The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is among a powerful group of organisations to have thrown its support behind the recently introduced Forage Fish Conservation Act.
The Act calls for the role of forage fish in the marine ecosystem to be considered when catch limits are set by federal fisheries managers.
Improving the management and conservation of this vital element in the food chain was flagged up in 2014 ago by the Commission on Saltwater Fisheries Management, chaired by Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO, Johhny Morris. It was one of six recommendations made in the Commission’s report.
“For years, the recreational fishing community has advocated for better conservation of our nation’s forage fish populations because a healthy forage base fuels healthy sportfish populations,” said Mike Leonard, Vice President of Government Affairs for the ASA.
Introduced by senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Roy Blunt (R-Montana), the legislation recognises that forage fish are vital to the future of most species caught by recreational anglers, as well as to seabirds and other marine life. However, the existing Magnuson-Stevens Act does not account for the unique role they in the marine ecosystem, instead relying on traditional single-species management approaches.
The Forage Fish Conservation Act would require that the impacts on fish populations and the marine ecosystem be considered before allowing the harvest of any currently unmanaged forage species, and that predator needs be accounted for in existing management plans.
“It is critical that we pay more attention to the tiniest of fish in our oceans because they are the base of the food chain and essential to the success of America’s blue economy,” said Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Sportfishing Policy.
Ted Venker, Conservation Director for the Coastal Conservation Association, said it was ‘virtually impossible’ to manage sportfish and predator populations successfully over the long-term without taking into account the food chain that supports them.
Other bodies supporting the bill include the International Game Fish Association, BoatUS, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Guy Harvey Foundation and the Professional Sportsmen’s Foundation