The Pacific Fishery Management Council recently voted for a ban on all new forage fisheries in the region. This doesn’t affect existing fisheries such as sardines, herring, and anchovy. However, it does protect the many species that are not currently regulated, such as sand lance and saury.
The Pacific council regulates fisheries in federal waters, between 3 and 200 miles off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. So each of these states will need to implement similar regulations to enforce near-shore fishing. Also, the law will not go into effect until the National Marine Fishery Service grants approval and crafts the language, which could take some time.
A recent crash in the sardine fishery has been cause for major concern in the Pacific region. The effects from the crash are being seen throughout the food web, such as lack of available food for sea lions. It is becoming clear to researchers that managers need to consider all of the direct and indirect effects caused by the harvesting of forage fish.
The idea behind the law is that if fishermen want to start a new fishery, they must prove that it won’t be damaging to the ecosystem or food web structure. This is a fairly new kind of management style, with extra care being given to the ecosystem as a whole.