SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — Small and mighty, like Utah’s brine shrimp, 6th graders from Emerson Elementary School were on capitol hill this morning to present a bill that they helped create to bring awareness to Utah’s brine shrimp population.  

Mr. Josh Craner’s 6th-grade students took part in the presentation of House Bill 137 that would make the brine shrimp Utah’s Crustacean. 

Three students were chosen to present facts that support the bill and why they would want this to happen.  

Shayla Sissoko, a student in Craner’s class, said “We are here to ask you if you can make the Brine Shrimp the Utah Crustacean…We are doing this because we would like to bring more attention to the brine shrimp and the Great Salt Lake, it is estimated that they won’t be able to survive in the Great Salt Lake if we don’t do something about it.” 

The students have been raising brine shrimp of their own in the classroom since the fall. “It’s been amazing to see them latch on to this, to watch students become civically engaged is so cool, I mean they are 11 and 12-year-olds,” said Craner.   

They’ve become so passionate about saving these vital creatures in the Great Salt Lake that they started a petition that now has 800 signatures. 

Getting students to focus on brine shrimp and the problems that they face allows the students to connect to some of the larger problems the lake is facing. 

Craner says, “It brings more awareness to the Great Salt Lake, and I think it’s a place where kids can access it, the problem of the lake feels so big and so huge, and adults are working on that, and kids can’t do things to really change that right now, I mean they can learn to conserve water and that, but this gives them an access point.  

Brine shrimp have inhabited the lake for over 600,000 years, since Lake Bonneville, and are vital to our local ecosystem. “Brine shrimp actually will form a Cyst that will be transported around the world to feed fish in fish farms as far away as South America, in the Nordic Sea, and are responsible for this protein source that we use to feed the World’s population,” Rep. Rosemary Lesser, Sponsor of Bill 137.  

However, as lake levels have dropped and salinity levels have risen, their existence in the Great Salt Lake is in danger. Their extinction would be devastating.  

“Many birds come to feast on the brine shrimp just before their migration, if we don’t do something, all the birds that eat the brine shrimp will lose their food source and their home, and if the Great Salt Lake ends up drying up the birds will have no other place to go,” said Sixth Grader Jameson Hunt.  

Students and supporters of the bill hope that acknowledging the brine shrimp as our crustacean will further efforts to save the shrimp and their habitat. 

It is also a terrific way to get the students involved in the lawmaking process. “The best part of this initiative is also involving our students in the process of how a law is made, they’ve come to the Capitol, to the People’s House where we are right now, and I am hoping that we are now bringing future leaders at this foundational age to recognize the importance of people in this process,” said Lesser.

“I’m so proud of them, I’m so proud of how confident they were, what they were able to represent, how they were able to represent us, our school, our district, and they carried themselves with a lot of integrity and professionalism,” said Craner.  

There are other states who have a state crustacean and so Utah would not be the first. The bill did have enough supporting votes to move forward and will next go to the house floor.