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All Ebook Formats $22.99 ISBN: 9781597261630 Published April 2007
Paperback $25.00 ISBN: 9781597265072 Published October 2008


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The Most Important Fish in the Sea

Menhaden and America

The Most Important Fish in the Sea
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H. Bruce Franklin

278 pages | 6 x 9
In this brilliant portrait of the oceans’ unlikely hero, H. Bruce Franklin shows how menhaden have shaped America’s national—and natural—history, and why reckless overfishing now threatens their place in both. Since Native Americans began using menhaden as fertilizer, this amazing fish has greased the wheels of U.S. agriculture and industry. By the mid-1870s, menhaden had replaced whales as a principal source of industrial lubricant, with hundreds of ships and dozens of factories along the eastern seaboard working feverishly to produce fish oil. Since the Civil War, menhaden have provided the largest catch of any American fishery. Today, one company—Omega Protein—has a monopoly on the menhaden “reduction industry.” Every year it sweeps billions of fish from the sea, grinds them up, and turns them into animal feed, fertilizer, and oil used in everything from linoleum to health-food supplements.
The massive harvest wouldn’t be such a problem if menhaden were only good for making lipstick and soap. But they are crucial to the diet of bigger fish and they filter the waters of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, playing an essential dual role in marine ecology perhaps unmatched anywhere on the planet. As their numbers have plummeted, fish and birds dependent on them have been decimatedand toxic algae have begun to choke our bays and seas. In Franklin’s vibrant prose, the decline of a once ubiquitous fish becomes an adventure story, an exploration of the U.S. political economy, a groundbreaking history of America’s emerging ecological consciousness, and an inspiring vision of a growing alliance between environmentalists and recreational anglers.
 "Franklin's book on the runty menhaden is a killer whale achievement. It's an eloquent call to end the phony business of incremental regulation of fisheries that are rapidly being driven by industry into the abyss."
Tom Pelton, Baltimore Sun

Franklin's "'prose is lucid and infused with an urgency that depends little on hyperbole and largely on careful documentation. His compelling narrative informs and enlightens."

Susan P. Williams, Washington Post

 "This informative, riveting narrative exposes the greed, short-sightedness and unintended consequences which nearly destroyed the Atlantic coast ecosystem entirely..."
Publishers Weekly- Starred Review

"This a fascinating, chilling and yet hopeful account of fish we need for the health of our marine environment."
Patricia Turner, Newark Star-Ledger

Chapter 1    Now You See Them, Now You Don’t
Chapter 2    The New World of Fish
Chapter 3    Meeting Menhaden: In Our World and Theirs
Chapter 4    Whales, Menhaden, and Industrialized Fishing
Chapter 5    The Death of Fish and the Birth of Ecology
Chapter 6    At War with Menhaden
Chapter 7    Ecological Catastrophes
Chapter 8    Collision Courses        
Chapter 9    The Fish of the Future?




In this YouTube video, H. Bruce Franklin shows how menhaden have shaped America's national and natural histor and why reckless overfishing threatens these tiny fish.

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