Protecting the Little Guys (Because they’re so tasty!)  

Story by Paul Dye, Director of Marine Conservation
Photography by Erika Nortemann

The Pacific Fishery Management Council—the body that creates fisheries regulations for federal waters off the West Coast—did a wonderful thing this week.  They declared a large number of fish and squid species off limits to targeted fisheries until we know what the impacts of a new fishery would be. All of the protected species are small, and they’re known as “forage”species because so many other animals eat them. They provide a vital link in the ocean food chain that starts with sunshine and algae and tops out with fresh fish on our menus.  The new protections will help ensure that seabirds, whales, seals and sea lions, and the bigger fish that people typically catch and eat will all have a healthy and sustainable food supply.  

I have been pleased to play a small part in this innovative example of ecosystem-based fishery management.  I chair the Council’s Ecosystem Advisory Subpanel—a group of volunteers representing the people of Washington, Oregon and California who care about the sustainability of our fisheries and the health of the ocean.  Some of us are scientists, others are commercial or recreational fishermen, conservationists, or have retired from one of these fields. Over five years, most of the work to develop the new management measure fell to fisheries scientists and policy experts working for government agencies.  Our subpanel ensured that a broader range of perspectives guided that work.  

The new measure has attracted nearly universal support from commercial and sport fishermen, the seafood industry, retailersand restaurants, and environmental groups. That is a good sign that we are getting smarter about how to use—and conserve—our ocean resources.  

Read the full story on EarthFix!

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