Your voice needed to protect food for seabirds

February 27th, 2013 · by Anna Weinstein

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.

tufted puffin

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!



Categories: Audubon California · seabirds

3 Comments so far ↓

  • Stephenie Blakemore

    It is all about balance, as in the balance of nature, and the nature of balance. As one of many species on this earth we must work to be a working part of that balance, maintain that balance, and respect that balance. If we can do more to undo what we have done to upset the balance then now is the time to do so.

  • barb

    It is important to remember the massive ignorance of our elected officials when it comes to something that mankind deems useless.

    The Sacramento Delta is one example. King Salmon, striped bass and other game fish generate money for the region. Yet attempts to protect the delta smelt have come up against opposition from such stellar environmental champions as Sarah Palin, who said of the Delta Smelt, “In Alaska we call that ‘bait.’”

    Well, yes dear, it is bait. But it is also the food base for numerous predators which generate money for the area. Take that out, the salmon and bass will vanish. They can’t eat air and they don’t eat algae.

    This is, unfortunately, the type of ignorance that must be addressed when trying to raise awareness of forage species.