You may never have heard of sand lance or saury, but these tiny fish play a critical position in the middle of the marine food web. Right now, many species of prey fish are unprotected, allowing new fisheries to spring up before the science is in place to manage them sustainably.
Demand is rising to catch forage fish, but conventional fishery management doesn't account for the role they play as food for ocean wildlife. As a result, prey fish, while not considered overfished in the traditional sense, can be caught in such large quantities that not enough are left in the water to feed bigger fish, seabirds, and marine animals.
Fishery managers along the Pacific coast are considering a better approach, but they need to hear from people who support protecting a healthy marine food web. Ask the Pacific Fishery Management Council to help ensure a productive marine ecosystem by setting aside forage species that aren't currently protected.
I am writing to support the council's effort to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem and am urging it to take action to protect currently unexploited forage species.
[Your comments will be inserted here.]
Forage fish occupy a critical middle link in the marine food web. In light of growing global demand to turn them into feed for poultry, livestock, and aquaculture, I believe it is imperative for the council to act as soon as possible to prevent the expansion of new fisheries on forage unless the science is in place to ensure they are fished sustainably.
The council's draft ecosystem plan notes that demand for nonmanaged forage species is likely to expand with the spectacular growth of the worldwide aquaculture industry. The council cannot control global market trends, but it can protect a well-functioning marine ecosystem by holding off on opening new fisheries to catch vast quantities of baitfish for use as animal feed. Indeed, protecting prey fish may be the single most important concrete action the council can take to maintain a balanced and resilient marine food web here on the Pacific coast.
Thank you for considering my comments and for your continued commitment to a productive marine environment.
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