that reach 17 years and over 15 inches, and filter their habitat nearly 24/7, might not always be in the best interest of important species that start life in the water column as eggs, larvae and juveniles, including blue crabs, oysters, lobsters and many sport fish—and menhaden. The implication of this diet on fisheries management is important.


Dr. John T. Everett and Mary Means Odum



For reviewers:


Dr. Everett is President and MS. Odum is Director of Science Programs at


Ocean Associates, Incorporated

4007 N. Abingdon Street

Arlington, Virginia USA 22207

On the web at



Here is a link to a presentation about OAI

and also Dr. Everett’s bio.


This letter is based on a scientific paper in preparation. Most of the material was presented in testimony to Congress. The short Oral  presentation is here:

 and the full testimony is here:


Partial list of references:
Daylander, P.S. and Cerco, C.F. 2010. Integration of a fish bioenergetics model into a spatially explicit water quality model: Application to menhaden in Chesapeake Bay. Ecological Modelling 221: 1922-1933.

Friedland, K. D., Ahrenholz, D.W., Smith, J.W., Manning, M. and Ryan, J. 2006. Sieving functional morphology of the gill raker feeding apparatus of Atlantic menhaden. J. Exp. Zool., 305A: 974–985.

June, F.C. and Carlson. F.T. 1971. Food of young Atlantic menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus, in relation to metamorphosis. Fishery Bulletin 68: 493-512.

Kjelson, M.A., Peters, D.S., Thayer, G.W. and Johnson, G.N. 1975. The general feeding ecology of postlarval fish in the Newport River estuary. Fishery Bulletin 73:137-144.

Lynch, P.D., Brush, M.J., Condon, E.D., and Latour, R.J. 2010. Net removal of nitrogen through ingestion of phytoplankton by Atlantic menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus in Chesapeake Bay. Marine Ecology Progress Series 401: 195-209.

Lynch, P.D., Brush, M.J. and Latour, R.J. 2011. Simulated Short-Term impacts of the Atlantic Menhaden Reduction fishery on Chesapeake Bay Water Quality. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 31: 70-78.

Stoecker, D.K. and Govoni, J.J. 1984. Food selection by young larval Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus). Marine Biology, 80: 299-306.


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This page last updated or reviewed in December 2016