Hope You Didn’t Want Sardines On Your Pizza

by r.cove on October 30, 2015 - 7:30pm

            There is a chain reaction for every action. A slight change in the composition of an ecosystem can have a chain reaction and affect many. Species turnovers and declining populations are noticeable long before they are noticed. Especially if you know where to look: at their predators. This is the current case for the sardine fishery on the West Coast. In the article published by CBC news in April, the topic of the sardine fishery crash is one that has many people concerned. Scientists have been conducting research on the sardine populations along the west coast using acoustic signals beneath the waters surface. They are looking for the number of sardine present, and the number of eggs laid. The result is showing what they feared, that another stock crash is occurring. The birds that rely on sardines as a primary food source are said to have been starving since 2010. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is trying to come up with an implementation plan. Currently there is a no catch clearance on sardine: with a potential “zero incidental catch” notice being enforced. This would shut down other sectors of the fishery where sardines are often by catch, creating a loss of jobs and making many fishermen unhappy.  These fluctuations of sardine populations are a known to occur naturally however with human overexploitation the species is facing extreme danger and cannot afford to be caught and shipped to Europe and Asia if there is hope for them to be around in the future.


            They say you learn from your mistakes, they also say history repeats it self. In this case it would seem that the stock crash in the 1940’s was not a strong enough warning to take precaution in the future. Overexploitation is a common occurrence when it comes to natural resources. Every time the fisheries are affected it seems that the government cannot get on top of it or implement regulatory substantive instruments (catch limits and regulations etc.) soon enough to prevent the stress on the fish species so they can recover. In this article the fishermen are unsatisfied with the research the government and the PFMC are conducting. They feel the data is giving a false idea of the sardine fish stock. This is an example of cognitive conflict, which occurs when the different stakeholders involved have different understandings of a situation, and methods of analysis. In this case the PFMC is saying that the number of Sardine present, spawning, and eggs counts, are low. Fishermen are claiming that the researchers are looking for sardine at the wrong depths, creating conflict. If this type of population crash is known to occur on a small scale naturally, its been seen in the past, and is negatively affecting the primary predators of this fish species, then the PFMC should implement regulatory catch limits and fishing bans. A more adaptive management approach that would help this issues before it became potentially threatening would be educating the fishermen and the public on the signs of a threatened species.  It could prevent future crashes if people are aware of what signs to look for in a struggling population. Finally it is important that the Canadian and USA fishery economies comply with regards to the no fishing rules, as oceans are one of the more difficult places to monitor. One issue not raised by the article was the current fishing practices and if they are the cause behind the crashing sardine populations. How is it that the market is crashing under human influence for a second time?



Barnard. J. (2015, April 4). U.S Sardine fishery on the west coast to be shut

             down, scientists warn of collapse. CBC news British Colombia.


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