New Anchovy Protections Seen as Boost For Ocean Health

Pacific Fishery Management Council
A new Pacific Fishery Management Council framework for anchovy management goes into effect this month. Image via PFMC.

A new management framework for anchovy that was adopted in November by the Pacific Fishery Management Council goes into effect this month, requiring a regular review of the size of the anchovy population and adjusting catch levels as needed based on annual abundance surveys and other information.

The independent non-profit Pew Charitable Trusts hails that change as a more responsive, holistic management approach, which will benefit more than 50 species of marine wildlife, from albacore tuna and Chinook salmon to least terns and humpback whales.

The Pew report notes that fishery managers had for years used fixed catch limits, no matter how much the anchovy population or ocean health declines. For more than two decades, management of California’s anchovy population was based on information collected between 1964 and 1990.

That approach, coupled with static, multiyear catch limits, simply doesn’t work for a species that undergoes large natural fluctuations in abundance, the report said. When the populations collapses, as happened between 2009 and 2016, failing to lower the catch limit can put anchovies, as well as coastal communities and marine wildlife depending on the anchovies, at risk. As a result, West Coast anchovy have been left vulnerable to overfishing during periods of low abundance, the report said.

Under the new management, based on annual population data and regular stock assessments, it’s less likely that the West Coast anchovy fleet will overfish the species when abundance is low, and help to ensure that seabirds, whale and other marine wildlife have sufficient prey, the report said.

While the PFMC will has work to do to fully integrate this new approach to anchovy management, the report concludes, the framework adopted in November is a big leap forward and bodes well for the future of the Pacific Ocean food web.