Baby Sea Lions Starved This Year Because We're Overfishing Sardines

This week, federal regulators cut short the commercial sardine fishing season on the West Coast, affecting approximately 100 fishing boats, though according to The Associated Press, far fewer are currently active.

The NOAA Fisheries Service, which is responsible for notifying fishermen about the end of the current season, normally schedules the closing of sardine fishing season for June 30. The subsequent season, scheduled to begin immediately thereafter on July 1, was already shut down by the Pacific Fishery Management Council earlier this week.

The decision to cut the season short was based on estimates of sardine populations indicating that their numbers were declining more quickly than anticipated. During the Great Depression, overfishing led to the decline of Cannery Row, the Monterey, California, street lined with sardine canneries that inspired the John Steinbeck novel of the same name.

Sardine populations, which have recently been much lower than in past years, will soon qualify as being overfished, though conservation groups have argued that sardines have been overfished for many years. What's more, that population decline has affected this year's baby sea lion population, 90 percent of which were starving for lack of sardines, Oceana's Ben Enticknap told the AP.

"We would have liked to see this happen much sooner, but now we can start to rebuild this sardine population that is so important to the health of the ocean," Enticknap said.