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Sardine Population Collapses


The sardine population along the West Coast has collapsed due to changing ocean conditions and other factors, including allegations of overfishing. The situation is so severe, regulators have canceled fishing next season and scheduled a vote this week on an immediate emergency ban. After federal scientists documented a 91 percent decline in sardine numbers along the West Coast since 2007, the Pacific Fishery Management Council agreed to close the fishery from Mexico to the Canadian border starting July 1st, when the 2015 season begins. Sardines are mostly sold for bait. The fish are generally frozen in big blocks for use in commercial long-line fishing and for feed at Australian and Japanese blue fin tuna farms. The collapse this year is the latest in a series of alarming die-offs, sicknesses and population declines in the ocean ecosystem along the West Coast. Anchovies, which thrive in cold water, have also declined over the past decade due largely to fluctuating ocean temperatures and a lack of zooplankton, their food of choice. Record numbers of starving sea lions have recently been washing up on beaches in California because there aren’t enough sardines and anchovies for pups to eat. Fisheries scientists estimate that 70 percent of sea lion pups will die this year due to a lack of food.

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