Omega Protein, Inc. (a company you've never heard of) is quickly overfishing the Atlantic menhaden (a species you've never heard of). As a result, a number of fish that you have heard of — striped bass, bluefish, tuna, dolphin, seatrout, and mackerel — as well as the ocean ecosystem as a whole, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Long Island Sound (which you’ve heard of) are suffering.
Menhaden are tiny, bony, oily fish that humans can't eat, but which, according to marine scientists, are "the most important fish in the sea." Menhaden are the main consumers of phytoplankton, and without them, areas like the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound are clogged with algae. They are also a staple food for bigger, tastier fish, who, deprived of menhaden, are growing sad and malnourished.
In the past 25 years, the menhaden population has shrunk from 160 billion to about 20 billion, Alison Fairbrother and Randy Fertel report for Gilt Taste. (If you haven't heard of THAT, it's Ruth Reichl's post-Gourmet project.) This despite the fact that at this point, only one state — Virginia — allows menhaden fishing. And in Virginia, only one company — Omega Protein — is responsible for "menhaden reduction" — cooking, grinding up, and selling the fish once they've been extracted from the ocean. The reduction goes into products like livestock feed, pet food, oils for cosmetics, and those disgusting fish oil supplements someone convinced us we should all take in order to get enough Omega-3.
If you're disturbed and worried by this whole situation, too f*cking bad. Gov. Bob McDonnell isn't (Omega Protein has given his campaigns more than $55,000), and he has made it known that he'll veto any bill that protects the fish.
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