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Articles by Randy Fertel

Randy Fertel is cofounder of the Ridenhour Prizes for Courageous Truth-Telling, cosponsored by the Nation Institute and awarded every spring at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. His book, The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir, is forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi.

Featured Article

Cross-posted from Gilt Taste.

On a bright morning in May, a calm Chesapeake Bay glitters in the sun, an expanse of blue, the nation’s largest and once most productive estuary. A sudden commotion shatters the serenity: Dozens of gulls swoop toward the 135-foot ship Reedville, and the water beneath the boat begins to churn and froth. With two smaller boats at its side, the Reedville encloses a school of fish in a stiff black purse seine net. With practiced efficiency, workers onboard hoist a vacuum pump into the net and suck tens of thousands of small silvery fish out of the water. It looks like an unusual way to catch fish; it’s all the more unusual when you realize that this particular industrial catch is actually banned by every state on the East Coast. Every state, that is, save for one: Virginia.

The fish going up the tube are Atlantic menhaden, known to ocean ecologists as the “breadbasket of the ocean,” though some prefer to call them “the most important fish in the sea.” Because there’s money to be made, menhaden, all the fish that rely on them for food, and the entire ocean ecosystem are in trouble.

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