Quantcast

Sardine Population Down 95% Since 2006, Fishery Shut Down for Third Consecutive Year

Federal fishery managers voted Monday to keep the U.S. West Coast Pacific sardine fishery closed for the upcoming commercial season. With an estimated 86,586 metric tons (mt) of sardine remaining and 150,000 mt necessary for fishing to occur, this will be the third year in a row there are not enough sardines to support a fishery.


"This modern day Pacific sardine crash, which was exacerbated by excessive fishing when the population was falling, underscores the need for new approaches to fishery management," said Geoff Shester, California campaign director for Oceana. "We hope managers learn from this and strengthen safeguards to protect sardines and the ocean wildlife dependent on sardines, while also supporting sustainable fishing communities."

The northern sardine subpopulation ranges along the Pacific coast from Baja California, Mexico to British Columbia, Canada. It is fished by Mexico, Canada and the U.S. without a common management agreement. In recent years, as the population was crashing (2007-2014), the fishery off California, Oregon and Washington landed on average 73,000 metric tons of sardines a year with an average dock value of $13.9 million per year. Most Pacific sardines are exported and sold as bait for foreign fisheries or feed for penned bluefin tuna or canned overseas for human consumption. Left in the water, Pacific sardines are an important food fish for many dependent predators from whales, sea lions and Chinook salmon, to brown pelicans, common murres and least terns.

"Over the last four years we've witnessed starved California sea lion pups washing up on beaches and brown pelicans failing to produce chicks because moms are unable to find enough forage fish," said Ben Enticknap, Pacific campaign manager and senior scientist with Oceana. "Meanwhile sardine fishing rates spiked right as the population was crashing. Clearly the current sardine management plan is not working as intended and steps must be taken to fix it."

Leaving more sardines in the water before fishing is allowed to occur will help ensure there is enough of this critical food fish for wildlife while allowing the sardine population to rebuild more quickly. When sardines are again at healthy levels, Oceana supports an ecologically sustainable fishery with a preference of providing sardines for direct human consumption, rather than secondary uses like bait or aquaculture feed. It is equally important that fishing rates are curtailed during a population decline to prevent exacerbating a fishery collapse in the future.

In 2013, the fishery removed 40 percent of the remaining sardines as the population was collapsing, exceeding the maximum sustainable yield fishing rate by more than two fold. Implementing a coordinated management approach with Mexico and Canada—nations that also fish the same sardine population—will help prevent coast-wide, international overfishing.

The decision by the Pacific Fishery Management Council now goes to the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue regulations for the upcoming season spanning July 1 to June 30, 2018.

Sponsored
by [D.Jiang] / Moment / Getty Images

By Alena Kharlamenko

Tofu is a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets.

Read More Show Less
KarinaKnyspel / iStock / Getty Images

2018 saw a number of studies pointing to the outsized climate impact of meat consumption. Beef has long been singled out as particularly unsustainable: Cows both release the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere because of their digestive processes and require a lot of land area to raise. But for those unwilling to give up the taste and texture of a steak or burger, could lab-grown meat be a climate-friendly alternative? In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the Oxford Martin School set out to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Three scissor-tailed flycatcher fledglings in a mesquite tree in Texas. Texas Eagle / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Gary Paul Nabhan

President Trump has declared a national emergency to fund a wall along our nation's southern border. The border wall issue has bitterly divided people across the U.S., becoming a vivid symbol of political deadlock.

Read More Show Less
PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Daniel Ross

Hurricane Florence, which battered the U.S. East Coast last September, left a trail of ruin and destruction estimated to cost between $17 billion and $22 billion. Some of the damage was all too visible—smashed homes and livelihoods. But other damage was less so, like the long-term environmental impacts in North Carolina from hog waste that spilled out over large open-air lagoons saturated in the rains.

Hog waste can contain potentially dangerous pathogens, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. According to the state's Department of Environmental Quality, as of early October nearly 100 such lagoons were damaged, breached or were very close to being so, the effluent from which can seep into waterways and drinking water supplies.

Read More Show Less
This picture taken on May 21, 2018 shows discarded climbing equipment and rubbish scattered around Camp 4 of Mount Everest. Decades of commercial mountaineering have turned Mount Everest into the world's highest rubbish dump as an increasing number of big-spending climbers pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind. DOMA SHERPA / AFP / Getty Images

China has closed its Everest base camp to tourists because of a buildup of trash on the world's tallest mountain.

Read More Show Less