'Forage fishing' for the future

22 Jul 2011 0 Share

Eating mackerel as a more sustainable seafood, rather than feeding it to fish higher up the food chain, such as tuna, is less taxing on the environment.

Eating mackerel as a more sustainable seafood, rather than feeding it to fish higher up the food chain, such as tuna, is less taxing on the environment.

CSIRO scientists have developed a new approach to sustain 'forage' fishing. Reduced catches of small oceanic 'forage' fish like sardines and anchovies may be required in some ocean areas in order to protect the larger predators, such as tuna, that rely on these species for food.

Simple consumer choices like selecting a thriving fish like Whiting from your fish and chip shop menu over a depleted species such as Flake or Tropical Snapper (pictured) can have a profound effect on the viability of our fishstocks.

Simple consumer choices like selecting a thriving fish like Whiting from your fish and chip shop menu over a depleted species such as Flake or Tropical Snapper (pictured) can have a profound effect on the viability of our fishstocks.

This is a finding of the first major study of the ecosystem effects of fishing forage species: 'Impacts of fishing low trophic level species on marine ecosystems', reported today in the journal Science.

Dr Tony Smith of CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans Flagship led the international team of 12 authors from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, France and Peru.

"Forage species such as anchovy, sardine, herring, mackerel and krill often are the main food source for larger predatory fish, marine mammals and seabirds," Dr Smith said.

"They account for more than 30 per cent of global fisheries production for use directly as human food and indirectly in livestock feeds, and demand is rising."

Previous studies have raised concerns about the flow-on effects on seabirds of forage fishing off Peru and South Africa and in the North Sea, and of rising krill catches on whales in the Southern Ocean. "We found forage fishing had large impacts in the five areas studied" Dr Tony Smith, CSIRO.

"In this study we used three different types of models to examine the broader ecosystem effects when forage fish are harvested at levels that maximise sustainable yields," Dr Smith said.

"We found forage fishing had large impacts in the five areas studied (the northern Humboldt, southern Benguela and California currents, North Sea and south-east Australia).

"These impacts were both positive and negative, and varied across forage species, ecological groups and ecosystems."

To read the full CSIRO media release click here.

For more information on the state of Australia's fisheries and how to make good consumer choices on sustainable seafood, click through to Fishmonger Blues.

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Tags: environment , marine , sustainability , Australia (create Alert from these tags)

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