The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted at its April meeting to close the Pacific sardine fishery early for the remainder of the 2015 season, and to keep the fishery closed during the 2015 to 2016 season. A new scientific assessment by the National Marine Fisheries Service finds the sardine population has collapsed by 91 percent since 2007, and that the population is estimated to be at 96,688 metric tons, far below the 150,000 metric tons required for fishing to occur. The fishery crash is causing ecological effects on marine wildlife, which may have widespread and lasting implications. The Council’s action marks an important first step towards recovering this important forage fish. Moving forward, Oceana is requesting the Council overhaul its fishery management plan to account for ecosystem needs and increase the amount of sardines that must be left in the ocean before fishing should be allowed to occur in the future.
Chile Permanently Bans Bottom Trawling Around Its Seamounts
Chile became the first nation in the world to permanently ban bottom trawling around all of 117 seamounts located within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Chile finalized the new regulation after six years of campaigning by Oceana, who first addressed the issue in 2009 by proposing amendments to Chilean Fisheries Law for protecting vulnerable and sensitive habitat. Oceana also conducted expeditions to many of Chile’s seamounts over the past few years, such as around Salas y Gómez, Easter Island and the Juan Fernández islands, to document important marine diversity and call for protections. Now, 68,065.63 square kilometers of Chile’s waters are protected from bottom trawling.
The United States’ Pacific Fishery Management Council took final action to protect seven groups of forage fish species offshore of Washington, Oregon and California from development of new commercial fisheries. These groups — round and thread herring, mesopelagic fishes, Pacific sand lance, Pacific saury, Silversides, Osmerid smelts, and pelagic squids (other than Humboldt squid) — include hundreds of important forage fish species that play important roles in the California Current ecosystem. The decision comes as part of the Council’s first-ever fishery ecosystem plan that strives to proactively manage fisheries, and is critical for these species given that demand for the ocean’s tiny fish has drastically increased in recent decades for aquaculture feed. Oceana has called on the Council since 2009 to protected currently unmanaged forage species so that they can remain an abundant prey source for marine predators.