The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) has approved an amendment to regulate unmanaged forage species in the Mid-Atlantic. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the Unmanaged Forage Omnibus Amendment would prohibit the development of new and expansion of existing directed commercial fisheries on a number of unmanaged forage species in Mid-Atlantic Federal waters.
The prohibition would continue until MAFMC has had an opportunity to assess the available scientific information for these species and consider the potential impacts to existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem.
Forage fish are small, low trophic level fish that play a central role in the marine food chain. These species facilitate the transfer of energy to higher trophic levels by consuming very small prey and then being eaten by larger, predatory fish and other marine animals.
The amendment was not intended to address all unmanaged forage species in the Mid-Atlantic but rather to focus on those species that have high ecological importance and those that have high potential for the development of a large-scale targeted commercial fishery.
MAFMC received more than 21,000 comments during the public comment period, the majority of which focused on the list of species to be included in the amendment. Although the Council initially considered a list of more than 250 forage species, this was narrowed down to a list of 15 taxa (i.e. species, families, orders, and other taxonomic groupings) for inclusion.
These 15 taxa include more than 50 forage species, including anchovies, halfbeaks, herrings, sardines, and sand lances. The complete list of forage species and additional information related to the amendment are available on the Unmanaged Forage Omnibus Amendment page at http://www.mafmc.org/actions/unmanaged-forage.
source: Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council