Most fisheries in the United States are regulated one species at a time. But regional councils and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are moving toward a strategy that takes into account the marine ecosystem as a whole—one called ecosystem-based fishery management. Even though the scientific models being developed are complex, some simple steps can be taken now to get us closer to this goal. Managing the nation’s forage fish—small, schooling prey species—in a more precautionary way can be a useful tool in this transition.
The importance of forage fish to healthy ecosystems and to fishing, seafood, and tourism businesses makes it critical that we use extra caution in their management.