From whales to striped bass, important marine animals eat smaller fish and organisms to survive. These prey, or "forage fish," in the food web are critical to a healthy ocean ecosystem. But people are not doing enough to ensure the abundance of prey species to feed valuable fish populations and marine life. The need to protect this basic prey, which ranges from mackerel and menhaden to herring and anchovies, is growing more urgent. Populations of some of these small fish have plummeted. Millions are scooped up by industrial fishing gear and ground into fertilizer and pet food. Millions more are caught by accident in trawler nets. Without this important food staple, diets are compromised, and it's a scramble to find suitable substitutes. That disruption can send an unhealthy ripple effect stretching across the ocean ecosystem. Protecting the prey is fundamental to rebuilding depleted fish populations, conserving marine animals, and maintaining a balanced food web.