Northern Anchovies, the Most Important Prey Fish in the U.S. Pacific Ocean
Ecosystem-based management is needed to support marine wildlife
More than 50 marine species in the California Current ecosystem rely on northern anchovies as a vital part of their diets, including seabirds, larger fish such as salmon and tuna, and marine mammals including whales and sea lions.
Recent scientific studies indicate that the central subpopulation of northern anchovy is at a low level, which may be putting dependent ocean wildlife at risk. Yet anchovy catch limits have not changed since the 1990s, when the population was much bigger.
It is time to protect northern anchovies and the crucial role they play in the Pacific Ocean food web by updating the way this key forage species is managed. By setting science-based catch limits that account for the needs of predators, as well as a precautionary cutoff that suspends fishing when populations are low, fishery managers can establish a sustainable framework for northern anchovies. Such an ecosystem-based approach would help ensure adequate food for dependent predators, prevent overfishing, and support strong coastal communities.