STONY BROOK, NY, Sept. 7, 2012 A just-published study provides a first-time analysis of the value of forage fish, which are small, schooling species such as sardines, herring, and anchovies. Three kinds of contributions of forage fish were estimated: as direct catch, as food for other commercially important fish, and as an important link in the food web in marine ecosystems. The analysis showed these small fish contribute a total of $16.9 billion, as both direct catch and food for larger fish, to global fisheries annually, representing 20 percent of the global catch values of all marine fisheries combined. Additionally, the scientists found in 75 percent of the ecosystem models analyzed, at least one of the highly dependent predator species of forage fish, such as seabirds, marine mammals, depended on these fish for half or more of its diet, and in 30 percent of the models analyzed, forage fish made up three-quarters of the diet for at least one predator species.
A team of scientists led by the Institute for Conservation Science at Stony Brook University examined these contributions of forage fish through a compilation and synthesis of 72 published Ecopath models from around the world. Ecopath models are a type of food web model that can be used to estimate the direction and strength of interactions among species within an ecosystem. This analysis identified ecosystems that are likely to have highly to extremely dependent forage fish predators, which may assist in ecosystem-based management efforts that consider both commercial fisheries and effects to threatened or endangered species.
"In addition to their value to commercial fishing and other industries that depend on them for their products, forage fish play valuable roles in global ecosystems while they are still in the water," said Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, co-lead author and executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and professor at Stony Brook University. "By q
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The Institute for Ocean Conservation Science