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New Legislation Aims to Protect Tiny Fish Vital to Seabirds

Audubon supports the Forage Fish Conservation Act.

WASHINGTON (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 fishing in U.S. federal waters, to recognize for the first time 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.”

Tufted Puffin. Photo: Lola Knox

“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.”

Greenberger continued: “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 Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. 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


About Audubon

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn how to help at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

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