Bill designating brine shrimp as Utah’s crustacean passes first test

Feb 16, 2023, 7:54 AM | Updated: Feb 17, 2023, 5:42 am
Students from Emerson Elementary in Salt Lake City created a petition to name the brine shrimp the ...
Students from Emerson Elementary in Salt Lake City created a petition to name the brine shrimp the state crustacean. (Change.org)

This article is published through The Great Salt Lake Collaborative: A Solutions Journalism Initiative, a partnership of news, education and media organizations that aims to inform readers about the Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — Spurred on by students from Emerson Elementary in Salt Lake City, a House committee passed a bill to honor brine shrimp.

HB137, sponsored by Rep. Rosemary Lesser (D-Ogden), designates the brine shrimp as Utah’s crustacean. If approved by the Utah Legislature, the creature would join the cherry, Allosaurus, coal and square dancing, among others, as a state symbol.

The bill originated as a petition from a 6th-grade class at Emerson Elementary, where students learned how important brine shrimp are to the ecosystem and decided to take action.

“If we don’t do something, all the birds that eat the brine shrimp will lose their food source and their home,” said student Jamison Hunt in support of the bill.

Lesser said the law would help raise awareness of the ecological collapse facing the Great Salt Lake. As the lake shrinks and becomes more salty, biologists say the lake’s food chain, including brine shrimp and brine flies, is collapsing.

“By voting for the state crustacean you are committing to the ecology that is so important to maintain for this great saline lake for which our state is known,” Lesser told the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Standing Committee.

She offered the majority of her presentation time to the elementary students, who spouted facts about the brine shrimp and how the extinction of these “little Syd the Sloth-eyed creatures” would affect Utah’s ecosystem.

“These little Olympic swimmers glide through the water like birds soaring through the sky. Watching these majestic creatures swim is mesmerizing. They are so little yet so important to our lives and economy,” states the petition.

The bill passed 10-2 vote, with Rep. Rex Shipp (R-Cedar City) and Rep. Casey Snider (R- Paradise) voting against.

Snider said the bill “doesn’t do what we need at this time,” because it doesn’t create policy to save the Great Salt Lake.

“I’m going to be the designated curmudgeon,” Snider said. While he praised the students for getting involved, he said the bill takes up time that is needed to pass policy that would protect the lake. “We’ve got a system that may collapse if we don’t get more water. I don’t think this does, policywise, what we need at this time.”

The bill was not passed in time last year, so this marks the second year for this bill. 


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Bill designating brine shrimp as Utah’s crustacean passes first test