Forage species are small fish and invertebrates that feed on smaller marine organisms such as plankton and are in turn eaten by many species of fish, sea birds, and marine mammals. Forage species play an important role in sustaining the productivity and structure of marine ecosystems by facilitating the transfer of energy from the lowest levels of the food chain to higher levels.
The Unmanaged Forage Omnibus Amendment prohibits the development of new and expansion of existing directed commercial fisheries on unmanaged forage species in mid-Atlantic federal waters until the Council has had an adequate opportunity to assess the scientific information relating to any new or expanded directed fisheries and consider potential impacts to existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem.The amendment was approved by the Council in August 2016 and implemented by NOAA Fisheries in September 2017.
This is the first rule in the Atlantic to list forage species as ecosystem component species. The amendment implements management measures for 17 species and species groups (listed below) to prevent the expansion of directed commercial fisheries on these species in Mid-Atlantic federal waters.
Contact: Julia Beaty, Fishery Management Specialist - 302-526-5250, firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary of Measures
Ecosystem Component Species: Designates 16 forage species and species groups as ecosystem components (ECs) in all of the Council’s fishery management plans (Note: chub mackerel are not included in the list of EC species)
Possession Limit for EC Species: Establishes an incidental possession limit of 1,700 pounds for all EC species combined.
Atlantic Chub Mackerel: Establishes an annual landing limit of 2.86 million pounds for chub mackerel. A 40,000 pound possession limit will be implemented after the annual landing limit is caught. These measures will expire after December 31, 2020. The Council is currently developing an amendment to address long-term management of chub mackerel.
Permits: Requires all commercial vessels and operators that catch and/or possess Mid-Atlantic forage species and/or Atlantic chub mackerel to be issued a commercial vessel and operator permit from NMFS.
Transit Provisions: Allows a commercial vessel to transit the Mid-Atlantic Forage Species Management Unit (see map below) with an amount of Mid-Atlantic forage species or Atlantic chub mackerel on board that exceeds the possession limits to land in a port in a state that is outside of the Mid-Atlantic Forage Species Management Unit, provided that the fish were harvested outside of the Mid-Atlantic Forage Species Management Unit and that all gear is stowed and not available for immediate use while transiting.
Reporting: Requires vessel operators and dealers to report the catch and sale of these species and species groups on existing vessel trip reports (logbooks) and dealer reports, respectively. VTR codes and species information can be found in the forage species identification guide.
Mid-Atlantic Forage Species Groups and Species
Atlantic Thread Herring
Unmanaged pelagic mollusks except sharptail shortfin squid
Species under 1 inch as adults (Copepods, Krill, Amphipods)
Atlantic chub mackerel*
* NOTE: Atlantic chub mackerel is not designated as an ecosystem component species and is not included in the combined 1,700 possession limit.
The list below includes documents from all phases of action development from Council initiation through final rule. For information about the final, approved measures, please refer to the "Final Documents" section near the top of this page.
Unmanaged Forage Species ID Guide, 8/25/2017
Final Environmental Assessment, 8/25/2017
Proposed Rule, 4/24/2017
Press Release: Mid-Atlantic Council Approves Amendment to Protect Unmanaged Forage Species, 8/9/2016
August 2016 Briefing Materials
Public Hearing Materials, updated 7/5/2016
Council-Approved List of Unmanaged Forage Taxa, updated 4/14/2016
April 2016 Council Meeting
February 2016 Council Meeting
Draft Action Plan, 1/7/2016
December 2015 Council Meeting:
October 2015 Council Meeting:
Scoping Document, 8/25/2015
June 2015 Council Meeting:
Forage Fish White Paper, November 2014
Forage Fish Workshop, April 2013
Papers discussed at December 2015 Council Meeting:
Fishing amplifies forage fish population collapses, Essington et al (2015)
Environment drives forage productivity, Szuwalski and Hilborn (2015)