CORVALLIS, Ore. – A task force that conducted one of the most comprehensive analyses of global “forage fish” populations is strongly recommending that world governments tighten catch limits on sardines, anchovies and other crucial prey species.
The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force calls for restricting harvest of such forage fish so that they can continue to serve as critical prey for larger species, including salmon, cod and tuna, as well as for dolphins, whales, penguins and seabirds.
The report concludes that the fish are “twice as valuable in the water as in a net.”
“Forage fish are essential components of marine ecosystems,” said Selina Heppell, an Oregon State University fisheries ecologist and one of the authors on the report. “The status and importance of each species can be difficult to evaluate because many of them migrate long distances and they can fluctuate dramatically in abundance.
“There also are regional differences in how the fisheries are managed and the relative health of the population,” added Heppell, an associate professor in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and past recipient of Oregon Sea Grant research support. “The West Coast sardine fishery, for example, is carefully monitored. They have a ‘harvest control rule’ that sets the harvest at about 10 percent of the overall stock, and when the population gets below a certain level, they stop fishing.