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Audubon Great Lakes Praises Introduction of Bipartisan Fisheries Bill to Help Great Lakes Birds

“Seabirds like Osprey and Caspian Tern make the Great Lakes their home during the summer breeding season... But for them to make it here, they must have abundant forage fish during the winter months and arduous migration.”

DETROIT–Today, U.S. Representative for the twelfth congressional district of Michigan, Debbie Dingell introduced the Forage Fish Conservation Act. The bill expands the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the primary law that governs ocean fish management in U.S. federal waters through eight regional fishery management councils, to include forage fish (e.g. herring, anchovy, sardine, krill and some small crustaceans) for the first time. Forage fish are the primary source of food for many bird species and marine mammals in the United States, including birds that migrate to the Great Lakes every year such as Caspian Tern, American White Pelican, Bonaparte Gull and Parasitic Jaeger, to nest or rest and refuel before continuing their long journey north.

“Seabirds like Osprey and Caspian Tern make the Great Lakes their home during the summer breeding season. These birds inspire us as they soar and dive along our region’s blue waters. But for them to make it here, they must have abundant forage fish during the winter months and arduous migration,” said Rebeccah Sanders, Audubon Vice President for the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Flyway. “I would like to thank Congresswoman Dingell for her conservation leadership in recognizing how important fisheries are to these breathtaking birds. By protecting their primary food source, we’re also helping fishing communities.”

It is especially important to manage fisheries for seabirds and other marine wildlife in this time of climate change. Rising ocean levels and shifts in the availability of food are devastating the nesting success of cold-water seabirds, such as Atlantic Puffins. Higher seas mean fewer of the sandy and rocky surfaces where seabirds nest, limiting their ability to reproduce. Warmer and more acidic water means less abundant food sources and more risk for seabirds who must travel further and deeper to find food.

“Each summer I watch the Atlantic Puffins when they bring fish home to their chicks. When parent puffins can’t find enough herring and other important fish, their chicks suffer and sometimes starve as casualties to warming oceans and over fishing. These human imposed threats are decimating forage fish and an entire food chain that includes humans. Audubon is glad to see Congress moving to restore these fish populations,” said Audubon’s Executive Director of Seabird Restoration Program and Vice President for Bird Conservation, Dr. Stephen Kress. “There are many reasons that seabird numbers are down 70 percent in the last 70 years. If we can stabilize and rebuild their food supply, it will go a long way towards helping them recover.”

Along with Dingell, U.S. Representative Brian Mast of Florida is also a co-sponsor of Forage Fish Conservation Act.

You can take action to support the Forage Fish Conservation Act here: http://audubon.stagecoachdigital.com/view-message/11649

Read about Audubon’s ongoing work to save seabirds: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/project/saving-seabirds.

Read about Dr. Kress’s Project Puffin: http://projectpuffin.audubon.org/

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