The Gulf Menhaden (Brevoortia patronus) is a species of marine fish that belongs to the Clupeidae family. Its range encompasses the entirety of the Gulf of Mexico shore waters, with the exception of the extreme eastern Yucatan peninsula and western Cuba. The center of population is located in the northwest Gulf, near Louisiana and Texas where they are very numerous. In the southern Gulf, their range overlaps with the Finescale Menhaden (Brevoortia gunteri). In the eastern Gulf its range overlaps with the Yellowfin Menhaden (Brevoortia smithi) where hybridization occurs based on DNA testing.
The Gulf Menhaden is a filter feeder which uses modified gill arches and gill rakers to capture food. Though it mainly takes in plankton, it may also prey on larger types of food, depending on developmental stage and the presence of competition feeders. Spawning occurs offshore in winter from October to March. The eggs and larvae are pelagic (living or growing near the surface, far from shore) and are carried into nursery areas via prevailing currents. Due to this process, migration can be lengthy.
The Gulf Menhaden is the 2nd largest fished species, by weight, in the fishing industry in the USA. On average, 500,000 tons of this species are extracted annually for reduction purposes. Recently, the industry came under criticism for possible overfishing of this species. Scientists speculate that this is not true and levels are still sustainable, and that there are far fewer vessels and reduction plants operating than at any other time since the peak of the industry in the 1980s.