Making Forage Fish Count | Ecology Action Centre

Making Forage Fish Count

The Ecology Action Centre has launched a new fisheries campaign, aimed at protecting and rebuilding the important fish species which sustain the ecosystem. Our report, entitled "Making Forage Fish Count: Recommendations to Improve Management in Canada", outlines some of the specific issues facing forage fish in Atlantic Canada, and more specific recommendations on how to improve science and management for these stocks.
Small forage fish, which, in Atlantic Canada, includes species like herring and mackerel, are crucial to the marine ecosystem and the fisheries which depend on it. They provide food for charismatic species like sharks and whales, as well as commercially important species such as tuna, halibut and cod.
These species are also an important source of bait for many Atlantic Canadian fisheries, including the crab and lobster fisheries – which in 2014 combined made up 65% of the over $1 billion total landed value of fisheries in Nova Scotia.
Given the importance of forage fish species, the Ecology Action Centre has begun looking at the management of these species in Atlantic Canada, with a special focus on Atlantic herring and mackerel. Both of these species have experienced significant declines due to fishing activity – mackerel in particular has been assessed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as being in critical condition, with overfishing still occurring. In addition, both species are the target of a large, unregulated and unmonitored bait or recreational fishery, which could account for significant quantities of fish being removed from the ecosystem. Furthermore, these species are also subject to natural fluctuations in abundance due to climate variability. 
Some of the recommendations the Ecology Action Centre has for improving the management of forage fisheries includes applying existing policies to ensure the health and recovery of populations, increasing our knowledge of the species’ role in the ecosystem, increasing capacity to monitor populations and taking a holistic, ecosystem-based approach to managing these fisheries by setting catch limits that account for the needs of other species that prey on forage fish and the vulnerability of the species to large fluctuations in abundance.
To read the full report and learn more, click here. (PDF)

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