Written By: Stan Mihalecz of Alert Diver Online
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – As scuba divers, life beneath the waves is peaceful as we move weightlessly through the water column in relative quiet aside from the air bubbling from our regulators, the whirl of distant boat propellers and the snap, crackle and pop of parrotfish munching on the reef. From this tranquil vantage point near the top of the food chain, it is easy to forget that this is a fish-eat-fish world for everything else swimming around. And one group of finned friends is just about every predator’s dish du jour.
Forage fish are small, schooling fish such as mullet, pinfish, anchovies and menhaden that feed on plankton and are eaten by predators of all shapes and sizes. This unexclusive forage fish diner’s club includes bottlenose dolphins, grouper, ospreys and sharks. Predators thrive with these bite-sized morsels in abundance.
People also pursue forage fish: By volume, more menhaden than any other species are caught on the U.S. East Coast. Large “reduction” fisheries around the world remove forage fish from the marine ecosystems and process them into ingredients for products such as aquaculture feed, dietary supplements and cosmetics. Think about that the next time you order a farmed salmon or pop an omega-3 capsule.