The Pacific Fishery Management Council is set to vote in March on the proposed new policy, which would ban new forage fisheries in Oregon, Washington and California.
The base of the ocean food chain is made up of small fish such as krill, sardines, smelts and anchovies. These forage species are critical prey for salmon, tuna, rockfish and other important commercial fisheries in the Northwest. They are also important to sea birds and whales. If they are overfished, a potential ripple effect could be created that affects the entire ecosystem.
To protect these forage fish, The Pacific Fishery Management Council will vote on banning fisheries in the Upper Northwest.
Ben Enticknap, a senior scientist with Oceana said, “We’re seeing increasing demand for fishmeal, which is made of forage fish. Right now, peruvian anchovy catches are down. We’re worried fishermen will notice the opportunity along the West Coast and try to start up a fishery here.“
The new rules would put federal waters off-limits to anglers who want to break into new forage fish markets. Enticknap explained how the new policies will work.
There’s a list of approved fisheries. If fishermen want to catch something that’s not on that list, they notify the Fishery Management Council, and the council has a few months to respond. If they don’t respond, the fisherman can just go fishing. What we’re doing is reversing the burden of proof, and saying there won’t be new fisheries for these important species, unless you can demonstrate the the fishery could happen without having an adverse impact on the ecosystem. For too often, our oceans have been treated like the Wild West. You can just go out and start up a fishery, then controls and management measures would have to respond to the new fishery development. We want to protect fisheries before they begin.
This rule would only effect federal waters that go from three miles to two hundred miles offshore. Initially, it would seem that fishermen might oppose the rule. However, more fishermen will gain from this because the species they’re after will have a healthier prey base. The Pacific Fishery Management Council has been working on these rules since 2006 when they focused on krill fishing. In 2009 they expanded it to all forage fish.