Eban Charles, Bowdoin College


Class Year:



Genevieve Nesslage, Ph.D.

Project Title:

Characterization of Pelagic Habitat Use by Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) Overwintering Off the Coast of New Jersey


Atlantic menhaden are a migratory, schooling, forage fish species that serves as a crucial source of food for a variety of predators in coastal ecosystems and supports the largest fishery by biomass on the East Coast of the United States. Recent research indicates that a large portion of the Atlantic menhaden stock overwinter in offshore waters across the entire East Coast of the United States instead of migrating south to warmer waters off the coast of North Carolina and below as scientists had previously thought. However, the environmental drivers of this partial migration behavior are poorly understood, and little is known about Atlantic menhaden’s pelagic habitat preferences or how this species may respond to a changing climate. To investigate how depth, water conditions, latitude, and a storm event affect both the spatial presence and absence of Atlantic menhaden schools and the size distribution of these schools, I analyzed hydrographic data and Atlantic menhaden school location and size data that was collected during a winter 2022 Atlantic menhaden acoustic survey conducted off the coast of New Jersey. A generalized additive model created to explore the relationship between hydrographic conditions and Atlantic menhaden school size suggests that Atlantic menhaden school size increases with increasing depth greater than 17 meters. This insight could help improve the design of future Atlantic menhaden surveys, sustainably manage the offshore winter bait fishery for Atlantic menhaden, and improve our understanding of how oceanographic conditions affect Atlantic menhaden spatial distribution along greater portions of the East Coast.


Chesapeake Biological Laboratory


Charles, E.* and G. Nesslage. 2022. Characterization of pelagic habitat use by overwintering Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) in the Mid-Atlantic. American Fisheries Society Atlantic International Chapter Meeting, Newry, ME.

The REU students are indicated with an asterisk (*).

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