Little sardines are a huge part of the ocean food web. Alarmingly, out in California industrial fishing operations are catching too many of these little fish and unbalancing the delicate ecosystem, resulting in starving sea lion pups along the Southern California coast. More than 1,600 sea lions were found stranded and malnourished last year, victims of a collapsing sardine fishery—and these strandings are continuing up and down the California coast.
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned of impending collapse in 2012, but NOAA leadership made no move to stop the overfishing. Today it is acknowledging the population collapse and its effects on sea lions, but it still refuses to admit that fishing is a primary cause. Without NOAA acknowledging the problem and establishing stronger regulations to restore sardine populations, overfishing will continue.
Pacific sardine numbers have dropped 74 percent in just seven years—two-thirds of this decline was removed by the fishery. The sea lion deaths may be the tip of the iceberg, as new evidence indicates sardine scarcity is leading to brown pelicans experiencing nesting failures.
Take action today: Ask NOAA to acknowledge overfishing’s role in the Pacific sardine collapse and to curb overfishing and restore the sardine population to its former abundance.