- Size: 12-18” long.
- Color: blue to green on top, silvery sides, black spot behind gills, yellowish fins.
- Habitat: Estuaries and deeper waters.
- When and where to observe: Might see a school passing through in deeper waters in spring, or spawning in estuaries.
Also called Bunker, these fish in the herring family move into New York Harbor in such huge schools that the whole group can weigh several tons!
Atlantic Menhaden are one of our water’s most common fish. They measure 12-18” long, have large, toothless jaws, a deeply forked tail, and somewhat small yellowish fins. Coloring ranges from blue to green on top, with silvery sides, and a black spot behind the gills.
They feed along the Atlantic coast, consuming microscopic plants and crustaceans by filtering them through their mouth to the gills (remember – they lack teeth!).
Though they can spawn (reproduce) throughout the year in estuaries, spring and fall are most productive times.
Besides being a food source for other species like bluefish and striped bass, Atlantic Menhaden serve another important service – their food filtering system keeps our waters healthy!
Unfortunately, Atlantic Menhaden have several other uses and are frequently used in various products like fertilizers, so overfishing is a distinct concern. Though we may not see them often – unless we’re lucky enough to see a school of them in the harbor – it’s important to remember that even those more unfamiliar critters serve an important role for our city.
- Brevoortia tyrannus by Animal Diversity Web/University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, accessed on April 1, 2009 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Brevoortia_tyrannus.html
- Menhaden by Gulf of Maine Research Institute, accessed on April 1, 2009 at
- Net Losses: Declaring War on the Menhaden by H. Bruce Franklin, Mother Jones, March/April 2006, accessed on April 1, 2009 at http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2006/03/net-losses-declaring-war-menhaden.
- Wild New York: A Guide to the Wildlife, Wild Places and Natural Phenomena of New York City by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson, published 1997 by Three Rivers Press.
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