NOAA Fisheries bans new commercial fishing for forage fish

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Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus) burrowing into the sand (NOAA Fisheries)

SEATTLE (AP) — The federal government has finalized a West Coast ban on new commercial fishing for forage fish, the small fish that bigger fish, seabirds and marine mammals depend on for food.

NOAA Fisheries says the move is needed to proactively protect the little fish that play such a critical role in the marine food web.

The ban does not affect existing fisheries for sardines, anchovies and Pacific herring.

It covers species including Pacific sand lance, silversides and certain varieties of herring, smelt and squid. The restrictions apply to federal waters off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California.

Conservation groups praised the new protections, saying it represents a real change in the way ocean resources are managed.

Last March, the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted the ban by unanimous vote. On Monday, NOAA published final rules on the ban, which takes effect in May.

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