Tuesday, August 2, 2016

02/08/2016: WWF-Canada warns that small fish are in big trouble

Image: Greg Grimes
WWF-Canada is warning that forage fish are in trouble, following their new assessment of Canadian fisheries, released today in their report Food for All. These small fish are vitally important to starving predators such as whales and seabirds, as well as critical to the recovery of commercial fisheries such as northern cod.
Three fisheries are in critical condition in Atlantic Canada: two herring stocks in the Gulf of St Lawrence, and Atlantic mackerel. Another fishery of concern is the herring in southwest Nova Scotia/Bay of Fundy.
In 75 percent of the fisheries assessed, the stock status is unknown, including all capelin fisheries, and all the fisheries in British Columbia. In all cases, fisheries management does not sufficiently account for predator needs. Furthermore, effects of the environment and climate change on forage fish are largely unknown.
Forage fish are small fish such as herring and capelin. They are among the most abundant in the ocean by mass. As such they constitute an important source of food for a range of predators - some species, such as humpback whales, minke whales, and harbour seals, depend on forage fish for as much as 75 percent of their food. However, these small fish are very susceptible to environmental changes and vulnerable to overfishing because they congregate in shoals, which makes them easy to catch even when the stock is declining.
“Populations of large predators like humpback whales, along with seabirds and commercial species such as cod, will never recover if they don’t have enough food to eat. It’s shocking that many of these fisheries are being managed without adequate information about the stocks," says David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada.
"WWF Canada’s report demonstrates that there is a lot of work to be done, protecting the forage fish that underpin the health of our ocean ecosystems.”
WWF-Canada is working to secure food for starving predators including beluga and humpback whales, seabirds and northern cod. The organisation is also striving to modernise fisheries management to account for the needs of multiple species, strengthen the eco-certification of forage fish fisheries, find alternatives to using forage fish as bait in commercial fisheries such as lobster fisheries, and protect spawning beaches for commercial and non-commercial forage fish.
Find the report HERE.
Visit the WWF-Canada site HERE.

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