A thriving ocean ecosystem relies on plenty of oil-rich forage fish such as sardines, anchovies and herring. These small schooling fish occupy the crucial midpoint of the ocean food web and are preyed upon by many species of seabirds, marine mammals and commercially and recreationally important fish such as salmon, tuna, groundfish and other predators.
The Pacific Ocean supports a vibrant West Coast fishing industry, both for people who fish for a living and for sport. It attracts tens of thousands of whale watchers and a profusion of aquatic life. But the marine food web, and the coastal economies it supports, depends to a great degree on an abundance of schooling fish.
Many of these forage populations are not monitored or managed, and fishing regulations do not explicitly account for their value as a crucial food source for top predators. Developing a new approach, one that balances the needs of the ecosystem as a whole, will ensure that we maintain the food base that is vital for a healthy ocean and sustainable fishing industry.