Due to a combination of ocean conditions and fishing pressure, sardine and anchovy populations are now at such low numbers that sea lions and other species off the U.S. West Coast are not getting enough to eat. More than 3,000 emaciated, dehydrated sea lion pups were rescued after becoming stranded on California beaches in 2015.

Oceana is working on a new future for the ocean’s tiny fish. Forage fish, like sardines, herring, and market squid form the foundation of the food web – which in turn benefits everything else that eats them. Because forage fish are vital prey (food) for larger fish and marine wildlife they need careful management. Fishery managers must move away from managing fish on a species- by- species basis to an ecosystem-based management approach that considers the needs of dependent predators and the effects on the overall ecosystem when setting catch levels. It’s imperative that enough forage fish are left in the ocean to support a diverse and healthy food web as well as providing people with a healthy, sustainable source of protein. Management must be precautionary as forage fish populations undergo large natural booms and busts, and globally face many threats including overfishing, pollution, climate change, and the increasing demand for their use as feed in aquaculture operations. This is not just an environmental issue, but an economic one as well; forage species help support commercial fisheries, recreation and tourism economies of coastal states. Oceana is working on a comprehensive set of solutions to better manage the ocean’s tiny fish.