Atlantic menhaden
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Atlantic menhaden, Sebastes ruberrimus

The Atlantic menhaden is a member of the herring family that ranges in great schools from Nova Scotia to Florida. They spawn in nearshore waters throughout the year and are the target of a large industrial fleet that moves with them. Menhaden feed on zooplankton as juveniles and are primarily herbivores as adults, eating phytoplankton and drifting plant matter, and grow to a maximum length of 15 inches. They are a vital element of the ocean ecosystem throughout their range as prey for striped bass, bluefish, mackerel, tuna, sharks and other fish, as well as herons, eagles, osprey, and egrets. The fishery for menhaden is the second most valuable in terms of quantity (behind walleye pollock), virtually all of which is processed into oil or meal for animal feed. United States menhaden landings totaled 1.8 billion pounds in 2002, with a value of $105.1 million. Atlantic menhaden are also known as bugmouths because many carry a crustacean parasite in their mouths.

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