Gulf Menhaden | Brevoortia patronus
Gulf Menhaden info via Wikipedia:
|Gulf Menhaden (Brevoortia patronus), captured in Galveston Bay, TX|
The Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus) is a small marine filter feeding fish belonging to the family Clupeidae. The range of Gulf menhaden encompasses the entirety of the Gulf of Mexico nearshore waters, with the exception of the extreme eastern Yucatan and western Cuba. Evidence from morphology  and DNA analyses  suggest that the Gulf menhaden is the Gulf of Mexico complement to the Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus). Both species support large commercial reduction fisheries, with Gulf menhaden supporting the 2nd largest fishery, by weight, in the United States.
Range and Distribution
The Gulf menhaden occurs throughout the Gulf of Mexico, but its distribution is patchy. The center of distribution of the species appears to be the northwest/northcentral Gulf, particularly in Louisiana and Texas where populations are very large and numerous. In the southern Gulf of Mexico the range of Gulf menhaden overlaps that of the closely related finescale menhaden (Brevoortia gunteri), and there is evidence for resource partitioning (a process whereby closely related species occurring in close proximity results in subtle differences in ecological niches) between these species. In the eastern Gulf, the range of Gulf menhaden overlaps that of the yellowfin menhaden (Brevoortia smithi), and hybridization between these species has been demonstrated using morphological  and DNA evidence. Gulf menhaden also may have a presence on the southern Atlantic coast of Florida, although this finding is based primarily upon DNA evidence.
The Gulf menhaden is a filter feeder which uses modifications of the branchial apparatus (gill arches and gill rakers) for food capture. Although they are generalist planktivores, they may specialize on particular prey sizes or types, depending upon developmental stage, as well as the presence of interspecific competitors. Spawning occurs offshore in winter (October–March). Eggs and larvae are pelagic and are carried into estuarine nursery areas via prevailing currents. As a result, migration at this stage can be lengthy, and populations of Gulf menhaden throughout the Gulf of Mexico are generally thought to comprise a single genetic stock.
The Gulf menhaden fishery
The Gulf menhaden supports the 2nd largest fishery, by weight, in the United States, and dates to the 1800s. On average, 400-600 kilotons of Gulf menhaden are extracted and used for reduction annually, with a much smaller number being captured for use as bait. Recently the use of menhaden has come under criticism, particularly following the scathing evaluation of the industry by H. Bruce Franklin in his book entitled “The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America”. Scientific counterpoints to the Franklin book can be found, and there is some debate as to whether the fishery has surpassed sustainable levels. In any event, current industry landings are comparable to historical landings despite the fact that there are fewer vessels and reduction plants operating than at any other time since the peak of the industry in the mid-1980s.
- FAO 2002. The living marine resources of the western central Atlantic. ASIH special publication No. 5, Kent E. Carpenter, ed. ISSN 1020-6868.
- Dahlberg, M.D. 1970. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico menhadens, genus Brevoortia (Pisces:Clupeidae). Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences 15:91-162.
- Anderson, J.D. 2007. Systematics of the North American menhadens: molecular evolutionary reconstructions in the genus Brevoortia (Clupeiformes: Clupeidae). Fishery Bulletin 205:368-378.
- Vaughan, D.S. and C. Strobeck. 1998. Assessment and management of Atlantic and Gulf menhaden stocks. Marine Fishery Review 53, 47-55.
- Pritchard, E.S. 2005. Fisheries of the United States 2004. Silver Spring, MD: National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Science and Technology, pp. 1-19.
- Anderson, J.D. and D.L. McDonald. 2007. Morphological and genetic investigations of two western Gulf of Mexico menhadens (Brevoortia spp.). Journal of Fish Biology 70a:139-147.
- Castillo-Revera, M., A. Kobelkowsky and V. Zamayoa. 1996. Food resource partitioning and trophic morphology of Brevoortia gunteri and B. patronus. Journal of Fish Biology 49:1102-1111.
- Anderson, J.D. and W.J. Karel. 2007. Genetic evidence for asymmetric hybridization between menhadens (Brevoortia spp.) from peninsular Florida. Journal of Fish Biology 71b:235-249.
- Reintjes, J.W. 1959. Continuous distribution of menhaden along the south Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Proceedings of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute 12, 31-35.
- Friedland, K.D., D.W. Ahrenholz, J.W. Smith, M. Manning and J. Ryan. 2006. Sieving functional morphology of the gill raker feeding apparatus of atlantic menhaden. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology 305(a):974 – 985.
- Anderson, J.D. 2006. Conservation Genetics of Gulf Menhaden (Brevoortia patronus): Implications for the Management of a Critical Forage Component for Texas Coastal Gamefish Ecology. Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Act Technical Series, F-144-R.
- Vaughn, D.S., K.W. Shertzer and J.W. Smith. 2007. Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus) in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Fishery characteristics and biological reference points for management. Fisheries Research 83:263–275.
- Franklin, H.B. 2007. The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America. Island Press, Washington, DC. 280pp.
- Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, menhaden page