Yesterday afternoon the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council adopted a resolution recognizing the important role of forage species in the Sanctuary and supporting state and federal fishery managers for their recent commitments to afford additional protections for the ocean’s small, but critically important marine life. Oceana commends the diverse, 20-member Sanctuary Advisory Council (SAC) for its continued leadership in protecting the Sanctuary’s resources that are dependent on a healthy food web.
Forage species serve as the foundation of the food web in providing a nutrition source for a wide host of marine wildlife, including sea birds, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions, as well as larger recreationally and commercially important fish species. While some forage species – like sardines, herring, and squid – are subject to major commercial fisheries, other important forage species – like lanternfish, jellyfish, and krill – are not yet being fished. In 2009, with support of the Sanctuary, the federal government established a ban on krill fishing to protect the ocean food chain. However, as the global demand for fish feed increases, the remaining unmanaged forage species could be subject to new industrial fisheries at any time, putting the ocean ecosystem at risk.
“The SAC resolution indicates a broad, growing coalition of support for the precautionary steps our fishery managers are taking to protect forage species,” said Geoff Shester, Oceana’s California Program Director, who holds the Conservation seat on the SAC. “By protecting the forage base, our priceless underwater backyard will continue to be a highly sought destination for eco-tourism, recreational opportunities, and vibrant fisheries, ultimately benefiting our entire coastal community.”
Over the last year, the SAC has taken a deliberate approach to better understand the role of forage species, their management, and how they support the diversity of marine life in the Sanctuary. The SAC is comprised of representatives from business, tourism, recreation, fishing, conservation, and government agencies. Its resolution supports the work of the California Fish and Game Commission and the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council for their commitments to improve forage species management.
In June, 2012, The Pacific Fishery Management Council stated its objective to prohibit the development of new directed fisheries on forage species that are not currently managed until it can assess certain scientific information. Similarly, on November 7, 2012 the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously adopted the state’s first policy guiding management of forage species.
The new SAC resolution will allow the Sanctuary to better align with the new policies adopted by state and federal fishery managers while supporting the respective implementing agencies.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.