Local fisheries part of bigger cycle affecting entire Pacific Ocean
In the late 1930s, Californias sardines supported the biggest fishery in the western hemisphere, with more than half a million tons of fish caught each year. By the mid-1950s, the sardines had virtually disappeared. Although fishing pressure may have played a part in this process, new research published in the current issue of Science indicates that the sardines demise was part of a 50-year cycle that affects not just California, but the entire Pacific Ocean.
Francisco Chavez, a biological oceanographer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and lead author of the study, combined a hundred years of data on physical oceanography, marine biology, and meteorology to examine long-term cycles in different parts of the Pacific Ocean. He points out that sardine catches in California, Japan and Peru followed parallel trends, despite being on opposite sides of the ocean and facing different amounts of fishing pressure. More importantly, when sardine catches in both areas went bust, anchovy catches boomed. Chavezs research indicates that this alternation between a "sardine regime" and an "anchovy regime" involves much more than just fisheries. As he puts it, "Fish in many parts of the Pacific are marching to the same drummer. This same drummer is causing changes in ocean circulation and in the global carbon cycle. What weve been trying to find out is, what is the drummer, and is the beat going to change?"
Debbie Meyer | EurekAlert!
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