West Coast Sardine Fisheries Have Collapsed

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 - 11:47am

From ENENews:

Sardine population plummets along U.S. West Coast — AP: Collapse of species feared — “Canadian Pacific fishermen catch no sardines in 2013″

Orange County Register, November 3, 2013: A steep decline in West Coast sardine populations prompted regulators on Sunday to approve sharp limits on commercial fishing for the species in 2014. At a public meeting, the Pacific Fishery Management Council set a catch limit guideline of [...] less than half the limit for the previous year. [...]

Fishery Nation, November 3, 2013: Pacific Fishery Management Council – deep cuts for Sardines [...] The decline in West Coast sardine populations saw regulators on Sunday approve sharp cuts on commercial fishing for the species in 2014. [...]

AP, October 29, 2013: Conservation groups fear sardines declining on West Coast, call for halt to fishing species [...] Concerned sardine numbers may be starting to collapse, conservation groups are calling on federal fishery managers to halt West Coast commercial sardine fishing [...]

Truthdig, October 21, 2013: Canadian Pacific Fishermen Catch No Sardines in 2013 [...] Commercial fishermen off the coast of British Columbia came home this fall without having caught a single sardine, an outcome that suggests a $32 million fishery has collapsed. [...] “They’ve given up looking, pulled the plug,” confirmed Lorne Clayton, executive director of the Canadian Pacific Sardine Association. [...] Aside from the apparent displacement of humpback whales, a report in The Vancouver Sun said nothing about the effects of the disappearance on the ecosystem.

Sardines play an important foundational role in the ocean food pyramid. Their loss will ripple upwards, causing population collapse up the food chain. From OPB.org:

The Seattle Times reported today, the environmental groups Pew Environment and Oceana are worried about the worldwide overfishing of small forage fish – including sardines – because of the critical role they play in the ocean’s food chain. They’ve asked fishery managers to start taking the entire ecosystem into account before allowing fisheries to target forage fish. From The Seattle Times:

“Species like herring, smelt, sardines and squid are the food of choice for many of the ocean’s top predators. But there is increasing pressure globally to harvest marine “forage fish” for everything from hog feed and fertilizer to fishmeal in tuna pens or as bait for recreational or commercial fishing.

And these creatures are often the fish scientists understand the least.

‘The idea that forage fish are important isn’t new,’ said Phil Levin, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. ‘But if you take the fish out of the system … what are the costs if those fish are no longer there to be eaten by birds or mammals or other fish? That’s what we’re talking about now.’”

But fishery management hasn’t changed to reflect the concerns raised by Zwolinsky and Demer or environmental groups – at least not yet. In fact Oceana sued the National Marine Fisheries Service in December over sardine and other forage fish management for failing to take the ecosystem into account before setting fishing limits.

Unfortunately, the collapsing sardine population appears to be yet another 'dangerous exponential' in the resources space, indicating how we're quickly destabilizing the systems we depend on.

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Jim H's picture
Jim H
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 8 2009
Posts: 2391
Oh crap...

Do we think this is just a result of overfishing.. or could there be other factors, i.e. Fukushima, etc?;



eexpo's picture
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Joined: Jun 30 2011
Posts: 51
murmurs of mistakes made

"I think it's time we stop,children,what's that sound?

Everybody look what's going down."

westcoastjan's picture
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GM_Man's picture
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Posts: 74
Total Picture, scary stuff

Recently we have the collapse of bee colonies, large reduction in frog numbers, bats colonies being decimated by a white fungus, jelly fish populations exploding, algae blooms multiplying, and sardine fisheries collapsing.

I would call these 'canary events' when I was younger.  As go the oceans, so goes the human race. Our smallest species, especially those that are critical to the pollination of food and fruit trees, indicate the early stages of a collapsing food environment.

Very scary stuff.

I think now is a good time to get that bee hive up and running while we still can.


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