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Oregon’s Forage Fish Management Plan available for public comment

June 14, 2016

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking for public comment on the Oregon Forage Fish Management Plan, which will establish protections for forage fish through new fishing regulations, and guide resource management decisions.

Forage fish are small, schooling fish which serve as an important source of food for other fish species, birds and marine mammals. There are forage fish species that are currently tracked and managed individually, such as sardine, herring and mackerel; in some years, these species are caught in large numbers.

In contrast, the Forage Fish Management Plan applies to a grouping of forage fish species that are not currently caught in significant numbers, such as sand lance, smelt, and squid. These species are caught in commercial and recreational fisheries.

“The Oregon Forage Fish Management Plan is designed to allow our existing fisheries to thrive while preventing new forage fish fisheries from forming without thorough consideration and review,” said Dr. Caren Braby, Marine Resources Program Manager.

A federal forage fish plan and regulations for fisheries occurring in federal waters (more than 3 miles offshore) were established by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service in May. The Oregon Forage Fish Management Plan extends forage fish protections into state waters. While largely consistent with the federal strategy, the state plan provides a unique management approach in Oregon waters, according to Dr. Braby.

“This plan will link Oregon’s waters with federal offshore waters, making regulations and management priorities consistent and continuous, stitching together protections of the marine food web along the entire West Coast.”

The plan, once adopted, will achieve the following management goals:

  • Support existing ecosystem resilience and reliance on forage fish
  • Do not constrain existing fisheries
  • Support sustainability of existing fisheries, relative to the reliance on forage fish prey
  • Collect data to inform tracking and monitoring of forage fish catch in Oregon fisheries
  • Use an ecosystem based approach to managing forage fish, rather than a single species approach
  • Use a precautionary, conservative approach to fisheries management

The Oregon regulations are in development and will be proposed for adoption by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission at the September 2016 meeting, with regulations effective January 1, 2017. In preparation, ODFW is accepting public input on these management changes, including an open public comment period on the Oregon Forage Fish Management Plan through July 13, 2016. Comments can be sent to

To download a copy of the draft plan, go to: or call (541) 867-4741.




Caren Braby, (541) 867-0300 x 226, (541) 961-5352 (cell)
Maggie Sommer, (541) 867-0300 x 227

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