Report: Cut forage fish catches in half


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
April 1, 2012

A new report is recommending that global catches of herring, anchovy and other forage fish be cut in half.

On Monday, the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force released a report — “Little Fish, Big Impact” — that urged fisheries managers to put its recommendation into action to protect the carnivorous fish and marine mammals and birds that rely on forage fish.

The report was financed by the Lenfest Foundation through the Pew Charitable Trusts.

It found that forage fish now account for 37 percent, by weight, of all fish harvested worldwide, up from about 8 percent 50 years ago. The majority of these fish are used in fish and agriculture feed or nutritional supplements. The report claimed that, globally, forage fish are twice as valuable in the water as in a net, contributing USD 11.3 billion by serving as food for other commercially valuable fish, more than double the USD 5.6 billion they generate as direct catch.

In addition to urging that forage fish catches be halved, the task force recommended that fisheries be closed during spawning season or around colonies of seabirds that depend on forage fish. 

The task force was made up of 13 scientists from around the globe.

“Traditionally, we have been managing fisheries for forage species in a manner that cannot sustain the food webs, or some of the industries, they support,” said Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, who led the task force. “As three-fourths of marine ecosystems in our study have predators highly dependent on forage fish, it is economically and biologically imperative that we develop smarter management for these small but significant species.”

Click here to access a summary of the report.

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