West Coast forage fish decision days away

West Coast fishery managers are poised to make a decision next week that could alter the future of fishing in federal waters off the Pacific Coast, as well as in Oregon’s state-regulated nearshore waters.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a proposal to restrict new forage fisheries off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington unless prospective fishermen can prove harvesting a new species would not damage the ecosystem.

“It’s really a visionary move,” said Paul Shively, who manages the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Pacific Ocean conservation efforts. “This puts the ocean first.”

The restrictions would apply to federal waters, which exist from three to 200 miles offshore. If the plan gains approval, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will pursue new regulations to mirror the federal ban, agency spokeswoman Jessica Sall said.

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