New Laws Goals to Shield Tiny Fish Important to Seabirds

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has introduced a bill that will help protect forage fish—small fish like anchovies that serve as the primary food source for seabirds, larger fish, and other marine life. The Forage Fish Conservation Act will amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law that governs ocean fish management in U.S. federal waters, to recognize for the first time the important role that forage fish serve in the ecosystem.

“Seabirds like puffins and terns are vulnerable to shifts in fish populations, whether caused by overfishing or climate change,” said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president for conservation policy at the National Audubon Society. “We are grateful to Sen. Blumenthal for his leadership to ensure a future for the birds in our ocean.”

Puffin, copyright Richard Stonier, from the surfbirds galleries

“This legislation will build on more than 40 years of successful fisheries management to include forage fish, often known as bait fish, which make up the base of the ocean food web. We are encouraged to see Congress take big steps to protect these little but important fish and to help seabirds recover from decades of decline.”

This senate bill serves as a companion to H.R. 2236 (also called the Forage Fish Conservation Act), introduced in the House by Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) in April 2019. The House bill saw overwhelming bipartisan support from House members as well as a variety of organizations like Audubon, American Sportfishing Association, National Wildlife Federation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

For more information on how Audubon works to make the seas safer for birds, visit https://www.audubon.org/marine-conservation.

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