|Illustration By: Steve Ravenscraft|
Unless you’ve witnessed them form into a giant, intimidating bait-ball, tiny forage fish are easy to miss. But scores of these species – herring, lanternfish, sand lance, saury, silverside, and smelt – have spawned a popular tagline: little fish; big deal.
Forage fish occupy the crucial midpoint of the ocean food web and are preyed upon by many species of seabirds, marine mammals and commercially and recreationally important fish such as salmon, tuna, groundfish and other predators.
This week, these fish and the people who depend on them scored a big win. Here’s what happened:
The Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Vancouver, Washington, agreed to forestall commercial fishing on seven broad groups of forage fish that aren’t yet targeted. The decision means that fishing on these prey species won’t be allowed unless and until the council determines, through a scientific assessment, that any proposed forage fishery won’t harm existing fisheries for predator fish such as salmon or the overall marine ecosystem.
This landmark development recognizes the ecological importance of forage fish to seabirds, marine mammals, and the bigger fish many of us love to catch and eat (or release!). And the decision by the Council comes after unprecedented public comment from thousands of fishing advocates like you across the West Coast and the nation.
For more on the decision and its implications, check out Paul Shively’s blog on Pew’s website.
What’s next: we’ll need to make sure this great decision turns into action. Stay tuned for more updates via Pew’s Pacific newsletter - sign up on Pew’s Pacific fish conservation page at www.pewtrusts.org/pacificfish