Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rhymes with Van Halen

My third post on FirstNerve, way back in September 2008, was a fishy one. It involved a school of menhaden that has been driven into the shallow waters of the Shellbank Basin off Jamaica Bay in Howard Beach, Queens, by predatory bluefish. Starved of oxygen in the warm waters, the menhaden died and raised a major stink.

A few months later, three thousand or so menhaden swam into an algae bloom in Baltimore harbor. Low oxygen, yadda yadda, big stink.

Well, it’s late summer and here we go again. The folks in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, an inlet above Buzzard’s Bay, are pinching their noses as thousands of dead menhaden wash up on the beach. Warm water, oxygen, yadda.

A few days earlier it was a man-made stinkfest off Buckroe Beach on the lower Chesapeake Bay near Norfolk, Virginia. A commercial fishing operation (they make fish oil and fish protein out of this inedible species) had scooped up an ass-load of menhaden in a purse seine. The catch was being suctioned aboard the trawler when a hole developed in the net and about 75,000 dead menhaden (low oxygen in net, yadda) spilled out. 

Menhaden seem optimized for reproduction but not especially good at surviving in, or staying out of, low oxygen waters. Still, it makes one wonder about their evolutionary trajectory as a species. They’ve probably been doing this for a million years or more.

UPDATE August 11, 2010
As of this morning, tens of thousands of dead menhaden are rotting on the beaches of Delaware Bay near Cape May, New Jersey. Maybe it was the mention of Van Halen.

Could this all be a marketing gimmick for Piranha 3D? (I’m so there . . .)


~x~ said...

They're sperm-centric in their m.o. Make a lot, no matter how many die on the sheets, we keep coming. So to speak.

Avery Gilbert said...


You may be on to something. It could be that like their cousins, the herring, menhaden are sperm-making machines devoted to a short but shagadelic life.

But there might be more to it--a David Carradine angle. What if they are seeking out the warm, under-oxygenated water on purpose?

Nualgi said...

Low DO is a new problem. This has started only in the past 50 years due to human activity - use of more fertilizers, urban sewage, etc.

Fish have not yet evolved ways to detect and avoid low DO.

Even humans have not yet evolved ways to avoid low DO. :(

If humans do, fish don't have to. :)

~x~ said...

i know who david carradine IS, but i don't get the metaphor.(mother hubbard!)

nualgi, is this like the taoist non-ado? because my generation has that in the bag.

Avery Gilbert said...


That's the late David Carradine as in "auto-erotic asphyxiation."

~x~ said...