Whose eating all the Menhaden? Probably not spiny dogfish...

Life's tough if you're a menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) .  As a forage fish, you are one tasty morsel for somebody, be it a striped bass, tuna, gannet, shark, or human (who as well as eat you and use you for other purposes).  But here's the thing - menhaden has declined, increasing the competition among its predators. We don't like dwindling fish resources.  We also don't like competition for those resources.  It didn't take too long before some fingers of blame were pointing towards non-humans, particularly dogfish - an order of shark that consists of some 126 known species.

In this recent piece of research, Charles Bangley and Roger Rulifson from East Carolina University, took at look at the feeding habits of spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) - a species that overwinters in North Carolina - through a series of controlled trials.  Their main conclusion on the impact of these critters on the menhaden....

"Spiny Dogfish potentially consumed an equivalent of 1.55–3.33% of the Atlantic Menhaden stock while overwintering in North Carolina waters"

As Charles summaries, "it may be time to find a new scapegoat for issues rebuilding fish stocks".

Their paper, which was published in the  _North American Journal of Fisheries Management_ is sitting behind a paywall.  But fear not! Charles has written a fantastic summary of the paper over on his blog.  I highly recommend taking a peak.

Image:  A spiny dogfish  photographed in 2011 using NOAA's 'Arc' remotely operated vehicle in waters off the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State  Credit: NOAA's National Ocean Services Image Gallery (CC BY 2.0)