Ecology Action Centre Launches Recommendations to Improve Forage Fish Science and Management | Ecology Action Centre

Ecology Action Centre Launches Recommendations to Improve Forage Fish Science and Management


KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – The Ecology Action Centre has launched a new fisheries campaign, aimed at protecting and rebuilding the important fish species which sustain the ecosystem.

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.

“Globally, forage fish have been shown to be more valuable as food for other commercially important fish than as directed fisheries themselves,” explained Katie Schleit, Marine Campaign Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre. “The traditional management approach of just looking at one species in isolation won’t work.”

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.

“Forage species like herring and mackerel really require special attention since they play such an important role in the ecosystem” says Heather Grant, also with the Ecology Action Centre. “As such, Canada needs to manage these species with the entire ecosystem in mind by taking into account the needs of species that feed on forage fish, and the effects of changing climate and environmental 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.


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The Ecology Action Centre has published a more detailed overview of forage fish in Atlantic Canada, titled “Making Forage Fish Count: Recommendations to Improve Management in Canada". For more info on the forage fish campaign, go to

EAC has also posted a blog on the subject of forage fish which can be found at

EAC already works on numerous species and fisheries that are affected by the status of forage fish, including sharks, tuna and cod.


For further information, please contact:


Katie Schleit

Marine Campaign Coordinator



Heather Grant

Marine Communications Campaigner


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