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Sierra Daily

Apr 02, 2012

Little Fish Need Love, Too

Herring iStock_000002600743XSmallCiting plummeting stocks worldwide, a group of marine scientists is calling for major cuts in the commercial fishing of “forage fish” such as sardines, anchovies, herring, and menhaden. According to “Little Fish, Big Impact,” financed by the Lenfest Foundation, these fish account for 37 percent, by weight, of all fish harvested worldwide. That’s up from about 8 percent half a century ago.

So except for an antipasto or Cesar salad every so often, why aren’t these fish prominent in Americans diets? Well, they are, indirectly. Writes the New York Times: forage fish “are ground and processed for use as animal feed and nutritional supplements and, increasingly, as feed for the aquaculture industry, which now produces about half of all the fish and shellfish that people eat.” They are important links in the marine food chain, preying on plankton and transferring its energy up to larger fish such as tuna and cod, marine mammals, and seabirds. 

The study estimates that forage fish left in the wild are worth some $11 billion, twice what they're worth when processed for aquaculture and other uses. 

--Reed McManus/ Photo by iStock/agreeen

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