New aerial surveys of sardines off Southern California will address fishermen’s concerns that sardine abundance estimates are effectively “missing California fish,” as this project will help pay for two spotter-pilot surveys of the iconic silver fish. The first survey was flown in the summer of 2013 and the second will occur in the spring of 2014. The project’s leaders hope to use digitally enhanced photos of fish schools taken during the flights to develop a scientifically rigorous method for calculating sardine abundances. If this can be done, they will ask the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages the Pacific sardine fishery with NOAA Fisheries, to consider including California aerial survey data into its future stock assessments, from which harvesting limits are set. In addition to the aerial surveys, Lynn and staff will be conducting some “chaser boat” sampling of fish schools spotted by plane – to verify that the species they think they have spotted has been correctly identified. Besides looking at sardines, the group has a secondary interest in documenting anchovy abundances.
Developing an Index of Abundance for Pacific Sardine in California