Pacific Council adopts Ecosystem Plan

This week the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) voted to adopt its first ever Fishery Ecosystem Plan, a plan to successfully manage West Coast fisheries while maintaining the health of the ocean ecosystem.

An important aspect of the plan is the Council’s first “ecosystem initiative” to protect forage fish – small fish that are vital prey for fish and marine wildlife.

Oceana reports that the plan will help move the West Coast away from the status quo of managing fish on a species-by-species basis to an ecosystem-based management approach that considers the needs of the overall ecosystem when setting catch levels.

A critical component of the ecosystem plan is a forage initiative which will set a new precautionary course for preventing the development of new fisheries on currently un-fished species unless and until adequate science can demonstrate that these fisheries may be conducted without causing harm to the ocean predators reliant on these small, but essential fish. Forage fish, like Pacific saury, Pacific sandlance, lanternfish, and smelts are important prey for larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.

“The Fishery Ecosystem Plan represents a fundamental shift away from crisis management by taking a proactive, precautionary approach,” said Dr Geoff Shester, California Program Director for Oceana. “Protecting forage fish before new fisheries develop will safeguard our existing fisheries, coastal communities, and iconic ocean wildlife without causing economic harm to any existing stakeholders.”

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