Pew – Pacific Sardines, Critical Food Source in Steep Decline

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 17, 2014

Pew Environmental Initiatives: “The Pacific coast of North America supports one of the most vibrant and diverse marine ecosystems on Earth, largely because of the presence of thick schools of small prey fish such as Pacific sardines. Unfortunately, this crucial forage fish appears to be in the midst of a severe population decline. Its absence will be felt by dozens of species of West Coast seabirds, whales, sharks, dolphins, and commercially important fish such as salmon and tuna that depend on sardines as a major food source. In addition, because sardines have been a staple of commercial purse-seine fishing on the West Coast, their decline raises the potential for fishing pressure to shift to similar, but more abundant, schooling species of forage fish. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages fishing in federal waters off California, Oregon, and Washington, should do two things to help maintain a healthy Pacific Ocean:

  • Set conservative catch limits on sardines when the population is so low.
  • Fulfill its September 2013 commitment to prohibit unregulated fishing on forage fish species such as sand lance, saury, and lanternfish that are not currently managed or monitored.”

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