Harvesting Menhaden

Menhaden Learning Lab

Certified Sustainable Fishery



Atlantic Harvest < 9% Total Biomass

Menhaden Fish

Menhaden Facts

Scientific Name Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia Tyrannus) Gulf Menhaden (Brevoortia patronus)
Nicknames Mossbunker, bunker, pogy Mossbunker, bunker, pogy
Geographic Range Highly migratory and range from Florida to Nova Scotia Found from Florida to Texas
Habitat Mostly found at depths of -20m; pelagic area of the ocean
Behavior Group together in large schools inshore
Diet Omnivores: phytoplankton and zooplankton
Reproduction 350,000 eggs in a single year
Harvested Purse seine
By-catch of non-targeted

species is less than

1% by volume and

statistically insignificant


Physical Characteristics

Gulf Menhaden and Atlantic Menhaden are small oily-fleshed fish, bright silver and characterized by a large main, Humeral Spot followed by a series of smaller spots. Menhaden are flat, have soft flesh, and a deeply forked tail with the maximum length of 15 inches and a varied weight range.

Gulf Menhaden


Menhaden is considered an important species of the marine ecosystem due to its productivity. An adult Menhaden can release more than 350,000 eggs in a single year. Larger, older fish migrate north, and during the fishing season are outside the range of the fishery. These older, larger fish contribute a disproportionately large amount of eggs during the peak spawn. Scientists believe that this may allow sufficient egg production to contribute to the next generation of Atlantic Menhaden.


America’s Menhaden resource has substantial ecological importance. Populations are monitored closely and subject to regular stringent stock assessments, conducted by state, federal, and academic scientists. For over 60 years, Omega Protein has cooperated with these organizations to conduct important research on Atlantic and Gulf menhaden such as providing daily harvest amounts to the National Marine Fisheries Service to be used in important analyses. Ongoing monitoring and sampling programs by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission contribute to careful management of both the gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast menhaden populations, and indicate the present levels are able to sustain themselves.


The menhaden fishery is the oldest continuous commercial fishery is the United States, dating as far back as the late 1700’s on the Atlantic coast when pilgrims used menhaden as fertilizer for their crops. Omega Protein is committed to fishing in a responsible manner; equally respecting the environment in which we operate and the health of the menhaden population that we harvest.

  • Purse-seine fishing has the benefit of no impact on the seabed and low by catch
  • Use of mesh nets that allow smaller and immature fish to escape
  • Rendering of the entire fish leaving no by product
  • No allowance for illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fish in our processing
  • Weekend fishing is a rare occurrence, restricted to the ocean, to respect other user groups on the water
  • Uses customized equipment to prevent large fish from being captured and being transferred to the boat
  • All airplane spotters are instructed to ensure that the vessels do not fish inside restricted boundaries established by the Company and State fishing authorities.

Omega Protein Across America



Regular stock assessments help everyone understand the status of both populations of fish so that appropriate fishing activities and regulations can be implemented. This constant oversight of our fishing practices and the status of the stock provides assurance that menhaden will be available for generations to come.

Eco-labels and sustainability certifications serve to reassure our customers that Omega Protein’s products are derived from a sustainable source and that the fishery operates in a responsible manner.

The fishery has been certified by Friend of the Sea as complying with its criteria for sustainable fisheries. These criteria include evidence that menhaden stock is not over-exploited, lack of by catch, lack of seabed impact, and compliance with regulations, as well as social accountability.

“The Gulf Menhaden Fishery is not overfished and not undergoing overfishing”

– Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission 

“The Atlantic Menhaden industry has provided its landings data for every set made since 1955, which has improved the research and management of the fishery.”

– National Marine Fisheries Service