|A bit of RIVERKEEPER History
"Guys, Look in YouTube for Keeping On - A Tribeca Film Fellows Riverkeeper Mini Doc" You will see the first patrol boat actually in operation and one shot shows the broadside view of the boat as it moves through the water. The boat appears to be fast. I was looking for any Robert Boyle's articles in Sports Illustrated when I hit on this you tube film." - from Marvin Oresky
Previous years' news...
|Corzine triples offshore wind goals|
Perhaps an alternative to dredging?
Clean Ocean Action Works to get legislation passed
January 1, 2002
|Salt Contents of the Hudson
How far north is the salt line?
|The importance of Menhaden ... Bunker ... More than just bait|
|NJ Legislators Who's yours? Find out here!|
members are aware of the clubs history with Striped Bass conservation. We have along history and active history working
with others and sometimes standing alone to be good stewards of the
New York State Legislature has introduced bills to prohibit commercial fishing in the
Hudson River north of the
What can you do to help?
If you are a NY State resident, please
call and write or e-mail your state Senator and tell them that you want their support for S4948, the bill to
For NY residents to find their State Senator: http://www.nysenate.gov/
To find the members of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee: http://www.nysenate.gov/committee/environmental-conservation
Thanks for listening . Sergio Radossi HRFA
Oct 16, 2009 New Tags in Hudson River Striped Bass
Corzine triples offshore wind goals
October 7, 2008
By Sandy Bauers
Inquirer Staff Writer
Gov. Corzine yesterday committed to tripling the state's offshore wind goals, calling for enough capacity in 2020 to power 800,000 homes - or 13 percent of the state's energy needs, he said.
Previously, his draft energy master plan called for 1,000 megawatts of wind power by 2020. Yesterday, he called for that goal to be met by 2012, and set a new one of 3,000 megawatts for eight years after that.
Corzine also opened the door a little wider for the two companies that lost their bid on Friday to get a $19 million grant from the state Board of Public Utilities to build an offshore wind farm.
On Friday, the BPU voted to give $4 million - all that was requested - to the $1 billion project proposed by Garden State Offshore Wind, a venture between PSEG Renewable Generation and Hoboken-based Deepwater Wind.
Company spokesman Paul Rosengren said then that the value of the grant wasn't so much the money as it was the cachet of the state endorsement, which he expected to smooth a complex permitting process.
Yesterday, Corzine invited the other companies - Bluewater Wind and Fishermen's Energy of New Jersey L.L.C., a corsortium of commercial fishermen - to work with his office, the BPU and the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop their projects.
He encouraged them and others "to bring all ideas to the table."
PSEG's chief executive Ralph Izzo praised the governor's goal, saying it "makes us all realize we're participating not in the initiation of a project, but in the creation of an industry. Namely, the offshore wind industry."
He said it would "create a critical mass of talent and capital."
Representatives of both Bluewater and Fishermen's Energy said they were eager to move forward.
"We welcome the oppportunity to be a partner with the state," said Jim Lanard, Bluewater's head of strategic planning.
Many environmental groups have supported New Jersey's expansion in solar power. The Garden State ranks second in the United States in the amount installed.
Yesterday, Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of Environment New Jersey, called the governor's offshore wind plan "the most aggressive . . . in the nation."
Two other states - Rhode Island and Delaware - have announced offshore wind projects, but none has goals matching New Jersey's, according to state officials and environmental groups.
However, Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society in Sandy Hook and a critic of offshore wind, said he was worried the fervor would overwhelm environmental considerations associated with "putting industrial structures in the ocean."
Although the technology is advancing, the scale of the wind farm approved Friday - 96 turbines with 350 megawatts of capacity - suggests that about 800 wind turbines could be erected offshore.
The DEP is in the midst of an environmental impact study, not expected to be completed until next year.
"The governor is setting a very aggressive goal that people are going to hold him to, and that the BPU is going to direct money toward," Dillingham said. "So once they start down this path, the environmental impact studies will play less of a role than they should."
