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West Coast sardine fishery closed due to collapse

Sardine fishery. (Photo Copyright: FIS)

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 01:50 (GMT + 9)
The West Coast sardine fishing season that was going to start in July has been cancelled, which has raised controversy as to the reasons for the dwindling numbers of specimens of this pelagic resource.
On the one hand, the closure was decided as a “precautionary measure" by members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council after considering that the sardine abundance has fallen below the level for a mandatory fishing shutdown, the agency Association Press reported.
"We know boats will be tied up, but the goal here is to return this to a productive fishery," David Crabbe, a council member and commercial fishing boat owner, said in a statement.
But on the other hand, media references contacted by informed that environmentalists consider that the fishery should have been shut down years ago, when it first became clear more fish were being harvested than reproduced.
Whereas the council believes this decline can be explained by a range of nonhuman activities, like El Niño phenomenon or sea warming factors, NGOs claim this has been a case of “management failure.”
According to Geoff Shester, California campaign director for the conservation groupOceana, the council allowed some sardines to be caught inadvertently in the course of related fisheries but reduced the amount and it also allowed the Quinault tribe in Washington state to go ahead with a small sardine fishery.
“They didn’t respond fast enough to the decline,” claimed Shester, who blamed overfishing for worsening an already bad situation. “Now we find ourselves in a crisis situation.”
For his part, Don McIsaac, the management council executive director, remarked that sardine populations often fluctuate, and cold water over the past three or four years has lowered the birth rate.
Some biologists explained that sardine distress can be an early indicator of more widespread problems. They are a key food group for animals other than sea lions. Seals, elephant seals, humpback whales, salmon, tuna, birds, marine mammals and others chow down on the fatty little fish.
Meanwhile, a report by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Services outlines sardine numbers have dropped from 1,037,000 metric tons in 2007 to 96,688 metric tons, a 91 per cent decline.
The council is scheduled to consider taking emergency action on current fishing this week.

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