(Please send this letter to the PFMC before 10/23 to support proper management of our forage fish)
Dear Chairman Wolford and Council Members,
Thank you and the Council for recognizing that forage fish are the cornerstone of a productive marine ecosystem and base of sustaining fisheries along the Pacific coastline at your June meeting.
Forage fish like Herring, Sardines, are the lifeblood of a healthy ocean and support important wildlife and fisheries in the California Coastal Upwelling Zone. We ask that you keep on track to fulfill your commitment to prohibit new fisheries targeting forage species that aren’t yet being fished without proper understanding of their biology, their natural history and the cyclical fluctuations these fish populations are known to incur.
Therefore, we urge you to adopt a strong and comprehensive analysis and strong Fishery Ecosystem Plan.
Our coastal ecosystem is under increasing pressure not only from fishing but pollution and other direct and indirect impacts. The Pacific marine environment is affected by large-scale changes in climate, coastal habitat degradation, invasive species, and rising demand to feed a growing world. A resilient ecosystem depends first and foremost on a balanced food web, which is why conservation of prey fish is widely recognized as a pillar of ecosystem-based fishery management.
It’s important that the Council adopt a plan that’s actually useful in improving fishery management, rather than a weighty document that sits on a shelf.
A meaningful Fishery Ecosystem Plan should include an index measuring forage abundance along the West Coast. Additionally, it should help the Council maximize the benefits we derive from the ocean by weighing the tradeoffs between large-scale fisheries targeting prey fish versus leaving them in the water to feed ocean wildlife and high-value predators like salmon, tuna and halibut.
The Council’s top priority should be to ensure the stability of the marine ecosystem and existing fisheries here on the Pacific coast. Adequate conservation of forage fish may be the single most important action the council can take to protect the Pacific marine ecosystem – and the fishermen and coastal communities that depend on it.
David McGuire, MPH
Director, Sea Stewards.org