Hudson River fish diversity falling
Thursday, May 15, 2008
N.Y. -- A study of 13 Hudson River fish species indicates 10 have declined since the
mid-1970s, despite a significant improvement in the river's water quality.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A study of 13 Hudson River fish species indicates 10 have declined since the mid-1970s, despite a significant improvement in the river's water quality.
One fish, the rainbow smelt, no longer shows up at all in the samplings, the report says.
It suggests a variety of causes, ranging from global warming to the invasion of the zebra mussel. But it also points a finger at five power plants that take in river water -- and millions of fish and fish eggs each year -- to cool their equipment.
"Even if the power companies are not the sole cause of degradation of the Hudson River fish community, the loss of such high proportions of the fish populations must be important," the report says.
The environmental group Riverkeeper, which commissioned the study from Pisces Conservation Ltd., a British consultant, released the study at a riverside news conference Thursday morning.
Riverkeeper has been trying for years to force power plants to upgrade their cooling systems to a closed-cycle type that would use 97 percent less river water. The group's president, Alex Matthiessen, said Wednesday that the Clean Water Act requires that such technology be updated and that he would call on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce the requirement.
"Power plants have been slaughtering billions of fish each year," he said Thursday. "You have to try and address all the factors that are playing a role, and at the very least, you have to make sure that the various parties responsible are following the law."
Matthiessen said the study's findings surprised him.
"We've managed to improve the river over the last four decades. We thought it would only make sense that as the river became cleaner the ecosystem upon which the fish depend would become healthier," he said.
The biggest fish intake is at the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan. Jim Steets, a spokesman for plant owner Entergy Nuclear, disputed the study's findings.
"The Hudson River's fish population is healthy and abundant, and we've seen no connection between the operation of these plants and the adult fish population," he said.
Steets noted that environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy said in 2006 that the Hudson has more fish per acre than any other river in the country.
Steets said that by using screens, Indian Point safely returns most adult fish to the river. Most fish eggs are fated to die anyway, he said.
It's been known for some time that some Hudson species were not faring well. Overfishing and dam construction have been devastating the American shad for decades, and an annual shad festival on the Hudson was held without any shad on the menu this year.
But the cumulative nature of the new report -- which analyzes several surveys of young fish populations conducted by power companies as a requirement of their licenses -- is important, said Andy Kahnle of the DEC's Hudson River Fisheries unit.
"There's lots of different sampling techniques and different ways to interpret the data, but it's good to look into what's happening to some of the fish we don't hear a lot about," he said. "The findings change year to year, but certain species are definitely in decline."
Kahnle noted that several of the species, while down from their 1970s numbers, are up over the last several years. These include white perch, tomcod and bay anchovy. But the reasons for such increases aren't any better known than the reasons for the longer-term decreases, he said.
Kahnle also said some of the findings "have to be taken with a grain of salt."
Sampling the white perch population, for example, is difficult, as the species spends much of its life in weed beds, he said.
The other species reported in decline are the alewife, hogchoker, white catfish, weakfish and blueback herring.
The striped bass, bluefish and spottail shiner have increased their numbers, the study says.
The report found that the river's temperature, measured at Poughkeepsie, had risen 3.6 degrees since the 1960s, and some of the declining species are not tolerant of the higher temperatures, which help decrease dissolved oxygen in the water.
"Given the considerable efforts that have been taken to reduce organic pollution, and the great improvement in water quality in the vicinity of New York City, these declines in DO are disappointing," the report says.
Besides the 13 species studied, Matthiessen said several other Hudson residents are in trouble, including the American eel, the sturgeon and the smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Federal judge OK's Hudson dredging deal - 11-2006
Please join us to announce & celebrate the introduction of the Clean Ocean Zone legislation.
If you will attend, please RSVP to Kari Jermansen (732-872-0111 or email@example.com).
