Regional policymakers are expected to act today on an ecological plan that would mark a significant shift in the way West Coast fisheries are managed.


The years-in-the-making proposal aims to protect several species of forage fish that are often overlooked, but provide a crucial food source for salmon and other marine wildlife. The plan reflects a move toward more broad ecosystem-based management, rather than the species-by-species approach that characterized previous policy. The result could mean better fish runs on the Columbia River and other Northwest waterways, advocates say.


The Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting this week in Vancouver, discussed the proposal Monday. The group is expected to take final action today.


"It's really a landmark step for the council to go this direction," said Paul Shively, a project manager with the Pew Charitable Trusts in Portland.


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