GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Federal fisheries managers slashed upcoming West Coast sardine harvests by two-thirds while scientists try to get a better handle on indications the population is significantly dwindling.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted 7-6 Sunday in Costa Mesa, Calif., to set the commercial harvest level for California, Oregon and Washington at 5,446 metric tons for the first six months of 2014, down from 18,073 metric tons for the same period in 2013. The issue will be taken up again after a new and more complete population assessment is issued in April.
Council member Marci Yaremko of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the council decided to take an even more precautionary approach than management guidelines call for because the current assessment was lacking some information, such as surveys showing too few sardines are being born to replace the ones that are caught or eaten by other fish.
“Nothing is suggesting the biomass is stable,” said Yaremko, who made the motion to cut the harvest. “Everything suggests a decline.”