Jane-Ashley sent me a link as I noted lots of sardines belly-up in Chetco Harbor.
Nearly a year into a West Coast sardine fishing ban enacted to protect the collapsing population, the fish formerly worth more than $8 million to Oregon’s economy have shown no signs of a comeback.
New federal research indicates numbers of the small, silvery, schooling fish have plummeted further than before the fishing moratorium, dashing any hope of lifting it in 2016.
With the current sardine population hovering at 7 percent of its 2007 peak, fishermen now say they expect to wait a decade or more to revive the fishery.
“I don’t want to take a pessimistic view, but I would think we’ll be shut down until 2030,” said Ryan Kapp, a Bellingham fisherman who advises the Pacific Fishery Management Council on sardines and other fish.
Sardines aren’t struggling in isolation. Other fish near the bottom of the marine food web, such as anchovies and herring, are also down. The shortage of sustenance is rippling upward to create crises for predator species from seals to seabirds.
Researchers can’t tell exactly what’s driving the die-off, nor how long it will last. Some say the crash can be attributed to cyclical boom-and-bust population dynamics sardines have always exhibited.
Others argue overfishing played a role, driving sardine populations down too far and too fast to blame it on a natural population flux.
Then there’s the unavoidable presence of the “warm blob,” a lingering mass of overheated water that for more than two years has wreaked havoc on sea life off the Pacific coast.