Connecticut Establishes a New Law to Protect Important Forage Fish Species

On May 23rd, Governor Ned Lamont signed House Bill 5141, An Act Concerning the Protection of Certain Fish Species, into law. The new law limits harvest (landings) of the forage fish species listed in the bill (including Atlantic silverside, sand lance, and more) to no more than 200 pounds per day. 

These limits will help ensure sustainable levels of these forage fish species will be available for birds like the Least Tern, Great Blue Heron, egrets, and other predators in the ecosystem who rely on these species for sustenance.

In his testimony before the Environment Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly, Dr. Peter Auster, Research Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Marine Science and Senior Research Scientist at the Mystic Aquarium and a member of Audubon’s Forage Fish Coalition, stated, “As ‘forage fish’ these species [tidewater silverside (Menidia beryllina), Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), sand lance (Ammodytes spp.), and bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli)] are important links in the food web, linking plankton (their prey) to higher trophic levels serving as prey for larger predatory fish like striped bass, seabirds such as roseate tern, and a wide diversity of other lesser-known species important to the marine wildlife of Long Island Sound.”

The new law will allow for the continued use of these forage fish species for bait, but restricts the potential for use of these forage fish species in an industrial or reduction fishery.  The bill establishes an infraction (fine) for each separate violation of the new limit and will enable EnCon Police Officers to efficiently enforce the new limit. 

Passage of the bill was a powerful example of bipartisan advocacy, including Dr. Auster’s testimony as well as those of other members of Audubon’s Forage Fish Coalition (including the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Save the Sound, and Menunkatuck Audubon Society), the support of the Marine Fisheries Division of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Fisheries Advisory Counciland the Friends of Connecticut Sportsmen

Audubon Connecticut is grateful to leadership of the Environment Committee (Co-Chairs Senator Cohen and Rep. Gresko, Ranking Members Senator Miner and Rep. Harding and Vice Co-Chairs Senator Slap and Rep. Palm) for raising this bill on our behalf. 

We appreciate all of the members of the Audubon Network for helping us make this new law a reality. 

How you can help, right now