Target: NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan
Goal: Protect delicate coastal ecosystems from the harms of industrial overfishing
NOAA’s refusal to acknowledge the role of overfishing in the decline of the Pacific sardine poses a grave threat to an already fragile ecosystem. In recent years, overfishing off of North America’s Pacific coast has devastated sardine populations, which play a crucial role in marine food webs. Several predator species have struggled tremendously in the wake of diminished sardine presence. NOAA’s own scientists have found that the collapse of Pacific sardine populations is directly tied to industrial overfishing off of the U.S. Pacific coast, but NOAA leadership has yet to acknowledge this crucial connection. NOAA must seriously consider the credibility of these findings so that it may reevaluate and tighten regulations on harmful overfishing.
In March of this year, NOAA found that the pacific sardine population had plummeted by 74% since 2007. It has been estimated that upwards of two thirds of this decline can be ascribed to exploitative fishing. NOAA recognizes the collapse but attributes it entirely to environmental conditions without mention of overfishing. While it is true that ocean conditions have been unfavorable in recent years, there is no reason to discount the effects of overfishing on the sardine population decline; in fact, given the present conditions, industrial fishing is especially threatening.
The effects of the decline have been far-reaching. Sardines are highly valued as “forage fish,” highly nutritious species that make up the nucleus of oceanic food webs. Sardine decline is directly linked to recent struggles experienced by predators, particularly the sea otter, over 1,600 of which were found stranded and malnourished in 2013, and the brown pelican, which is experiencing the lowest breeding season since DDT (which thinned eggshells and prevented hatching) was banned over four decades ago.
By signing the petition below you will help prompt NOAA to stop senselessly denying the direct connection between overfishing and the Pacific sardine’s decline, and to help ensure sustainability by increasing regulations on industrial fisheries.
Dear NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan,
In light of the recent findings regarding the Pacific sardine population collapse, NOAA has failed to acknowledge the role of industrial overfishing on the species’ pernicious decline. As a leader in ocean protection, it is your responsibility to improve understanding and stewardship of marine environments. Though NOAA has done much commendable work to protect the ocean and its inhabitants, it is important to now address the damages inflicted by industrial fishing on the Pacific sardine.
I agree with you that environmental conditions have played a significant role in the decline of sardine populations, but it is important to also realize the impact of industrial fishing. In times of harsh oceanic conditions, sardines are increasingly susceptible to pressure from fisheries. The effects of the sardine population crash have spanned the ecosystem, imposing tremendous threats to predators, particularly sea otters and brown pelicans, which rely on sardines for their oily, energy-rich nutrients. For these reasons, regulations on sardine fishing are more important than ever. If you do not act soon, the ecological damage may be irreversible.
I urge you to recognize the considerable role of overfishing in the collapse of sardine populations and in the resulting struggles of sea otters and brown pelicans, and I hope that this will lead you to apply the appropriate regulations on fishery activity that threatens oceanic ecosystems.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Wikipedia