Gulf of Mexico
Menhaden are tiny fish used in a variety of products, including pet food and fish oil supplements. Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

LA - The big business of catching tiny fish won't be restricted in coastal waters, Louisiana leaders decide

A growing conflict over Louisiana’s but largest but perhaps least-known commercial fishery came to a head this week when state leaders rejected a plan to restrict large-scale menhaden fishing near the state’s coastline.

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission on Thursday voted down a proposal backed by recreational fishing and conservation groups that would have established a menhaden fishing "exclusion zone" to protect fragile coastal habitat and marine species from the long nets and large vessels operated by the menhaden fishing industry. The zone, which would have extended one mile out along the entire Louisiana coastline, mirrored restrictions enacted in other states, including Mississippi and Alabama.

Also called pogies, menhaden are tiny silver fish that play an outsized role in the Gulf of Mexico’s fishing industry. By volume, the menhaden fishery is the largest in Louisiana and the Gulf, and the second in the U.S. Often boasting annual harvests of more than 550,000 tons, the menhaden fishery far outweighs the Gulf’s famed commercial catches, including crab and shrimp.

Herring-like menhaden are used for fish meal, industrial lubricants, and poultry and pig feed.NOLA.com | Times-Picayune archive

Menhaden don’t end up in restaurants or grocery stores. Instead, the oil-rich fish are ground up and used in a variety of products, including health supplements, pet food, fertilizers and industrial lubricants.

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