Task force warns of forage fish depletion

April 2, 2012 at 10:41 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 2 (UPI) -- A U.S. scientific task force is recommending reducing by half the fishing for crucial prey species like herring, anchovy and other so-called forage fish.

The Forage Fish Task Force of the Lenfest Ocean Program says forage fish must be protected for their critical role as food for larger species, including commercially important fish such as salmon, tuna, striped bass and cod, a release from Lenfest's Washington headquarters said.

Forage fish are twice as valuable in the water as in a net, the task force said, estimating they contribute $11.3 billion to the global economy by serving as food for other commercially important fish, more than double the $5.6 billion they represent as direct catch.

"Traditionally we have been managing fisheries for forage species in a manner that cannot sustain the food webs, or some of the industries, they support," task force head Ellen K. Pikitch of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in New York said. "As three-fourths of marine ecosystems in our study have predators highly dependent on forage fish, it is economically and biologically imperative that we develop smarter management for these small but significant species."

The task force said it was recommending at least twice as many of these species in most ecosystems should be left in the ocean as are permitted to remain under conventional current practice.

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