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NORWALK, CT – Speaking today at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urged for passage of legislation to protect small “forage fish” species that are a primary food source for seals, whales, seabirds, tuna and other marine life.
Introduced by Blumenthal earlier this month, the Forage Fish Conservation Act (FFCA) would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law that governs ocean fish management in U.S. federal waters. While not naming specific species, the FFCA addresses the important ecological role of such smaller schooling fish as menhaden (or bunker), anchovies, herring and shad.
“Forage fish are the sustenance for bigger fish, for terns and osprey,” Blumenthal said. “If you want whales and seals, you need the little fish like the herring, sardines, anchovies. We don’t eat them but the fish we eat do eat them, and so do the birds that we want to see in the Sound.
“These forage fish are at the bottom of the food chain; they’re tiny little creatures, but they have a huge impact,” Blumenthal said.
Jason Patlis, president and CEO of The Maritime Aquarium, said that, while the FFCA will protect forage fish in federal ocean waters, the benefit will extend into Long Island Sound, where the species play a similar vital role.
“These forage fish migrate,” Patlis said. “They need to be protected in the federal waters as well as they’re protected here in state waters. For that reason, we really care about these fish, which don’t respect the state boundaries. This is a really important piece of legislation and The Maritime Aquarium is thrilled and honored to support it.”
A coalition that includes The Maritime Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, Audubon Connecticut and the Long Island Soundkeeper has pledged to work cooperatively to help educate the public with the goal of passage of the Forage Fish Conservation Act. Also speaking in support of the legislation during today’s event at The Maritime Aquarium were Rob LaFrance, policy director for Audubon Connecticut, and Long Island Soundkeeper Bill Lucey.
Blumenthal’s Senate bill serves as a companion to H.R. 2236, also called the Forage Fish Conservation Act, introduced in the House in April 2019 by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL).
Other local organizations lending their support to the legislation are the Menunkatuck Audubon Society, The Connecticut Ornithological Association and the New Haven Bird Club.
Guests in The Maritime Aquarium can see several species of schooling forage fish displayed – including alewives, scup (also called porgy) and mummichogs – and learn about their vital role in the marine environment.
Learn more about The Maritime Aquarium’s conservation efforts, as well its exhibits and programs, at www.maritimeaquarium.org.
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