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Forage Fish Crucial to Ocean Food Webs, NOAA Leader Says

"If you take large swaths in the center of the food web out of play, you’re really going to alter the ecosystem in fundamental ways," Kathryn Sullivan, warning of the dangers of overharvesting forage fish, said on October 8. Sullivan is head of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and, as a former astronaut, the first U.S. woman to have walked in space. At Pew to mark that milestone, she closed her talk with a down-to-earth message about the importance of conserving these "hidden" fish.

Transcript: "There is the question about what scale of production can aquaculture really deliver. Can it do that in an intrinsically sustainable way? Cultivating salmon and other carnivorous fish, you harvest other fish that no one cares about, by name, out of the ocean in vast numbers to grind them up to make fishmeal to feed to the pigs, and the chickens, and the pets, and the salmon that you do care about…So getting the energy balance of that right is going to be one of the key tricks. And again the forage fish, the middle of the food chain, that tends to be fished out to supply the fishmeal, it’s not restaurant stuff, it doesn’t have popular names; it’s a blind, a hidden, an unnamed fish in the who-cares category. But food webs are food webs; that word ‘web’ matters; if you take large swaths of the center of a food web out of play you’re really going to alter the ecosystem in fundamental ways."

Media Contact: Kymberly Escobar 202.887.8814

Topics: Oceans, Environment

Project: Pacific Ocean Conservation

Places: Pacific Ocean

Media Contact

Kymberly Escobar

Director, Communications

202.887.8814