Saving the sea from overfishing begins with paying attention to the forage fish. Tomorrow afternoon at 5:30, the author of an important environmental story will speak at the Chilmark Public Library as part of an ongoing series on fisheries and fishermen.

Author Bruce Franklin will give a free talk on the value of menhaden in America. Last year his book The Most Important Fish in the Sea was published and received high praise along the waterfront and amid fisheries managers along the coast.

Menhaden may not be as topical as swordfish, striped bass and the sharks of the ocean, but they are a key ingredient to the health of all fish, those mentioned together with cod and the list goes on. Even the most avid seafood lovers may not eat menhaden, but just about every fish that people love eats menhaden.

Menhaden, those oily small fish that were once bubbling in the waters of the Vineyard, have been reduced to a trickle in recent years. Mr. Franklin’s book touches a critical issue for all Vineyard anglers and those up and down the coast.

Mr. Franklin has authored and edited 18 books. His research and the theme of the book show that menhaden are an integral part to these waters and the ecosystem of the eastern seaboard.

“We are just anxious to have Bruce Franklin talk here because he has written such a good book, a book that states the importance of menhaden in our ecosystem,” said Warren Doty of the Menemsha Fisheries Development Fund, responsible for Mr. Franklin’s visit.

Menhaden have until recently played a critical role in our nation’s history, from Native Americans teaching early settlers to use them for fertilizer, to their replacing whales for fish oil lubricant during the Industrial Revolution.

In more recent times, menhaden have been so significantly reduced as to be thought in serious trouble. Mr. Franklin’s book alleges that billions of pounds are harvested by one company. The fish is a source for high-protein livestock food, fertilizer and their oil for lipsticks, linoleum and health-food supplements.

Mr. Franklin is concerned that the whole ocean system will be stressed if the overfishing of menhaden continues. Menhaden are an essential ingredient to the health of the oceans. He is the John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University in Newark.

For details, call 508-645-3360.