The Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which sets catch levels on the west coast for important seabird prey items like anchovy and sardine, has released a draft of a long-awaited new plan calling for needed practical steps to protect these and other forage species that form the base of the ocean food web. The Council will vote on the Plan at its April meeting, and Audubon California and the Audubon Society of Portland will be there to speak up. Please help us succeed by taking a moment now to let the Council know that a healthy ocean ecosystem is important to you.
Why is it important to take strong steps now to protect forage species? First, human demand for forage species is growing, posing a threat to wildlife. Market squid, one of the top prey items on the west coast for seabirds and other marine wildlife, is now the most valuable commercial fishery in California, followed closely by sardine, another essential prey item. The Council itself conducted an analysis finding “spectacular growth” in global aquaculture, which is creating growing pressure on these small fish.
Second, marine wildlife requires a lot of food. Our analysis using values from the scientific literature found that just a small subset of four species of wildlife in California- Common Murre, California sea lion, Steller’s sea lion, and humpback whale – require hundreds of thousands of tons of food a year, rivaling commercial fisheries. Recreational and commercial fishing organizations such as the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations support forage fish protections, because many small fish are needed to support the big predatory fish such as salmon and tuna that are so valuable to our culture and economy.
Two new short videos beautifully illustrate the value of forage fish to our west coast birds and other wildlife. The first, from our partner organization Pew Charitable Trusts, describes the importance of forage in more general terms. The second, from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, describes the importance of sardines to Elegant Tern and Heermann’s Gull, two beautiful winter migrants that breed mostly on a single island in the Gulf of California. So please take a moment now to make your voice heard on this important issue, via our partners at Pew Charitable Trusts. And thanks for speaking up for the little fish!