Little fish, big deal

Thriving ocean ecosystems rely on plenty of oil-rich forage fish such as sardines, anchovies and herring. These small schooling fish occupy the crucial midpoint of the ocean food web and are preyed upon by many species of seabirds, marine mammals and commercially and recreationally important fish such as salmon, tuna, groundfish and other predators.

Many of these forage populations are not monitored or managed, and fishing regulations do not explicitly account for their value as a crucial food source for top predators. Developing a new approach, one that balances the needs of an ecosystem as a whole, will ensure that we maintain the food base that is vital for a healthy ocean and sustainable fishing industry.

Striped marlin in baitball
Striped marlin in baitball
Press Releases & Statements

Pew Commends NOAA for Conserving West Coast Forage Fish

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Press Releases & Statements

PORTLAND, Oregon—The Pew Charitable Trusts today commended the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service for a new federal rule that protects dozens of forage fish species in federal waters along the U.S. West Coast. The rule establishes precautionary protection for many small, schooling fish because of their importance as a food source for seabirds, marine mammals, and bigger fish such as salmon and tuna.

A rhinoceros auklet
A rhinoceros auklet
Article

NOAA Decision Protects Pacific Forage Fish

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Article

It's safe to say that Joni Mitchell wasn't thinking about forage fish when she wrote the lyric “You don't know what you've got till it's gone.” But that refrain, from her 1970 hit song, “Big Yellow Taxi,” perfectly captures the need for policies to protect small baitfish.

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A Starring Role for Forage Fish

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A Starring Role for Forage Fish

Find out more about forage fish...

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PFF feeding frenzy
PFF feeding frenzy
Article

West Coast Fishery Leaders Protect Forage Fish

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Article

Without a doubt, this is a great day for everyone who has a stake in a healthy ocean. West Coast fishery leaders acted March 9 to protect numerous species of forage fish because of the critical role they play in the marine food web.

Pacific Sardines: Critical Food Source in Steep Decline
Pacific Sardines: Critical Food Source in Steep Decline
Fact Sheet

Pacific Sardines: Critical Food Source in Steep Decline

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Fact Sheet

The Pacific coast of North America supports one of the most vibrant and diverse marine ecosystems on Earth, largely because of the presence of thick schools of small prey fish such as Pacific sardines.

Fishermen looking at forage fish on boat
Fishermen looking at forage fish on boat
Report

The State of the Science

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Report

In the California Current, a diverse group of forage fishes play an important and often underappreciated role in the “middle” of the food web.

Forage Fish FAQ
Forage Fish FAQ
Fact Sheet

Forage Fish FAQ

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Fact Sheet

Forage fish are small, schooling species that eat microscopic plants and animals drifting near the ocean surface and are then consumed by bigger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.

forage fish
Forage Fish Key to a Healthy Ocean Food Web
2min 52sec