WASHINGTON (April 29, 2021) – Today Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) reintroduced the Forage Fish Conservation Act, which will help protect forage fish—small fish like herring that serve as the primary food source for seabirds, larger fish, and other marine life. This bill 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 the important role that forage fish serve in the ecosystem.
“Tufted Puffins nest along Washington’s coast, and they’re sensitive to changes in the ocean,” said Dr. Trina Bayard, director of bird conservation at Audubon Washington. “Warmer waters can affect the availability of fish like Pacific Herring, making it difficult for puffins to find food near their breeding sites. This bill will make sure there are plenty of fish in the sea for our seabirds.”
Seabirds are in crisis—their populations have dropped by 70% since 1950, due to threats like overfishing and climate change. The forage fish they rely on are not adequately included in our federal fisheries management. Forage fish are harvested commercially and ground up to produce fertilizer, cosmetics, fish meal, and more. Without proper management, forage fish face a risk of being overfished, meaning less food for seabirds and other marine life.
“This legislation will build on more than 40 years of successful fisheries management to include small schooling fish known as forage fish, a primary food source for seabirds like Common Murres and Atlantic Puffins,” said Jessica Grannis, interim vice president for coastal conservation at the National Audubon Society. “We are encouraged to see Congress working across the aisle to protect these little but important fish and to help seabirds recover from decades of decline.”
Sen. Blumenthal previously introduced this Senate bill during the last congressional session, and prior to that a companion bill in the House was introduced 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 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.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.