The global contribution of forage fish to marine fisheries and ecosystems
Forage fish play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems and economies worldwide by sustaining many predators and fisheries directly and indirectly. We estimate global forage fish contributions to marine ecosystems through a synthesis of 72 published Ecopath models from around the world. Three distinct contributions of forage fish were examined: (i) the ecological support service of forage fish to predators in marine ecosystems, (ii) the total catch and value of forage fisheries and (iii) the support service of forage fish to the catch and value of other commercially targeted predators. Forage fish use and value varied and exhibited patterns across latitudes and ecosystem types. Forage fish supported many kinds of predators, including fish, seabirds, marine mammals and squid. Overall, forage fish contribute a total of about $16.9 billion USD to global fisheries values annually, i.e. 20% of the global ex-vessel catch values of all marine fisheries combined. While the global catch value of forage fisheries was $5.6 billion, fisheries supported by forage fish were more than twice as valuable ($11.3 billion). These estimates provide important information for evaluating the trade-offs of various uses of forage fish across ecosystem types, latitudes and globally. We did not estimate a monetary value for supportive contributions of forage fish to recreational fisheries or to uses unrelated to fisheries, and thus the estimates of economic value reported herein understate the global value of forage fishes.