US fish­eries reg­u­la­tors halt West Coast sar­dine sea­son to pre­vent over­fish­ing


U. S. reg­u­la­tors on Wed­nes­day ap­proved an early clo­sure of com­mer­cial sar­dine fish­ing off the West Coast to pre­vent over­fish­ing.

Their de­ci­sion was aimed at sav­ing the West Coast sar­dine fish­ery from the kind of col­lapse that led to the demise of Can­nery Row, made fa­mous by John Stein­beck’s novel of the same name set in Mon­terey, Cal­i­for­nia.

Meet­ing out­side Santa Rosa, Cal­i­for­nia, the Pa­cific Fish­ery Man­age­ment Coun­cil voted to halt the cur­rent sea­son as early as pos­si­ble, af­fect­ing about 100 fish­ing boats. The sea­son nor­mally would end June 30.

Ear­lier this week, the coun­cil shut down the next sar­dine sea­son, which was set to begin July 1.

The ac­tion was taken based on re­vised es­ti­mates of sar­dine pop­u­la­tions, which found the fish were de­clin­ing in num­bers faster than ear­lier be­lieved.

The coun­cil did not take Wed­nes­day’s de­ci­sion lightly and un­der­stood the pain the clo­sure would im­pose on the fish­ing in­dus­try, said coun­cil mem­ber Michele Cul­ver, rep­re­sent­ing the Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife.

How­ever, it was nec­es­sary be­cause of a new as­sess­ment of sar­dine stocks show­ing they were much lower than es­ti­mated last year, when har­vest quo­tas were set.

The once- thriv­ing sar­dine in­dus­try crashed in the 1940s. Since it re­vived in the 1990s, most of the West Coast catch is ex­ported to Asia and Europe, where some is canned, and the rest goes for bait.

Sar­dine pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates have been de­clin­ing since 2006, and catch val­ues since 2012. The rea­sons are not wellun­der­stood, though it is widely ac­cepted that huge pop­u­la­tions swings are nat­u­ral and gen­er­ally are re­lated to wa­ter tem­per­a­tures.

Roughly 100 boats have per­mits to fish for sar­dines on the West Coast.

That’s about half the num­ber dur­ing the hey­day.


This Aug. 22, 2007, file photo shows freshly caught sar­dines await­ing sorting at West Bay Mar­ket­ing in As­to­ria, Ore­gon. Fed­eral reg­u­la­tors on Wed­nes­day, April 15, ap­proved an early end to com­mer­cial sar­dine fish­ing off Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton and Cal­i­for­nia to pre­vent over­fish­ing.

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