Environmentalists are calling for even stricter regulations on sardine fishing that would devastate West Coast fisheries.
Every year, the Pacific Fishery Management Council establishes harvest thresholds for Pacific sardine fishing. The Council utilizes sophisticated modeling to predict the total biomass of sardines up to 200 miles offshore off Washington, Oregon, and California. Based on recent modeling, the Council will likely set the upcoming season’s Harvest Guideline at zero tons. This means there would be no sardine fishing in the upcoming season.
At issue is whether or not the Harvest Guideline tonnage includes incidental harvest. Sardines are known to swim with other species, including mackerel, anchovies, and market squid. A zero-ton incidental harvest could effectively close those fisheries, as well.
Oceana, an environmental advocacy group, wants the Council to set incidental harvest at zero tons. Oceana states that existing regulations mandate that “the total Harvest Guideline will consist of an incidental catch portion and a directed fishery portion.”
Oceana states several other reasons to set incidental harvest at zero. They point out that the sardine fishery has collapsed, and that more sardines are being harvested each year than are repopulating the species.
A conservation group, Wild Oceans, is also calling for the Council to set a zero Harvest Guideline. With a stated mission “to keep the oceans wild to preserve fishing opportunities for the future;” the group represents consumptive use interests.
The Council has also received notice from the Quinault Indian Nation, a Pacific Coast Treaty Tribe. This season, the Quinault will be exercising their rights for 1,000 metric tons for sardine fishing.
The Pacific sardine generally spends summer and fall feeding off of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Their spawning grounds are south off the coast of California and Mexico. Council models put the upcoming season’s total biomass of sardines at 96,688 metric tons. This amount is well below the minimum 150,000 metric ton biomass required to open Pacific sardine fishing.