Thursday, August 6, 2009


I have little confidence that anyone knows the derivation of the word Manhattan, interpretations vary widely. Delaware Indians were believed to have used the word to desribe a place where good timber for bows and arrows could be found, it might also be Algonquin for a hilly place, Munsee for "a place of general intoxication," or something or other for "people of the whirlpool."

I just assume say that it is named after these fish, which Bruce Franklin argues are The Most Important Fish in America. These, the very same that Squanto taught settlers to plant with the corn, are critical plankton feeders, who not only bridge the highs and lows of the food chain but purify the water, as Franklin writes in this historic Atlantic scene:

Dense schools of menhaden, sometimes numbering in the hundred of thousands, pour through these waters, toothless mouths agape, slurping up plankton, cellulose, and just plain detritus like a colossal submarine vacuum cleaner as wide as a city block and as deep as a train tunnel. Each adult fish filters about four gallons of water a minute. Purging suspended particles that cause turbidity, this filter feeding clarifies the water, allowing sunlight to penetrate. This in turn encourages the growth of aquatic plants that release dissolved oxygen while also harboring a host of fish and shellfish. Even more important, the menhaden's filter feeding prevents or limits devastating algal blooms. page 8

Here's the other shoe dropping... they are presently hugely overfished for their use in manufacturing linoleum, cosmetics, health food supplements, lubricants, margarine, soap, insecticide, paints, fertilizer, animal feed. Once again, Homo Sapiens have been too smart for our own good, or not quite smart enough, depending on how you look at it, or maybe just tragically ignorant and distracted.

We came across these menhaden cut up for bait by anglers fishing off the Valentino pier in Red Hook. They caught a striped bass, threw it back, too small.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Mossbunker, pogy, bunker, & fatmouth are other names for this undersung herring.