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Blunt, Blumenthal Introduce Measure to Protect Forage Fish

Forage fish play a critical part in the ecosystem as the primary food source for larger fish, aquatic life, and birds in the Mississippi River, strengthening local economies & boosting recreation

April 29, 2021

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) introduced the Forage Fish Conservation Act to protect forage fish. These small fish serve as the primary food source for larger fish, other aquatic life, and birds in ecosystems like the Mississippi River, benefitting local environments and economies, and strengthening recreational industries.

“Recreational fishing supports nearly 10,000 jobs in Missouri and contributes $1.3 billion to our state’s economy,” said Blunt. “It’s an important part of our tourism industry, a boon to local businesses, and a favorite pastime for myself, my family, and so many Missourians. This bill will help ensure forage fish populations are where they need to be to keep the recreational and commercial fishing industries thriving.”

“Forage fish may be small, but they have a mighty impact and this legislation will ensure they are protected,” said Blumenthal. “Small schooling fish like herring, sardines, and anchovies provide essential sustenance to bigger fish, whales, seals, osprey, and other treasured marine wildlife in the Long Island Sound, supporting local economies and recreation. Many of these small fish are also a key part of the commercial fishing stock, essential to the regional economy. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Senator Blunt to ensure forage fish can thrive.”

The Forage Fish Conservation Act amends the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to require the Secretary of Commerce to develop a definition of forage fish, as well as improve the conservation, monitoring, and management of prey fish species – fish that serve as food for commercial fish stocks, as well as for sea birds and marine mammals. Conserving forage fish would result in healthier wildlife populations and support communities that rely on fishing, wildlife tourism, and seafood sales.

MSA is the landmark federal law governing marine fisheries in federal waters. Passed in 1976, MSA has phased out foreign fishing in federal waters, stemmed overfishing, allowed depleted fish stocks to recover, and conserved fisheries’ resources, among other reforms. Despite the importance of forage fish, MSA does not currently require regional management councils to include forage fish in their management plans resulting in forage fish populations facing challenges that, in turn, affect commercial species and economies that depend on them. The Forage Fish Conservation Act would amend the MSA to fix the management gap for forage fish.

The Forage Fish Conservation Act has been endorsed by a number of national organizations, including the American Sportsfishing Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Marine Manufacturers Association, National Professional Anglers Association, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

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