Little Fish Get Protections for their Big Impact
California Assembly Votes to Protect the Ocean’s Food Web
Today, the California Assembly acknowledged the critical role forage species play in maintaining a
healthy marine food web by passing Assembly Bill 1299, sponsored by Oceana and introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael). Forage species, like sardines, herring, and market squid, are truly the “heartbeat” of the ocean forming the foundation of the food web–which in turn benefits everything else that eats these small food fish. Oceana commends the Assembly for their support of this forward-thinking legislation.
“Because forage species are critical to the health of our oceans, we need a state policy that recognizes their importance and ensures careful fisheries management decisions in the future,” said Assemblymember Huffman.
AB 1299 provides a much needed change in the way California manages its fisheries by establishing a state policy that will for the first time consider how much forage should be left in the ocean. This bill will require that new Fishery Management Plans for these species managed by the state not only account for their value if they are caught, but also their value as food for other fish and wildlife if left in the water. This is not just an environmental issue, but largely an economic one: forage species help support a recreation and tourism economy worth over $12 billion annually, providing over 250,000 California jobs.
“The science is clear: abundant forage species are critical to key California fisheries like Chinook salmon, rockfish, and white seabass, some of which are in big trouble. California is a foraging hotspot for whales, dolphins, and seabirds from across the Pacific,” said Oceana California Program Director Dr. Geoff Shester.
Lack of forage has been identified as a contributing factor to severe declines over the last decade in autumn Sacramento River Chinook runs, seabirds and marine mammals. Meanwhile, top predatory fish off California have declined by over 50% since 2003.
AB 1299 is supported by a strong and growing coalition of conservation organizations, fishermen, and seafood businesses that want to see more local seafood, a restored fishing economy, and healthy California oceans.
Darrell Ticehurst, Chairman of the Coastside Fishing Club representing over 13,000 anglers, stated “Without adequate forage to attract and sustain our target species, there would be no California saltwater recreational fishery. And in the case of our rebuilding rockfish, taking their forage away from them would be like taking medicine away from a recovering patient. Aside from the recreational benefit, our state economy simply cannot afford to put at risk the $1billion we spend each year on saltwater angling.”
Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) coauthored the legislation.
Source: Oceana at Oceana.org