EIDMAN: Don’t increase menhaden catch limits

After what seems to have been a never ending winter, our marine waters have come back to life with large schools of migrating fish. American shad are making their way up the Delaware, Hudson and Raritan rivers, and Alewife herring have arrived in Sandy Hook Bay as flocks of gannets dive upon them.

Schools of adult Atlantic menhaden (aka bunker), the “most important fish in the sea,” have also moved into the warm tidal backwaters of the bays and rivers of central Jersey. And as the old timers say, “when the forsythia come into bloom, stripers shall loom.”

Migration is an important part of the life cycle of these “forage” species, and it represents an essential component of the larger ecosystem, since these fish are the foundation of the marine food web. Many popular inshore game fish in New Jersey rely on these forage fish as a source of nutrition. Striped bass, summer flounder (fluke), bluefish, weakfish all count on menhaden to migrate in and out of our local waterways.

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