Menhaden Facts

Menhaden Facts
Menhaden is a species of marine fish that belongs to the clupeid family. There are 7 species of menhaden that can be found in the Atlantic Ocean (from Nova Scotia to Florida) and in the Gulf of Mexico. Menhaden is rarely used in human diet because of its small size and oily meat, but it represents important source of food for the livestock, pets and fish in the aquacultures (in the form of industrially prepared meals). Menhaden is also frequently used as bait for other fish and shrimps. Even though menhaden are numerous in the wild (there are billions of menhaden in the ocean), uncontrolled fishing represents major threat for their survival in the future.
Interesting Menhaden Facts:
Menhaden can reach up to 15 inches in length.
Menhaden has silver body with large black dot behind the gills (also known as Humeral spot). Some species have series of smaller black spots behind the main spot.
Menhaden has moderately compressed body and deeply forked tail.
Menhaden is filter-feeder. It swims with mouth wide open and collects small particles of food from the water. Gills work like a sieve (they separate edible particles from the water). Juveniles mostly feed on phytoplankton (smaller food particles), while adults eat zooplankton (larger food particles).
Menhaden is also known as "fat-back" or "bunker" because of the high content of fat in the meat.
Natural enemies of menhaden are striped bass, weakfish, bluefish, summer flounder, sharks, sea turtles, ospreys, seagulls, egrets and eagles.
Menhaden is slow swimmer that lives and travels in large schools.
Schools are stratified by the age and size of fish. Juveniles usually swim near the southern coasts, while adults occupy northern areas.
Menhaden swim near the surface of the water almost entire year (except during the winter). They prefer areas with water temperature of 18 degrees of Celsius.
Spawning of menhaden takes place from March to May and from September to October.
Young females produce 38.000 eggs, while adult females produce around 362.000 eggs per season. Fertilization takes place in the water. Fertilized eggs float on the surface of water 2 to 3 days (until they hatch).
Larvae live in estuaries, bays and lagoons with fresh and brackish water during the spring and summer. At the age of one year, juveniles migrate toward the open sea.
Menhaden reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 years.
Native Americans used menhaden to fertilize fields of corn in the past. First European settlers used menhaden as a source of oil for the oil lamps. Today, oil obtained from the meat of menhaden has application in the cosmetic industry (for the manufacture of lipsticks), industry of paints and lubricants and and for the preparation of various dietary supplements.
Menhaden can survive 10 to 12 years in the wild.

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