NOAA Fisheries announces a new rule to protect unmanaged forage fish. Forage fish are small schooling species that serve as prey for larger commercially and recreationally important fish, as well as for marine mammals and sea birds. Anchovies, herring, chub mackerel, and sardines are some common forage fish.
Commercial fisheries often catch forage fish, but we know little about the amount of forage species caught in Mid-Atlantic waters. Because of their importance to the food web, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council wants to protect the ecological role these species play in the Mid-Atlantic and to collect more information on catch. This new information will help inform future scientific assessments and management decisions.
This is the first rule in the Atlantic to list forage species as ecosystem component species. This action would set landing and possession limits for 17 species and species groups to prevent the expansion of directed commercial fisheries on these species in Mid-Atlantic federal waters (see map below).
Read the rule as filed in the Federal Register and the permit holder bulletins for commercial fishermen and for dealers. Mid-Atlantic fishermen will receive a copy of a forage fish identification guide, which is also available electronically on the Mid-Atlantic Council’s website.