Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Tiny Fish with Huge Impact

Tiny Fish with Huge Impact

Oceana

A report released Nov. 1 by Oceana, Forage Fish: Feeding the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, provides a complete picture of the state of West Coast forage species management and what must be done to sustain a healthy ocean food web and a strong coastal economy into the future. The report’s release coincides with major decisions before the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) on the future of these foundationally important fish species. Forage species, like sardines, herring and market squid are truly the heartbeat of the ocean, providing food for larger fish, marine mammals and seabirds.

“It’s time to adopt precautionary and proactive approaches to protect the ocean food web,” said Ben Enticknap, Pacific project manager for Oceana and lead author of the report. “The science is increasingly clear that harvest strategies must and can be changed to ensure enough forage for salmon, whales and seabirds.”

Among the key findings of the Oceana report:

  • At multiple levels of state, federal and international governance, there are major gaps in the management of the overall forage fish base that provides the food supply in this large marine ecosystem.

  • When making decisions to set fishery catch levels, managers do not consider how many forage fish need to be left in the ocean to support other valuable fish and wildlife.

  • There are ample reasons for concern about the future of forage fish, including overly aggressive harvest rates, increasing demand from aquaculture and documented population declines.

“These tiny species have a colossal impact,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s senior director of the Pacific. “The availability of forage can literally mean life or death for many of our iconic Pacific fish, marine mammals and seabirds, as well as our vibrant coastal economies. Luckily, we have the opportunity to avoid such crashes by doing responsible management now.”

Coinciding with this report, this week the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) will respond to two requests made by Oceana to address forage fish management. First, on Friday, the Council will address Oceana’s request to revise the way in which annual sardine catch levels are decided to properly account for the needs of the ecosystem. Sardines are both a major food source for wildlife and an important component of the ocean-based economy of the U.S. West Coast. Coast-wide exploitation has steadily increased while the sardine population has been maintained below sustainable levels for the past decade. The problem lies in the system from which annual catch limits are set, which has scientific flaws, does not account for international coastwide catch including Mexico and Canada, and fails to consider how many sardines that higher ocean predators need to survive and thrive.

On Nov. 6 the PFMC will consider Oceana’s request that the Council prevent new fisheries from developing on currently unmanaged forage species until specific criteria are met. Many other important forage species, including whitebait smelt, Pacific sandlance and lanternfishes, currently have no federal management and new fisheries could develop at any time without consideration of the consequences. If the PFMC adopts this request, the Council would build on prior protections given to krill and take an important step toward an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.

“We all know forage species have value if we catch and sell them, but there is an unseen economic value from leaving some forage fish in the ocean. More available forage fish in the ocean will increase the value of other fisheries and economic sectors like tourism,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, California program director for Oceana and one of the authors of the report. “Better forage species management will strengthen our west coast economy and provide thousands of jobs for years to come.”

The Oceana report is available here.

What: Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting

When: Nov. 4, 2011

Where: Hilton Orange County, 3050 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626

For more information, click here.

—————

Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less