New Data Make Case for Anchovy Abundance as Oceana Lawsuit Continues

BUELLTON, CA –New, preliminary data from the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) have provided further evidence that California’s anchovy population is now at record high levels. The data come amid a renewed lawsuit by the environmental group Oceana that seeks to unnecessarily reduce the already very limited amount of anchovy caught commercially in California.

The preliminary data from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center Larval Lab weekly report on September 16 show that the 2019 spring CalCOFI survey documented the highest abundance of larval anchovy off the coast of California ever recorded, nearly double the record amount from the mid-1960s. And this did not even include the tens of thousands of tons of anchovy that fishermen have reported in nearshore waters since 2015. This is the latest piece of evidence that the anchovy population is far more resilient than Oceana alleges.

Scientists have found that anchovy undergo large dynamic population swings naturally, even without fishing, and the precautionary fishing limits allowed have not harmed the ecosystem. But despite the latest evidence of anchovy abundance, Oceana is suing to further limit California’s small anchovy fishery.

Members of the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) have long held that massive schools of anchovies, particularly in California’s inshore areas, have not been properly counted. CWPA has worked to confirm the observations of its members in cooperative surveys with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. These nearshore surveys add evidence to the preliminary CalCOFI data: there are tens of thousands of tons of anchovies in inshore California waters in addition to record abundance offshore. This explosion occurred in the presence of this small, historical fishery.

“There is an increasingly large body of evidence showing that anchovies are far more abundant than the allegations in Oceana’s lawsuit recognize,” said Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of CWPA. “It’s why efforts to further restrict anchovy fishing are both unnecessary and harmful to West Coast fishing communities.”

However, Oceana again seeks stricter limits on the allowable catch of the central subpopulation of northern anchovy, which is currently set at 23,573 metric tons annually as a result of prior court rulings. The fishery typically catches less than 10,000 metric tons annually of this legally allowed amount.

In August, CWPA filed to intervene in Oceana’s latest lawsuit, in order to participate in the proceedings and represent the interests of its members and fishing communities before the court. CWPA believes that the additional restrictions on the anchovy harvest being sought by the lawsuit are unnecessary, and would result in significant job loss and economic hardship for California’s wetfish fishermen and processors, and by extension, California communities and the state’s fishing economy.

“We believe that the evidence will show that anchovy is being managed precautionarily and with the conservation of the species in mind,” said Pleschner-Steele. “Best management practices and the best available science do not support the claims of overfishing made in the lawsuit.”

About the California Wetfish Producers Association

The non-profit California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) was established in 2004 to promote sustainable fisheries and foster cooperative research. Voluntary membership includes the majority of wetfish harvesters and processors operating in California