University of Maine marine scientist Robert Steneck is a member of a task force that recently announced a recommendation to halve global fishing for crucial prey species such as herring, anchovy and other species known as forage fish.
The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force released on April 1 its report, “Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs.” According to a news release from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which manages the Lenfest Ocean Program, the report concluded that in most ecosystems at least twice as many of these species should be left in the ocean as conventional practice.
Forage fish are small schooling fish that are a crucial link in ocean food webs because they eat tiny plants and animals, called plankton, and are preyed upon by animals such as penguins, whales, seals, puffins and dolphins. They are also primary food sources for many commercially and recreationally valuable fish found around North America, such as the Maine lobster (as bait), salmon, tuna, striped bass, and cod. The task force estimated that globally, forage fish are twice as valuable in the water as in a net — contributing $11.3 billion by serving as food for other commercially important fish. This is more than double the $5.6 billion they generate as direct catch.
Made up of 13 preeminent scientists with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force was established to generate specific and practical advice to support better management of forage fish around the world. This group of experts, with support from the Lenfest Ocean Program, synthesized scientific research and other information about these species and conducted original simulation modeling to reach their conclusions.
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