Forage Fish Get Important Recognition, Thanks to You!

This post is courtesy of Paul Shively, manager, Pacific Fish Conservation Campaign.

West Coast fishery managers have taken an important step to protect forage fish as the key link in a balanced and productive ocean food web.

Thanks to more than 15,000 Care2 activists who signed a petition sponsored by the Pew Environment Group, and to others who sent in comments, fishery managers heard your request.

On June 24, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) voted to recognize the importance of forage fish and develop new regulations to protect them while declaring that the PFMC will work to “prohibit the development of new directed fisheries on forage species that are not currently managed.”

That statement represents a big win for responsible fisheries management. It was the result of a clear, broad and deep expression of public support — demonstrated by 20,000 public comments, approximately 50 letters from fishing, conservation, and sustainable seafood organizations, and direct testimony from people who live, work and generally reap the benefits of a healthy ocean.

These small schooling fish form the key link in the marine food web by consuming plankton and becoming protein for seabirds, marine mammals and bigger fish. Yet worldwide demand is rising to convert wild-caught forage fish into secondary uses, such as feed for livestock, poultry and farmed fish. A recent scientific report by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force cited this growing demand, as did several articles in West Coast news outlets, including a front-page story in The Seattle Times noting that forage species “may be especially vulnerable to overfishing, climate change, habitat loss and shifting ocean chemistry.”

In light of these concerns, thousands of West Coast residents urged the PFMC to act now to prevent unregulated new fisheries on forage species such as lantern fish, saury, and sand lance until we understand the potential effects on the ocean food web. The comments made the case that responsible fishery management depends on answering those questions before a new fishery begins, not after.

Many of these unmanaged forage species may be unfamiliar to the general public, but they are crucial food sources for ocean wildlife. For example, lantern fish, known for their luminescent chemical reaction that draws in both mates and meals, make up as much as 65 percent of all deep-sea biomass. And Pacific saury, which are the target of a major fishery off the coast of Japan, are a major food source for albacore tuna.

The day before the council’s discussion, a series of op-eds appeared in Oregon and California from both sport and commercial fishermen, urging the council to make forage fish a priority as the cornerstone of a well-functioning ecosystem.

“The Pacific Fishery Management Council cannot control global market trends, changes in ocean conditions or the rise of aquaculture,” longtime commercial fisherman Lee Taylor wrote in The Register-Guard of Eugene, Ore. “But it can make sure we’ve left enough small fish in the ocean to sustain iconic species such as salmon, tuna and groundfish, in order to protect a vibrant coastal economy now and in the future.”

The PFMC took an important step in the right direction in June. However, much work remains to be done. Follow the campaign at and find out how you can help ensure that fishery managers make good on their promise by enacting firm protections for the important little fish that support a healthy ocean.

Related Stories:

The Bottom Line: Little Fish Do Matter

Hundreds of Southeast Fish Species Protected Thanks to You!

The Bottom Line: Even Fish Need Yearly Checkups


Photo credit: Pew Environment Group


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Kayla, for Sharing this!

Elaya Raja
Elaya Raja5 years ago


Pauli Kesäläinen

Meidän kaikkien on vähennettävä kalansyöntiä ja samalla tehtävä merikalojen kestävää valintaa !
Pauli, K

Angel Campbell
Angel Campbell5 years ago

Great :) We all need to stop eating fish or seriously cut down before our oceans become redundant.

Shark S.
Shark S5 years ago

Just like sharks are important to ecosystem health, the bottom of the food chain is also important for the balance and health of ocean ecosystems. Most of these fish are not in any kind of fishery management plan or even have had their basic population biology studied.
Shark Stewards, a project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network is proud to have helped Pew urge the Council to take a prudent step before we overfish this valuable resource.

Alan M.
Past Member 5 years ago

recognition is a start, all good news welcome, thank you.

Donna Burgess
Donna B5 years ago

Why won't Care2 STOP these ads on here?? I keep reporting them and yet they keep going and going and going. Like The Energizer Bunny! This makes me so mad. Sorry, had to get that out. I am mad at them, The Spammers!!

Jaime  Alexande Alves
Jaime Alves5 years ago

Great news.

Barb Mann
Barb Mann5 years ago

Way to go! That's right, we CAN make a difference!!