Thoughts on the Resurgence of Menhaden aka Bunker Fish

Sharks feeding on menhaden / bunker 200 yards offshore southforksalt south fork salt
Sharks feeding on menhaden / bunker 200 yards offshore
Time Regan (@southforksalt)

Menhaden are local fish that can grow to be up to 15 inches in length. There used to be lots and lots of them off our coast here on eastern Long Island. But during the last century, the menhaden population has declined alarmingly.

Commercial fishermen dragging big nets from their fishing boats have been catching too many of them. So, 10 years ago, the local environmentalists alerted the authorities who then declared that menhaden are an endangered species. And it became illegal to fish for them.

When caught in a net, they have to be released. As a result, menhaden have returned big time. And so we have saved the species.

It’s similar to the success we have achieved with piping plovers, a shore bird that has been saved by roping off all their nests on our ocean beaches in the springtime so the baby plovers can grow and thrive. Hooray for us.

Drone footage of Hamptons sharks feeding on bunker fish
Drone footage of Hamptons sharks feeding on bunker fish, Photo: South Fork Salt

Last week, authorities announced that the sudden new appearance of big sharks off our bathing beaches is because the sharks are now delightedly gobbling up the new spurt in the number of menhaden. It’s a feeding frenzy.

And we should understand that when menhaden try to get away and come up to our shores, the sharks bite humans by accident. They don’t mean to do it. It’s just a necessary side effect of the sharks having lunch.

As you may have read, the shark population around the world is also declining. So this is a good thing. A two-for-one situation.

Humans should go down to the beach and enjoy the wonder of it all. But they shouldn’t go in the water. Just enjoy seeing how we ocean bathers have cooperated with our environmentalists to save the planet.

What’s next? Probably saving the polar bears. Watch for it. Did I hear two were seen on a beach in East Quogue? A male and a female, walking paw in paw, the report said.

Ain’t nature wonderful?

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