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March 22, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Forage fish could dwindle as harvest increases

Restore and protect these fish

Craig Welch’s recent story on forage fish provides impetus to ask whether forage fish are being adequately protected and monitored here in Puget Sound. [“New school of worry at sea,” page one, March 16.]

Forage fish are small, energy-rich fish that feed many larger species, including birds, mammals and fish. The pivotal role that forage fish play in turning plankton into an energy-rich food source should warrant caution in harvesting these species. Unfortunately a quantitative assessment of recreational and commercial harvest for these fish has never been completed or compared to the cost of removing this resource. This is ironic, in light of the millions of dollars being spent to recover declining species such as salmon and orcas that depend on forage fish.

It is time to fund priority actions that result in meaningful forage-fish restoration and protection for the entire Salish Sea. This requires strong leadership from federal, state and tribal governments partnering with scientists and conservation groups from both sides of border.

Fishermen, bird watchers and whale lovers are not the only people who should care about forage fish. The health of the entire Salish Sea ecosystem and our economy depends upon these unsung heroes.

— Joseph Gaydos, regional director, SeaDoc Society, Eastsound

— Ginny Broadhurst, director, and Caroline Gibson, marine program manager, Northwest Straits Commission, Mount Vernon

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