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—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.

Kate and Nora
Kate and Nora

On California Coast, Endangered Tern Depends on Healthy Anchovy Population

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Early on Monday mornings from May through August, Kate Grabenstein heads to Huntington State Beach, south of Los Angeles in Orange County, to keep an eye on endangered California least terns as they nest in the sand and raise their young.


Anchovies are Key to Health of the Ocean

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Most people recognize how ocean health affects the fortunes of commercial fishermen, seafood processors, and other players in the West Coast fishing industry: Favorable marine conditions help species—and the industry—thrive.

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Spotlight on Mental Health

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Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

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How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

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Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
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Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.