Welches, OR — Today, in a unanimous vote, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a forage fish management plan for hundreds of individual small, schooling fish that occur in state waters (0-3 miles from shore). Oceana commends the Commission for its action today and appreciates the dedicated work of the Department of Fish and Wildlife for developing the management plan.
“These tiny fish make a tremendous difference for healthy oceans,” said Erin Kincaid, Pacific Marine Scientist for Oceana. “They function as an essential food source for a multitude of marine mammals, seabirds, and commercially important fish in Oregon waters.”
The state management plan mirrors action taken by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) in March of 2015 to protect seven groups—representing hundreds of species—of forage fish from new commercial development. The National Marine Fisheries Service implemented regulations this May to effect the Council’s decision, which applies to harvest in all federal ocean waters offshore Washington, Oregon, and California (3-200 nautical miles). Oregon’s state regulations will go into effect January 1, 2017.
Globally, there is increasing demand for forage fish used to produce fishmeal for aquaculture and agriculture industries. Today’s action will prevent new commercial fisheries from developing for these small fish without careful consideration and analysis of potential effects on the ocean ecosystem and existing fisheries.
Healthy and robust populations of forage fish benefit whales, dolphins, and seabirds. Forage fish are also critical to the diets of many larger recreationally and commercially targeted species, like rockfish, tuna, halibut, and salmon.
The Oregon state regulations are nearly identical to the federal regulations adopted in the spring. The state regulations exclude protection for round herring and thread herring because those species typically are not found in Oregon state waters. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is currently developing conforming regulations as well. It is anticipated California’s federally equivalent regulations will also go into effect the first of the year. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a forage fish management plan in 1998.