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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fish Bulletin No. 11. The California Sardine

  • Author(s): Staff of the California State Marine Fisheries Lab
  • et al.

There has been a truly marvelous development of the sardine fishery in California. Although it originated as a great fishery during the stress of war, the industry has shown a vitality which augurs well for its permanence so long as the raw material is obtainable. The amount caught exceeds by far that taken of any other species in California, and there appears at present no other which is capable of the tremendous yield, unless it be the unused anchovy. Experience with older fisheries has shown that rational use demands a knowledge of at least two things. There must, above all else, be information from time to time regarding the manner in which the species is withstanding the strain of the fishery. But there must also be an understanding of the natural changes in abundance which inevitably occur, so that these may be distinguished from the effects of overfishing and also may be foretold and understood. Based on such knowledge regulation and exploitation may be rational and restrained. To this end we must concern ourselves principally with the commercial catch, in which lies mankind's major interest. In so doing we meet at once the problem of accurately recording that catch and then of analyzing the complex underlying the biologic and economic conditions. It is hoped that the program which has been adopted for this purpose by the State of California will prove by further experience to be sound and to lead far. Begun as a simple introduction, this paper was at first intended merely to give the background of our investigations. It has been expanded to include a discussion of several things fundamentally important to our purposes, and this discussion portrays rather imperfectly the viewpoint acquired by actual experience with the Pacific sardine. The investigation has, indeed, molded and directed our first ideas and methods. The purposes of the investigation were the seemingly simple ones of detecting depletion caused by overfishing and of following the great natural changes—which might be foretold were our work extensive and precise enough. The complexity of the problem has become increasingly apparent, and has necessitated a careful consideration as to what our sampling really consists of. As this sampling is the proposed basis for a necessarily long continued program of observation, it deserves careful analysis. When, in attacking our problems, we sought for aid from the existing literature on the European sardine, there were found plain evidences of the same complexity in the phenomena attending the fishery for that species. This complexity we regard as indicating the necessity for the type of program adopted. And in making use of what information existed as regards this European species, we have found it necessary to define somewhat closely the real relationships of the California and European sardines. The constant comparison that is inevitable should rest on a sound foundation. It would seem, incidentally, that the degree of relationship in habits might correspond roughly to the degree of relationship in structure. But as to the truth of such a surmise little can be said at present, since sufficient knowledge of habits is lacking in both species. Perhaps the advance of science will change this situation.

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