Forage Fish: Feeding the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
This study focuses on the role that forage fish — fish that contribute significantly to the diets of other fish, birds, mammals, and other animals — have in a healthy marine ecosystem. Specifically, the study examines the California Current Marine ecosystem and the threat to forage species in that area.
From Executive Summary:
“In this report we examine the role of forage species in the California Current marine ecosystem, the threats to forage species populations, and the management structures currently in place. At the multiple levels of state, federal, and international management, we identify major gaps in the conservation of the overall forage base that provides the food supply in this ecosystem. We document numerous cases of mismanagement and ample reason for concern, including overly aggressive harvest rates, forage species declines, and a failure by fishery managers to account for existing information on the prey consumption needs of larger animals when making management decisions.”
“In any ecosystem – on land or sea – food availability is a critical factor directly affecting the health and biodiversity of the system. This is especially true for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, spanning from British Columbia to Baja California. This wild ocean ecosystem supports a phenomenal diversity of life. It also contributes to the regulation of our climate and supports a major part of the U.S. and world economy. Unfortunately, individual and cumulative threats to the health of this ocean ecosystem continue to grow, making the path towards sustainable living an ever pressing issue.”
“One pillar to the long-term sustainability of this ocean ecosystem is healthy populations of forage species that provide the food supply for larger animals. Forage species, such as Pacific herring, Pacific sardine, Northern anchovy, smelts, squid, and krill, are the critical prey for whales, dolphins, sea lions, many types of fish, and millions of seabirds. The abundance and availability of these small schooling fish and invertebrates are key to a vibrant food web and a healthy ecosystem.”
Media coverage of the report is available here.