Five Facts about Menhaden

Atlantic menhaden are an important part of their ecosystems.

Published July 13, 2017

These small silver fish can frequently be seen swimming around the Inner Harbor just below the surface, but not many people know about them. Here are five facts about the Atlantic menhaden that show how special these fish are!

menhaden-fish

Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke. 

  1. Atlantic menhaden are filter feeders. They feed on algae and zooplankton, and clean the water they filter through their digestive system. One adult menhaden can clean four to six gallons of water in a minute!
  2. Humans can’t eat menhaden because they are too oily. Many other animals do, though! Striped bass, bluefish, osprey and eagles rely on menhaden for food.
  3. Atlantic menhaden are very popular fish! They are the number one catch in the Chesapeake Bay and rank second in the United States.
  4. Menhaden are more than food! After being processed into fish meal and oil, they are used in health supplements, lipsticks and paints.
  5. Humans have used menhaden for hundreds of years. Native Americans and European settlers used menhaden as fertilizer to help corn grow.

Visit aqua.org/care/Baltimore to learn more about what is being done in our own Harbor to help important species like the Atlantic menhaden.

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