University of St Andrews
Sea Mammal Research Unit

SMRU News Centre

item 1003
[03-04-2012 to 31-01-2013]

News Item:
Fishing should be halved to save protected species find St Andrews researchers

Fishing for prey species such as herring and anchovies should be cut in half globally to protect creatures that eat them, such as puffins, whales and penguins, according to new research from the University of St Andrews.

A team of international experts, which includes Professor Ian Boyd of the University of St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit, warns that the increasing use of herring and anchovies to feed farmed fish, pigs, chickens and as nutritional supplements for humans is putting wild species that rely on them at risk.

The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force carried out the most comprehensive analysis of the science of “forage fish” populations to date.

Its report, Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs, published today, concluded that in most ecosystems at least twice as many of these species should be left in the ocean as conventional practice.

As the fish are key food sources for commercially valuable fish such as salmon, tuna, bass and cod, the task force estimated they were twice as valuable in the water as they were if they were caught.

Using modelling, they calculated that forage fish contribute £7 billion by serving as food for other commercially important fish, compared with £3.5bn they generated as direct catch.

Professor Ian Boyd, director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit said: “Our analysis found that the best way generally to ensure there’s enough food for dependent predators is to reduce fishing for their prey.

“We need to start to understand that leaving some types of fish in the water in greater numbers is not just good for ecosystems, but it is good economics too.”

The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, made up of 13 scientists, was established to generate advice to support better management of forage fish around the world.

It highlights that a thriving marine ecosystem relies on plenty of forage fish, which are a crucial link in the food chain.

They eat plankton and are preyed upon by animals such as penguins, whales, seals, puffins and dolphins.

However, they are also in increasing demand for use as fish meal to feed farmed fish, pigs and chickens. They are also used to produce omega 3 oils, used in food supplements for humans.

see here for further details


SMRU News Archive:



Upcoming Events
  • BSRC Seminar Series: Structural insights into Hunter Syndrome
    speaker: Professor Randy Read FRS (Cambridge Institute for Medical Research at the University of Cambridge)

    building: BMS
    room: Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Tracey Gloster

    refID: 1667

    hide details

  • CREEM Seminar: The Use of Expert Elicitation in Modelling and Decision Making
    speaker: Tony O'Hagan (University of Sheffield)

    building: The Observatory
    room: Seminar Room
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Rob Schick

    Ever wanted to know how individual experts come up with their informed opinions? How they generate quantitative answers to difficult and uncertain problems? If so, then join CREEM on Wednesday December 2nd, from 1330-1600 when we host one the world’s leading experts on expert elicitation – Professor Tony O’Hagan from the University of Sheffield. Professor O’Hagan has consulted and instructed government, academia, and many corporations on the successful use of expert elicitation.

    Ahead of Professor O’Hagan’s seminar, we will have two shorter presentations of case studies led by members of CREEM. Professor John Harwood (Biology, CREEM) will present work he has led on the use of expert elicitation to help inform policy and provide guidance on the possible impact of sound on marine mammals. Dr Rob Schick (CREEM) will present on the use of expert elicitation to help discern movements of North Atlantic right whales.

    Schedule for the afternoon:

    • 1330 Introduction
    • 1335-1400: John Harwood – EE, marine mammals, and conservation policy
    • 1400-1430: Rob Schick – EE, right whales, and the mid-Atlantic migratory corridor
    • 1430-1500: Tea & coffee
    • 1500-1600: Tony O’Hagan seminar

    Location: Seminar Room, CREEM, The Observatory


    Harwood: There is growing evidence that individuals of many marine mammal species show a marked change in behaviour when they are exposed to noise from activities such as pile driving and navy exercises.  However, the biological significance of this disturbance is unclear.  Together with other members of a working group funded by the US Office of Naval Research, we have developed a conceptual framework that can be used to forecast the potential population-level consequences of disturbance. Unfortunately, for most marine mammal populations there are insufficient empirical data to parameterise the mathematical functions that underpin this framework.  However, there are a number of situations where regulators urgently require scientific advice on the potential effects of a particular development on specific marine mammal populations.  In order to provide this advice, we have used expert elicitation to obtain estimates of the relevant parameters and the uncertainty associated with these estimates.  In this talk I will describe how we have designed the expert elicitation process and how we have used the results from that process.

    Schick: Approximately 500 North Atlantic right whales remain in the world, and despite decades of protection, their recovery continues to be slow. The migratory corridor in the mid-Atlantic ocean links the calving grounds off the southeastern United States with feeding grounds in and around the Gulf of Maine, yet is one of the most highly industrialised stretches of ocean in the world. Movements of animals through this area are poorly documented. We used expert elicitation to poll experts about two sources of information: 1) the seasonal distribution of right whales in the mid-Atlantic; and 2) certain movement transitions from/to the mid-Atlantic. Here we present results from the elicitation, and document how we will use information from # as priors in a statistical model for movement and health. We highlight important lessons learned - both in terms of how to conduct the elicitation, as well as what types of movement related information remains poorly known. In particular, movements of adult male right whales remains very uncertain. And in general, many experts have little idea of what is happening for right whales in the mid-Atlantic.

    O’Hagan: There is no single, accepted state-of-the-art method for eliciting expert knowledge.  Different practitioners advocate different methods.  This talk will begin by outlining some leading approaches and highlighting the factors which might favour one method over others.  I will then concentrate on my own preferred approach, presenting some recent developments.

    refID: 1660

    hide details

  • BSRC Seminar Series: Mechanisms that control the intensity and location of Wnt signalling
    speaker: Dr Jean-Paul Vincent (Francis Crick Institute in London)

    building: BMS
    room: Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Marcus Bischoff

    refID: 1668

    hide details