New WWF-Canada initiative has big hopes for little fish | WWF-Canada

New WWF-Canada initiative has big hopes for little fish

Posted on 01 October 2015
Pacific herring, an important forage fish, in British Columbia, Canada.
© National Geographic Stock /Paul Nicklen / WWF-Canada
Toronto (October 1, 2015) - A new WWF-Canada initiative aims to combat a key threat to the world’s oceans: the substantial decrease in food available for all marine life.

The national initiative aims to prevent further population declines of forage fish, which include species such as herring, sardine and capelin. Also known as ‘prey fish’ or ‘bait fish’, these small fish are important sources of food for everything from cod to humpback whales, forming the backbone of many marine ecosystems. 

“Marine conservation traditionally focuses on big predators such as whales and sharks, but relatively little effort has gone into keeping their food supply healthy,” said WWF-Canada President and CEO David Miller. “Protecting forage fish species is important because of the vital role they play in feeding whales and seabirds, as well as the wild fish that provide us with food and jobs.” 

Studies show that forage fish abundance varies considerably over time, but is heavily influenced by commercial fishing and environmental conditions, especially climate change. To help address these and other issues, WWF plans to help rebuild depleted stocks by driving improvements in fishing practices and management alongside partners from the fishing industry, government, academia, and community groups. The initiative also includes efforts to protect spawning habitats such as eelgrass meadows, kelp beds and beaches. 

“Forage fish are ecologically essential and economically important,” said Bettina Saier, Vice President of WWF-Canada’s Oceans program. “Most forage fish are used for animal feed or fertilizer – but some are discarded. If we’re going to keep our oceans healthy, we need to ensure forage fish populations are managed sustainably.”   

In spite of declines in some areas, recent increases in historic northern Newfoundland cod stocks are believed to be linked to the growth in the number of capelin, their main source of food. Ensuring that the northern cod stock, which is also known by its formal designation 2J3KL, and other fisheries across Canada are managed with a multi-species perspective is another important element of the new WWF initiative.  

“While our fisheries science and management policies have improved considerably in recent times, we still have a long way to go,” said David Miller, CEO, WWF-Canada “We have big hopes that efforts to better protect these little fish will lead to healthy oceans and, ultimately, more resilient communities.”  

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For further information contact
Chris Chaplin, Senior Communications Specialist, WWF-Canada, +1 416 669 9155, cchaplin@wwfcanada.org 
Pacific herring, an important forage fish, in British Columbia, Canada.
© National Geographic Stock /Paul Nicklen / WWF-Canada Enlarge