Vote on Pacific Forage Fish Management Days Away

New Regulations On Forage Fish Will Impact Salmon, Steelhead, and Tuna Down the Line

The future of Pacific salmon could be decided Monday, when the Pacific Fisheries Management Council votes on new regulations affecting forage fisheries management. The regulations would affect US waters off the coast of Oregon, California, and Washington.

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“This puts the ocean first,” said Paul Shivey of Pew Charitable Trusts, a conservation non-profit based in Philadelphia. “It’s a really visionary move.”

Under current rules, fishermen only need to give 90 days notice before opening a new fishery. The new policy will restrict harvesting forage fish until aspiring fishermen can prove that they won’t impact the ecosystem. Existing fisheries won’t be affected, but new fisheries will require approval.

Until now, many forage species in US waters have been unregulated—species like smelt, saury, and sand lance. But with the decline of staple fisheries like salmon and tuna, fishermen are turning to forage fish, which have commercial value as an ingredient for pet food and livestock supplements.

The vote will follow up on a 2013 plan to adopt new management strategies that take into account the entire ecosystem. Sport fishermen know how this works—the forage fish are a critical piece in a food web that supports the entire ecosystem, including game fish. It will take years before any impact on salmon and steelhead populations is obvious, but it’s one step in the right direction. Get the original story from Oregon Live.

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