California's sardines have another story to tell. If we listen, we may have to change the way we manage fishing.
A new study shows that fishing worsens boom and bust cycles for fish, including boom and bust cycles triggered by changing ocean conditions. This happens because fishing removes the biggest fish, and the big ones are critically important for reproduction during the tough years.
What can we do? Find new ways to manage fishing so that we don't catch all of the biggest fish. That could include setting aside some areas where big fish can thrive unmolested. Other options include catching fewer fish or developing new fishing methods that lets the big ones get away.
It's fascinating to see another layer of insight added to the well-studied California sardine fishery collapse in the middle of the last century. First it was overfishing, then ocean conditions were blamed, and now we're back to a focus on overfishing.