I’ll Take Menhaden
Air Date: Week of December 16, 2022
Young menhaden, or herring, gather in the water of Long Island Sound. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)
Menhaden fish once gathered in schools several miles long and were a common food for predators like sharks, sea birds, and bass. But after humans turned them into everything from supplements to fertilizer their numbers plummeted by roughly 90 percent. In Long Island Sound they’re finally bouncing back and Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, witnesses their return.
BASCOMB: Menhaden fish once gathered in schools several miles long and were a common food for predators like sharks, sea birds, and bass. But after humans turned them into everything from supplements to fertilizer their numbers plummeted by roughly 90 percent. Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, has more.
I’ll Take Menhaden
Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
Long Island Sound
© 2022 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved
LENDER: The tide comes in from the narrows of the Race. Like Vincent van Gogh swirling paint. And on the tide herring! In sheaves and shoals. Some keep to the meander of the shoreline. Others follow the flow, it creeps and curls. Most of them hold, floating over the deepest part in the glimmer and the gloam of the surface, and the just below. Here and there and there. You could walk the water on their backs as thick as salt drying in the flats. Wide mouths that scoop and sieve the smallest things; they themselves can guess but cannot see the numbers they consume nor the numbers that they be.
Algonquin named them a singular and special name: Menhaden (Makes Things Grow!)
Ring-bill, black-back, laughing gull, herring gull all unaware menhaden have gathered. They count in their full feathered generations since as it was now. The umbra that forms beneath them speeding in line with the path of their flight - is unremarked. They make no interpretation. No living gull has seen it! The meaning lost to the memory of their kind that these are fishes of their birth right. While menhaden know in their bones: A Crossbow of Shadow means Seabird Coursing the Sea. You must Flee! You must flee!
Menhaden then leaping, dart-shaped and speeding a Marking a Making a Message in the Clear.
We are here.
We are here.
Now Herring Gull flies low. As they should! Wings in the shape of that bow, nocking an Arrow of Fishes. Straight-to-the-point Herring Gull glides, and dips his head towards the prize and takes his winnings in menhaden. It took time. The knowledge lost to find. To repair, the damage done the Web of Life and set things right.
BASCOMB: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender.
Read the Field Note for this essay
Author and photographer Mark Seth Lender’s website
Special thanks to Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
NewsletterLiving on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Creating positive outcomes for future generations.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth