Seas & Shores

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 ocean fish management in U.S. federal waters, to recognize for the first time the important role that forage fish serve in the ecosystem.

"Forage fish and invertebrates are the beating heart of the ocean," said Anna Weinstein, director of marine conservation for the National Audubon Society. "On the West Coast, Audubon and our partners have won major protections for forage fish. These include a ban on fishing for krill off the West Coast, a prohibition on fishing for dozens of currently unfished species until it can be prove fishing effort will not negatively impact birds and other predators, marine protected areas to allow fish to repopulate, and a new legal framework for managing Pacific herring in California. But there is more to do here, such as requiring fisheries managers to better account for the needs of predators when setting annual catch limits on forage fish, and requiring more science attention to understand predator needs for species and amounts of forage fish. The forage bill will accomplish these goals."

The 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.

“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.”

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. 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 and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Rachel Guillory,, 504.708.5873


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