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Fisheries council wants regulation of forage fish

Mar 11, 2013


By The Associated Press

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A draft of an ecological plan that applies to West Coast fisheries has emphasized the need for management of so-called forage fish to improve salmon runs.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council will consider adopting the draft fishery ecosystem plan on April 9 in Portland.

The goal is better fish runs on the Columbia River and other Northwest waterways, The Columbian reported.

Tim Roth, a deputy project leader for the federal Columbia River Fisheries Program in Vancouver, said the plan may lead to more conservative management of West Coast fisheries, at least initially. But that could change as managers learn more about the interactions of interdependent marine species, he added.

“It might mean lower catches in the near term until we better understand these relationships,” Roth said.

Forage fish are the small schooling species like sardines, saury and smelt that provide a crucial protein source for larger fish and other animals in the Pacific.

Some of those forage species are largely unmanaged, leaving them vulnerable to unregulated fishing.

Advocates have welcomed the plan and its broad approach to Northwest ecosystems. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ environmental arm has recently pushed to raise awareness of forage fish and their importance to the marine food web.

“What really fuels all of this are these little . fish that never get their day in the sun,” said Paul Shively, a campaign manager with the Pew trusts.

The plan doesn't have direct regulatory authority, but the council is composed, in part, of federal and state wildlife officials from Oregon, California, Washington and Idaho.

Earlier plans didn't take a big-picture approach, Roth said.

“As (previous plans) were developed, they didn't really look across the broad complexities of species and how they interacted,” Roth said.

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Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com

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