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Protection of small fish with big impact

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission took a historic step to end overfishing of Atlantic menhaden and to begin to rebuild their population.

By adopting the first coastwide catch limit on this fishery last Friday, the commission has begun to reverse the 90 percent plunge in the menhaden population over the past three decades.

The 25 percent reduction from the 2011 menhaden catch (a 20-percent reduction in catch over a three-year average) is a good start.

Menhaden often is described as a keystone species, as it is eaten by larger predators who survive in part on its omega-3 fatty acids. The herring-like species mainly is used for fish meal, oil, and solubles, often for poultry and swine feed.

"The future of Atlantic menhaden and our coastal ecosystem just got a lot brighter," National Coalition for Marine Conservation president Ken Hinman told The Times-Picayune.

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