Feb 24 2012

Fishermen fight suit over forage limits; battle set over state’s dominant fisheries

Squid fishing boat in Monterey, California. Photo Credit: DP Pleschner

By JASON HOPPIN – Santa Cruz Sentinel

February 23, 2012

Note – The story below incorrectly states that the majority of California’s forage catch is used in the aquaculture industry. In actuality, most are canned for export and global consumption. Also, the scientific research utilized by the CWPA – and mentioned in the article – is peer reviewed by an independent science panel and was deemed the ‘best available science’. 

 

Joined by Monterey officials, California’s wetfish producers are fighting a lawsuit that aims for greater protections for anchovies, sardines and squid, setting the stage for a major battle over one of the state’s dominant fisheries.

So-called “wetfish,” also known as forage fish, live near the bottom of the food chain but make up a substantial percentage ofCalifornia’s commercial catch, including 97 percent of all landings in Moss Landing and Monterey. In December, environmentalists filed suit to change how the federal government manages those fisheries.

“If they were to prevail, I think we’d lose our industry,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, which asked a federal court on Tuesday for the right to intervene in the suit.

Much of the forage catch is shipped abroad to literally feed the global growth of fish farms, which raise salmon, tuna and other top fish predators popular with consumers. Squid are the exception, often heading directly to local plates as calamari appetizers or other delicious dishes, and now represents the state’s most valuable fishery.

But environmentalists, including Monterey-based Oceana, have raised alarms about forage fisheries, and in December filed suit to force the federal government to consider impacts on the broader marine ecosystem when setting limits.

“Basically, what Oceana’s trying to do is put this historic industry out of business,” Pleschner-Steele said, pointing to Monterey’s link with sardine fisheries of the past.

Read the rest at the San Jose Mercury News.

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