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Lawsuit Filed to Protect Fish at Bottom of the Marine Food Chain

December 15, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - The federal agency that manages West Coast fisheries is being sued for failing to protect the small foraging fish at the bottom of the ocean food chain. The advocacy group Oceana claims the National Marine Fisheries Service has set catch limits that cause overfishing of sardines, mackerel and anchovy, which in turn leaves whales, dolphins and seals hungry.

Attorney Andrea Treece with Earthjustice says the fisheries service has taken an old-fashioned management approach.

"They are not really looking at how all these critters interact. In the real world, they really depend on each other. We need real-world, scientifically-based fisheries management, and the science is there to do it."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, asks that the fisheries service set an "optimum yield" catch that leaves enough forage fish as prey, while using the best science to determine catch levels and overfishing limits.

Treece warns that when the base of the ocean food web is not protected, the rest of the ocean ecosystem is threatened, as well as the industries that depend on it.

"We're looking at this obviously as a large ecosystem health issue, but also from a perspective that managing these smaller forage fish pays off, in that it maintains the health of other commercial fisheries."

More information is available at

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA