Small fish worth more in the water than as catch, report says

Catches of small fish should be cut by half, according to a new report by a group of scientists in the Lenfest forage fish task force.

Last week the Lenfest Ocean Program released the report Little Fish, Big Impact, in which a group of scientists analyse the management of so-called forage fish – i.e. small fish such as anchovies and sardines. These fish play a critical role in the marine food web as prey for larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals.

The stock sizes of forage fish vary greatly from year to year and they are easy to catch even when the abundance is low because they swim in dense schools. Forage fish are therefore sensitive to overfishing.

Forage fish are fished for the production of fish meal and fish oil which is fed to aquaculture and farm animals, and the demand for forage fish is increasing. Nevertheless, the Lenfest forage fish task force estimates that forage fish is twice as valuable as prey than as direct catch.

The report therefore suggests that catches of forage fish should be lowered to half of today’s catches in some ecosystems.

> Read the full report ‘Little Fish, Big Impact’ (
> Read an article in the NY Times about the report

Related story: Another group of scientists in December 2011 said that fishing boats must leave a third of small fish in the ocean to save seabirds from declining.

Axel Naver

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