Pelagic Fisheries Conservation

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PI: Dr. Daniel Pauly, University of British Columbia*

*External grantee

Completed 2008

“Forage fish” are small, ocean-dwelling prey fish – including anchovies, herring, sardines, and menhaden -- that are a critical food source for marine mammals, seabirds, and many larger fish species. Although excessive removal of these fish can undermine or even collapse marine food webs, they are increasingly being exploited by industrial scale fisheries, with little management or oversight. The Institute for Ocean Conservation Science has been examining the complex role of forage fish in marine environments and the intense fishing pressure on them.

With primary support from the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, internationally renowned marine scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and colleagues conducted a nine-year study focusing on the integral role that forage fish play in marine ecosystems and the implications of removing them in excessive numbers. Entitled “Forage Fish: From Ecosystems to Markets” and published in 2008 in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, the study found that nearly one-third of the fish taken from the world’s oceans each year are forage fish. Even more remarkable was that of the 31.5 million tons of forage fish caught annually, 90 percent are ground up and turned into fish meal to feed farm-raised fish, pigs, and poultry, and into fish oil, squandering a precious food resource for humans. This Institute-funded study was an important product of the nine-year Sea Around Us Project, a partnership between the University of British Columbia and The Pew Charitable Trusts, and represents the most comprehensive, global study of forage fisheries to date.

Despite the large-scale, global extraction of forage fish, there are few management plans for these species and very little is known about their role in the marine ecosystems. Dr. Pauly, co-author Dr. Jacqueline Alder, and colleagues conclude that other feeds should be used for farmed animals so that these forage fish can be brought to market for larger-scale human consumption, since these species are highly nutritious. Although feeds derived from soy and other land-based crops are available and are used, fishmeal and fish oil have skyrocketed in popularity because forage fish are easy to catch in large numbers and hence, relatively inexpensive. Remarkably, the study found that pigs and poultry around the world consume more than double the seafood eaten by Japanese consumers and six times the amount consumed by the U.S. market. “The use of forage fish for animal husbandry competes directly with human consumption in some areas of the world, ” the authors write. “As forage fisheries decline, the food security of nations dependent on these small pelagic fish is threatened.” Excessive removal of forage fish could also hurt populations of larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals that rely upon them as food.

The Sea Around Us Project was established in 1999 at the University of British Columbia to study the impact of fishing on the world’s marine ecosystems. Dr. Pauly and his team have collected and organized an immense amount of data on the world’s fish catches, examining trends...


Cambridge University Press Climate Change and Small Pelagic Fish
Book (Cambridge University Press)

This tuna is hungry

2004-05-09 14:06:24 by Bruce_

Tunas are migratory pelagic fishes inhabiting all the world's oceans from temperate to equatorial regions. Although most tunas are spawned in tropical waters, general biological characteristics and habitat ranges of the adults vary among species. Although all tuna species have extreme habitat ranges from the Equator to temperate regions, it is convenient to classify species on the basis of their temperature preference as tropical tunas (skipjack, Katsuwonus pelamis and yellowfin, Thunnus albacares), subtropical tunas (bigeye, Thunnus obesus and albacore, Thunnus alalunga) and temperate tunas (northern and southern bluefin, Thunnus thynnus and T. maccoyii). Tagging studies have shown that all major species of tunas are capable of large-scale movements (>


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