Northern Anchovies, the Most Important Prey Fish in the U.S. Pacific Ocean

Ecosystem-based management is needed to support marine wildlife

Northern Anchovies, the Most Important Prey Fish in the U.S. Pacific Ocean

More than 50 marine species in the California Current ecosystem—including seabirds, larger fish such as salmon and tuna, and marine mammals including whales and sea lions—rely on northern anchovies as one of their most important food sources.

Despite their vital role in the ecosystem, however, anchovies continue to be managed using decades-old data and without consideration of the best available science. Even when the central subpopulation of northern anchovy dropped to historically low levels between 2009 and 2015, managers did not revise catch limits that had been in place since the 1990s, potentially harming whales, seabirds, salmon, and other predators as well as the anchovy stock itself.

It is time to protect northern anchovies and bring management of this vital species into the 21st century. By setting science-based catch limits that account for the needs of wildlife and a precautionary cutoff that suspends fishing when anchovy populations are low, fishery managers can establish a sustainable framework for northern anchovies. This ecosystem-based approach would help ensure adequate food for dependent predators, prevent overfishing, and support strong coastal communities.


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