Home Mission Who We Are Contact Search
Projects Events Media Resources Publications Stay Informed Partners & Sponsors Contribute

The mission of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science is to advance ocean conservation through science. More..

Media Resources
News Releases    |    Media Coverage    |    Sign up for Media Announcements    |    Media Gallery

Big Warning on Little Fish
April 8, 2012
New York Times editorial

There is more to smart fishery management than protecting the big, delicious species, like striped bass, cod, tuna and salmon. A huge and growing portion of the world’s commercial catch — 37 percent by weight — is made up of small fish, like herring, sardines, anchovies and menhaden, which are food for larger predators.

These “forage fish” are ground up and used in all sorts of products, including feed for pig lots and fish farms, nutritional supplements and salad dressing. They are valuable and easy to catch, and industrial fleets the world over are relentlessly “harvesting” them with little awareness of the damage this is doing to the oceans’ ecosystems.

A new study by an international group of marine and fisheries scientists warns that the taking of forage fish should be cut back, drastically in some areas, to prevent broader ecological destruction. The report, by the Lenfest Foundation, urges a rethinking of the common belief that little fish are “more like weeds than trees,” whose populations can be maintained no matter how aggressively they are fished. After studying a variety of regions, including the Antarctic, the North and Baltic Seas, Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Maine, the researchers concluded that forage fish are not only more vulnerable than previously thought, but also worth more in the water than in the net because of the many species of larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals that depend on them.

The scientists, acknowledging that there are gaps in knowledge about some forage-fish species, urge erring on the side of protecting these fisheries, which can rebound quickly if allowed to. Stricter limits will be opposed by many in the forage-fishing industry. But future abundance depends on ending overfishing, a change that will benefit consumers, the ocean environment and fish of all sizes.

New York Times editorial

Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force news release

Stay Connected
Facebook space Twitter space You Tube space Make A Gift
Stony Brook University space
© 2010 Institute for Ocean Conservation Science | Website Design by Academic Web Pages