SHORE CONGRESSMEN TO INTRODUCE LONG-AWAITED BILL TO PERMANENTLY PROTECT THE OCEAN
Ocean Advocates Rally to Launch National Legislative Campaign
WHO: Bill Champions US Representative Jim Saxton (NJ-R-3) and US Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-D-6); Robert Matthies, Mayor of Seaside Park; invited elected officials; coalition members of Clean Ocean Action; representatives of organizations and businesses; citizens
WHAT: Citizens Rally and Press Conference to announce introduction of bill in the US House of Representatives; list of original bill co-sponsors (to date) will be announced
WHEN: Saturday, July 22, 2006, Citizens Rally 10:30am, Press Conference 11:00am, Reception following with light refreshments at Saw Mill Cafe
WHERE: On the boardwalk at the south end of Funtown Pier, Seaside Park (Stockton & Ocean Avenues); see directions below
PHOTO OPS: The Atlantic Ocean; crowded beach; elected officials & citizens; map and other visuals
Directions From the North and South:
Take Garden State Parkway to Exit 82 (Rt. 37 East). Take Route 37 East toward Seaside Heights/Island Beach State Park. Follow Route 37 East about seven miles over Tunney/Mathis bridge. After traffic light after bridge, bear right onto Route 35 South (following signs for Seaside Park/Island Beach State Park). Get in left lane and follow left lane through short S-like turn. Immediately after last curve (Welcome to Seaside Park sign), make a left at first cut into median crossing. Cross over Rt. 35 North and proceed onto Lafayette Avenue. Proceed two blocks east. Make a left onto Ocean Avenue. Proceed one block to metered parking lot on right, or metered street parking. Rally/Press Conference is on the pier at the entrance to Funtown Pier on the oceanside.
Kari Jermansen, 732-872-0111 or 908-507-2549 (cell)
Keith Rella, 732-872-0111 or 732-966-0802 (cell)
Cindy Zipf, 732-872-0111 or 732-996-4613 or (cell)
Clean Ocean Action
COA is a proud member of www.earthsharenj.org
Hudson River Birds to be Studied 3/2/2006
HRFA Receives ALS Highest Award September 24, 2005
I am pleased to announce and give further details to the
The award was given to the HRFA for all of the contributions that we have made to marine science and conservation.
On hand to accept the award was Capt. Chas Stamm, Gil Hawkins, Capt. Glenn Blank, Arnie Ulrich, and Bruce Halstater.
The evening was highlighted with a dinner and awards presentation. The speaker for the evenings activities wasRichard Ellis , author of "The Empty Ocean" dealing with troubles of fish and fishermen as resources dwindle
and habitat is lost.
Gil Hawkins Director HRFA
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|The Hudson River Fishermen's Association is participating in an
electronic fish tagging survey. The HRFA has sponsored an electronic tag to be
inserted in a striped bass released by the "Adopt
a Fish" program.
We named the striper "Henry Hudson." A 28 inch striped bass tagged and released in Little Egg Harbor NJ.
To follow Henry's location, click on the following link... Henry Hudson
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Harrison Ford To Patrol the Hudson
|Harrison Saves the River (World Entertainment News Network)|
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New York considering Re-Opening commercial Striped Bass fishing in the Hudson River.
History of this issue:
The crust of this issue is the Hudson River is the second largest spawning estuary on the east coast for the striped bass. The Chesapeake Bay being the largest. The Commercial fishery in the Hudson river was shut down in 1976 due to unusually high concentrations of PCB found in the eggs and skin of Hudson River Striped Bass. The PCBs were found to be coming from the two General Electric plants on the upper sections of the Hudson. Fort Edwards and Hudson falls. Without going into too many details which can go on for hours...G.E. dumped over one million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1975. One pound of PCBs are enough to infect 500,000 pounds of fish.
