Forage fish, a kind of marine animal that is of little interest for human consumption but provides a staple food source for other animals, are on the Saturday agenda of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.
What are forage fish?
Fisheries term sardines, anchovies, herring and squid as forage fish. Feeding frequently on plankton that larger marine life does not ingest, these animals themselves become food sources.
Why do environmentalists call for the protection of forage fish?
Asserting that current fisheries "risk overfishing sardine and anchovy," Oceana seeks to stop the creation of new fisheries targeting thus far unmanaged forage fish species. Environmentalists are urging the Pacific Fishery Management Council to include forage fish in a protection plan to preserve the food web of the Pacific Ocean.
How would this move affect the California wetfish industry?
The California Wetfish Producers Association points to the 65 licensed boats fishing for sardines, anchovies and mackerel. These professionals are federally regulated since 1999. Another 77 boats fish for squid under California regulations. When these regulations took effect in 2004, the 164-strong fleet was reduced to 77 boats. The forage fish caught by these professionals today are processed on the boat, frozen and then exported. The association's executive director notes that California's mass of forage fish only loses 2 percent of specimens to fishing. If regulations barring the creation of new fisheries were to go into effect, the Golden State's wetfish industry would not be able to take advantage of new business opportunities, should they arise.
Are California's forage fish populations in danger of being overfished?
The California Wetfish Producers Association disagrees with overfishing concerns focused on local waters. Oceana contends that while currently the forage fish populations are at acceptable levels, its predicts that future "demand for fishmeal and fish feeds" will exert business pressure to harvest additional forage fish, which in turn could adversely affect their ecological role in the food web. Weighing in on the quantities of forage fish in the California Current, the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force points out that forage fish management is hampered by "stock movement and connectivity, and response to environmental variance."
What do critics think of preemptive unmanaged forage species protection rules?
Citing the Lenfest study, Monterey harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer, writing in the North County Times, points to the already superior management of forage fish in the California Current. Considering new regulations unnecessary, the publication takes environmentalists to task for using "studies with faulty calculations" to limit or ban fisheries.
How do environmentalists react?
Oceana points to poor management of commercial fisheries targeting forage fish when calling for a halt to the creation of new fisheries. Environmentalists further demand an updated accounting of "ecological and economic needs," when setting actual fishing thresholds.
Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.
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