What happens when you’re a fisherman bored on a boat, waiting oh so patiently for tuna to eventually grace you with their presence? You create a dance inspired by the only other living creatures on your boat, of course! Introducing the next dab: the Chovy.
The talented dancers featured in this video are Captain Scott, Skipper Zeke, and deckhand Fallon, crew members of the F/V Sunset Charge. Recently, the crew was stuck in dock at Ilwaco Landing in Washington, waiting out a storm. When we asked how they attract Albacore Tuna to the boat when fishing is slow they revealed a secret ritual that we were lucky enough to get on film: they dance on deck in true anchovy form, and we’ve got to admit, their routine has even made its way to our office (it’s way more fun than a stretch break!).
The crew uses anchovies as bait, but don’t underestimate how important this little fish is to the ocean’s ecosystem. They’re part of a group called “forage fish” which also includes herring and sardines. Only a relatively small percentage of these fish are actually eaten by humans; they’re mostly caught or farmed for fish bait, animal feed, and fish oil.
Just this month, a rule was passed by the National Marine Fisheries Service that makes it illegal for commercial fishermen to develop new fisheries for hundreds of different forage species unless scientists have first determined that targeting them will have no negative impacts on the marine ecosystem, existing fisheries, and fishing communities. This comes just in time to protect new species of forage fish that have made their way to fisheries, but some species are already in trouble. Pacific sardines are at their lowest numbers in decades and pacific herring have also seen a decline.
Forage fish are a critical source of energy for some of the fish we enjoy most: salmon, tuna, cod, and many more. In fact, 75% of ocean ecosystems have at least one predator whose diet consists of 50% or more these fish!
Long story short: we need to make sure we’re leaving plenty of forage fish in the ocean and being careful not to overfish them to feed these tasty predators.