Forage Fish Research and Management Across North America: Parallels and Novelties from Coast to Coast Part 1

Forage fish are small, schooling fishes (e.g., herring,  sand lance) that form the critical conduit for upward energy transfer in marine and freshwater food webs from plankton to predators such as salmon, marine mammals, and seabirds.  Many species are targeted by significant fisheries, posing a dual threat to the balance of ecosystems: impacts to individual species, and impacts to the upper trophic level species that rely upon them. Worldwide, forage fish have been the recent focus of litigation, legislation, and science and management gatherings due to growing concern for their influence on ecosystem dynamics.  Despite their key ecological role, there are significant gaps in our understanding of many of these species, limiting our ability to effectively manage them.   Species with established fisheries have been more studied, but species that lack commercial value are very poorly understood, with large gaps in knowledge of their basic life history, abundance, distribution, and movements.  Despite their general lack of value in commercial markets, these under-studied species play the same ecological role as their fiscally valuable counterparts, and may be exploited more heavily as other forage fish are harvested to levels where supply becomes limiting.
Theresa L. Liedtke, Dayv Lowry and Caroline Gibson
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