Update: Although this bill was introduced last Congress and is no longer an active piece of legislation, we are looking to Senator Blumenthal to be a leader in forage fish conservation in the 117th Congress.
Hartford, CT (December 17, 2020) – Today Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) 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.
"Common and Roseate Terns, among other Long Island Sound-based birds such as Osprey and cormorants, depend on forage fish to survive and raise chicks. But forage fish populations are declining and shifting in range, which threatens birds and people that depend on them. The Forage Fish Conservation Act is essential to protecting wildlife, and recreational fishing industry jobs, in Connecticut and beyond. We thank Senator Blumenthal (Co-sponsor) and Senator Murphy for their tireless work in support of a healthier Long Island Sound," said Robert LaFrance, policy director for Audubon Connecticut.
“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.”
“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.
“The Connecticut Ornithological Association is happy to support the Forage Fish legislation. Connecticut supports large populations of waterfowl and shorebirds and other bird species that rely on these small forage fish. We have had great success supporting the recovery of our osprey populations we are still concerned with threatened species like the Roseate Tern that rely on this food source," said Craig Repasz, Connecticut Ornithological Association Conservation Committee Chair.
“Forage fish are a vital link between the sun, plankton, and the rest of the food web, so are absolutely critical to human harvesters and wildlife alike. Therefore we applaud our Connecticut and New York delegations championing these small fish to ensure they finally receive full management consideration. Restoring these runs are an investment for a future teeming with fish and wildlife," said Bill Lucey, Long Island Soundkeeper with Save the Sound.
“Forage fish are migratory, and the populations in offshore federal waters find their way into Long Island Sound, so protecting these species in federal waters has direct benefits for the Long Island Sound ecosystem. These fish also are vital to the Sound’s multimillion-dollar recreational fisheries for bluefish, striped bass and other game species. Additionally, as we have seen in recent years, humpback whales and other marine mammals have returned in impressive numbers to New York and Connecticut waters in large part because of the forage fish on which they prey," said Jason Patlis, President and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium.
"Inadequate sources of forage fish mean ocean wildlife have less to eat. These include the iconic Ospreys which captivate us in southern Connecticut. The Forage Fish Conservation Act will help ensure sufficient food for marine wildlife," said Dennis Riordan, President of Menunkatuck Audubon Society.
"The many forage fish species that occur off the northeast coast provide critical food for ecologically and economically important species such as tuna, cod, striped bass, and bluefish as well as for sharks, marine mammals, seabirds, and other animals that are integral to healthy ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. Forage species are critical links between plankton, the base of ocean food webs, and higher trophic level predators. Currently there is no management plan for many forage species, so there is no mechanism in place to minimize the potential for significant declines with resulting ecosystem impacts. The Forage Fish Conservation Act will address these problems within the larger context of Federal fisheries and ocean management," said Peter J. Auster, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Mystic Aquarium.
“The New Haven Bird Club very strongly supports the Forage Fish legislation that will extend protection to the small fish that are the base of the Long Island Sound ecosystem. Long Island Sound and its freshwater tributaries host many species of waterfowl and shorebirds that rely throughout the year on this crucial food source. What is good for the fish is good for the birds and good for the ecosystem. The health of the ecosystem is good for us, the people who live here,” said DeWitt Allen, New Haven Bird Club President, and Deborah Johnson, New Haven Bird Club Conservation Chair.
For more information on how Audubon works to make the seas safer for birds, visit https://www.audubon.org/marine-conservation.
About Audubon Connecticut
Audubon Connect, a state office of the National Audubon Society, protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.ct.audubon.org, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Sharon Bruce, firstname.lastname@example.org, 914-263-3083