Small Fish Fuel our Fisheries

Anglers and fisheries managers alike tend to focus on big fish.   However, small schooling fishes like sardines, anchovies, and menhaden serve as the critical link between primary producers and game fish.  By feeding on microscopic plankton and, in turn, serving as forage for larger fish, they effectively serve as a key step in converting sunshine into all manner of recreationally important fish, from snook to sailfish.  Unfortunately, many important forage species are not well- studied and few have effective management measures in place to ensure sufficient diversity and population sizes necessary to support marine predators.

Over the past decade, the IGFA has been involved in significant efforts to improve forage fish management and data collection across the US. Since 2016, the IGFA has been working in Florida as the lead organization for the Florida Forage Fish Coalition consisting of the IGFA, Pew Charitable Trusts, Fish Florida, Wild Oceans, American Sportfishing Association, Angler Action Network, and the Florida Wildlife Federation, together we have been working on the following objectives:

  • Supporting graduate student research fellowships that allow fisheries scientists to answer important questions regarding factors that drive forage fish abundance and the linkages between forage fish and recreationally important species
  • Advocating for the development of ecological reference points for Atlantic menhaden in the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission’s menhaden fishery management plan
  • Supporting proactive forage fish management at the state and regional level that prevents the development of new fisheries for forage fish in the absence of data necessary to determine not only how much can be sustainably harvested, but also how many of these important fish need to be left in the water to fulfill their natural role as food to marine predators

Take a look here at what the IGFA and its partners are doing to make sure there’s enough fish at the bottom of the food chain to ensure that we have healthy populations of fish at the top.