VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Forage fish are considered the lifeblood of the ocean's food web, yet in the Atlantic Ocean off America's Eastern Seaboard they have gone unmanaged, with no regulations on how much can be caught. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted Monday to change that, setting in motion a proactive plan for protecting more than 50 forage species.

Rick Robins, who owns a seafood processing business in Virginia, is the Council's chair. He said it's an important step for the ecosystem in case of sudden interest in a species not currently targeted by fishermen.

"Right now under the status quo, large-scale fishery for any of these species that we're talking about could develop without any science, without any management plan, without any review by the Council," he said.

The Council's decision covers around 50,000 squares miles of the Atlantic, three miles to 200 miles offshore, from New York, south to the upper-third of North Carolina. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will make the Council's decision a federal regulation.

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