Wednesday, August 24, 2016

24/08/2016: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council puts limits on forage fish species

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which oversees fishing in U.S. waters from New York State to North Carolina has decided to begin managing more than 50 species of forage fish. 

In a recent article written by Annie Sneed on the ScientificAmerican, it was reported that many of these “forage” species we have never heard of, let alone tasted them, but they play a vitally important role in the ocean, they are eaten by the fish we eat.

The council’s decision is a bit unusual—after all, none of the forage fish populations are in danger of collapse, and only one of the 50-plus species is harvested on a large scale in the mid-Atlantic today. In the region, people have mostly ignored these fish because they tend to be small, low-value and not very appetizing. But the council is trying to handle its fisheries more holistically because it has realized that putting controls on a single species at a time just will not work.
Image: Ingrid Taylar

“There's a move now to manage all fisheries as part of a bigger system,” says Steve Ross, a research professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington who is one of the council’s scientific advisors. “When you manage one fish, you try to manage its whole environment—and that includes the food web.” 

These small, nutrient-rich forage fish pump energy through the ecosystem in a way that no other marine animal can. They feed on the bottom of the food chain—on single-celled plankton, which larger fish cannot eat—and then they become prey for all sorts of upper-level predators like tuna, sea bass and halibut as well as seabirds and marine mammals.

“I like to say that forage fish help turn sunlight into salmon,” explains Ellen Pikitch, a professor of marine biology at Stony Brook University. “They support so much of the ocean ecosystem.”

Read more HERE.

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