While lax catch limits for federally-managed west coast forage fish like sardines continue to be a source of major concern, the state of California announced today that, at least for state-regulated forage fisheries like squid and herring, it would embrace a new ecosystem-based management system, with an eye towards sustainability.
Forage fish may not be as charismatic as sharks or as majestic as blue whales, but, these small, nutrient rich species -- like squid and herring-- have finally received their long-awaited turn in the spotlight.
Forage fish pack a punch of nutrients to whales, dolphins, sea birds, and recreationally and commercially important fish. They are critical to the survival of our magnificent blue whales as well as the recovery of depleted Chinook salmon. However, until now, these little fish have not been managed in a way that accounts for the vital role they play in ocean health and ocean economics. This will change as the California Fish and Game Commission will now make their decisions on how to manage all the state’s forage species based on a set of principles that were fleshed out with input from conservation and fishing entities.
Yesterday afternoon, the California Assembly acknowledged the critical role that forage species play in maintaining a healthy marine food web by passing Assembly Bill 1299 (AB 1299), sponsored by Oceana and introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael).
Forage species, like sardines, herring, and market squid, are truly the “heartbeat” of the ocean forming the foundation of the food web – which in turn benefits everything else that eats these small fish.
AB 1299 provides a much needed change in the way California manages its fisheries by establishing a state policy that will for the first time consider how much forage should be left in the ocean. This is not just an environmental issue, but largely an economic one; forage species help support California’s recreation and tourism economy, which is worth over $12 billion annually, providing more than 250,000 jobs in the state.
Humpback whales flock to the California coast, searching for herring, krill, and other small tasty fish. But these small fish, also known as forage fish, are dwindling in numbers due to fishing pressure, pollution, and demand for feed in the agriculture and aquaculture industries, among other threats.
There is currently legislation pending in the California State Assembly that highlights the importance of prey fish and calls for a scientific approach to fishing for them. Right now there is no consistent state policy governing management of forage species, but with your help we can change that.
Today is the last day to speak up for these important creatures - Tell the California State Assembly to support better management of forage species.
This is the second in a series of four guest posts by Paul Greenberg, author of the bestselling book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.
I recently had the pleasure of reviewing James Prosek's excellent Eels for the New York Times Book Review. An endlessly interesting topic but most relevant for today's oceanic fisheries because of the unseen (and largely fixable) problem eels represent: the useless damming of small rivers around the country and around the world.
Rivers are key to oceans: they allow for energy transfer between freshwater ecosystems and saltwater, and the primary way they do that is through "diadromous" i.e. sea run fish like salmon, herring, shad, and yes, eels.
Today’s FOTD is about the humpback whale. These giants grow up to 50 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons. They are highly migratory and spend their summers feeding in the nutrient-rich polar waters and travel to tropical waters to breed.
There is little food for humpbacks in the warm waters of the tropics so they essentially live off their fat reserves, which they build up during their summers in the polar waters.