86-1 Global Management of Forage Fish: Advice from the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force (Keynote)

Ellen K. Pikitch , School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
Forage fish are, in many ecosystems, the foundation of the marine food web and a critical prey source for marine mammals, seabirds, and higher trophic level fish.  They also account for nearly 40% of global wild marine fisheries catch, much of which is processed into fishmeal and fish oil for animal feeds. Most forage fisheries are managed with traditional single species approaches, designed to maximize fisheries yields.  However, a growing body of scientific evidence indicates that forage fisheries, which commonly exhibit large population fluctuations in response to environmental variables, should be managed with an ecosystem-based approach, to sustain the other organisms that depend upon them while maintaining long-term economic benefits. A reduction in available prey-- due to fishing, environmental conditions, or a combination of both-- can have direct and lasting impacts on predator species. As fishing pressure on forage species is sustained or intensified, it will be critical to set fishing limits that account for the interconnected species and environmental variables affecting forage fish.

The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force was established to address the need for practical guidance in implementing an ecosystem-based approach for forage fisheries. Presented here is an overview of the task force’s work, including new scientific revelations into the ecological consequences of forage fish removals. The task force developed several quantitative methods to gain a greater understanding of where forage fish are most important, and how various management strategies impact forage fish populations and predators. This presentation will review those methods and results, culminating in a set of practical, science-based recommendations that can be implemented in ecosystems with any level of scientific information or knowledge. Precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to the management of forage fish are necessary to maintain their ecological role as prey under changing environmental and human conditions, and the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force recommendations are an important first step in achieving this goal.