May 28, 2009 -- The Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University has launched the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, a team of 13 preeminent scientists from around the world that will develop management plans to tackle the unprecedented depletion of forage fish from our oceans. These small prey fish are a critical food source for marine mammals, seabirds, and many large fish species, and their excessive removal can undermine or even collapse marine food webs.
The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force ( http://www.oceanconservationscience.org/foragefish) held its inaugural meeting May 18-20 in Alexandria, VA and is the first scientific team to comprehensively address the management of forage fish globally. Supported by the Lenfest Ocean Program, the task force will examine the roles of forage fish within food webs over the next two years, and develop science-based "rules of thumb" and other management recommendations intended to prevent fishing-induced irreversible impacts on marine ecosystems.
Forage fish include so-called "bait fish" such as anchovies, herring, sardines and menhaden, as well as squid and krill. They are being increasingly harvested by industrial scale fisheries, and comprise nearly 40 percent of the wild marine fish catch globally. To date, management of these fisheries has been sparse and has generally not taken into account the needs of dependant oceanic predators. The task force will recommend specific fishery management measures that will maintain the ecological integrity of marine ecosystems in an era of increased fishing pressure.
"The overexploitation of forage fish has played out like the Wild West of the oceans, with minimal rules and a take-what-you-can mindset," said Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and chairperson of the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force. "What's been
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Stony Brook University