Hampton Roads a push to protect small fish and everything that eats them

Perhaps the biggest surprise about menhaden – given that they’re often called the most important fish in the ocean – is that, until five years ago, there was effectively no cap on how many of them could be harvested along the Atlantic coast.

Now the same agency that adopted that quota in hopes of saving the little, bony, oily fish is moving toward another big change.

This one that will take into the account the well being of the many animals – from ospreys to striped bass to humpback whales – that depend on menhaden.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission regulates catches in state waters close to shore from Maine to Florida. Its new rules focusing on what it calls “the ecological role of menhaden” could help reshape the coastal environment for the better, said Chris Moore, a senior scientist for the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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