PCB Pollution timeline Click Here!*
Anyway...in 1966 there were over 300 commercial fishermen working the Hudson River. In 1975 a new DEC Commissioner for New York, Ogden Reid, was shocked to learn about the contamination. Before Reid, no one wanted to publicize the problems of the fish because if G.E. was made to stop their pollution, they threatened N.Y. State with closing up the two plants and taking 1200 jobs with them. Forcing G.E. to stop the dumping would be political suicide. Reid went public with the news in 1975 and banned all fishing in the upper Hudson and banned commercial fishing in the lower river. Hudson River fishermen who once made a living off striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, shad, eel, blue crab, perch, catfish, tomcod, herring, goldfish and a variety of baitfish to the market were allowed to sell only shad, Atlantic sturgeon, goldfish and baitfish. A ten Million dollar a year fishery was forced to close with no compensation made to the fishermen for the loss of their livelihoods.
G.E. was forced to end it's discharges into the Hudson River, agreed to contribute $3 million toward cleaning up the PCBs already in the riverbed and contribute another $1 million in in-house research of the problem. A slap on the wrist. Shortly after that, G.E. closed up its plants at fort Edwards and Hudson Falls, taking it's 1200 jobs with it and skipping out on a $100 million cleanup bill that the residents of New York could not afford. Ogden Reid was fired the following year. The commercial fishermen of the Hudson River were never compensated by General Electric for forcing them out of business by contaminating the resource.
Were do we stand today? The question of what to do with the remaining PCBs in the Hudson is the issue. Environmentalists want the PCBs removed from the riverbed. The sediments. G.E. want the PCBs to remain their. Of course! It would cost the company nothing if the PCBs were left in the river bed. They put it there, they should be responsible to remove it. In 1997 G.E. spokesman John Haggard speaking to the New Jersey Chapter of the HRFA announced that to date G.E. had spent over $125 million towards cleaning up the Hudson River of the PCBs it had dumped. ( today they claim it's over $165 Million ) Then the question came out of how much money was spent on lawyers and publications and propaganda and how much actually went towards site restoration? Mr. haggard told us actually only $5 million went towards the site restoration and the rest went towards publicity and lawyers fees. The spin doctors of Behan Communications were hired by G.E. to twist the facts and things all started to fall into place. Why spend so much defending a clean up when if that spending went towards the site it would have been cleaned up long ago and G.E. would look like a hero. The Answer...
The Hudson is not the only site. The fact is G.E. is the number one corporate offender on the nations Superfund Site list. If the EPA forces G.E. to clean up the PCBs out of the sediments of the Hudson River, the dominos would start to fall. All the other sites would have to be done the same way, costing G.E. hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. The Hudson river site is only the tip of the iceberg.
Behan Communications is the professional publications firm hired by General Electric to show the G.E. side of this issue. They are good. THEY ARE GOOD. They are the best at what they do. G.E. can afford the best. I wish we could afford them on our side. They take every issue and twist things, paraphrase, and would make you think its raining when they are spitting in your face. They are that good. And professional.
The striped bass...remember them???... the PCBs were the reason the commercial fishery was shut down..oh yeah...The commercial fishermen were promised if the levels of PCBs came down to a level below the federal safety standards of 2 parts per million, they could go back to selling fish out of the Hudson again.
The latest tests of PCBs on Hudson River Striped Bass came in below that levels. The commercial shad fishermen of the Hudson want to now sell the striped bass they catch in their nets as by-catch to the market. They claim the levels are low enough and they have a legitimate argument to start selling bass again.
The latest tests that the commercial shad fisherman are quoting from was released by NBC news in the early part of 1999. G.E. splashed headlines in it's publications "Levels of PCBs found in Hudson River Striped Bass are the lowest in 50 years!" The testing was done by a firm called the Academy of Natural Science. They asked me to help collect fish specimens for them and participate in the test. At the time I was president of the NJ Chapter of the Hudson River Fishermen's Association. I immediately noticed a change in testing procedures. Testing was to be done on only the fillets of the striped bass. PCBs are not concentrated in the fillets of striped bass. No fish over five pounds were to be tested. PCBs get into the fish through a process called bio-accumulation. The larger the fish, the more PCBs. When questioning these very strict parameters, I asked who the funding party was to this latest test. Reluctantly I was told the funding party had very strict guidelines and this was what the client wanted. The scientists agreed this was not a test to show how much toxins were in the fish. Just the fillets. I asked if the funding client was G.E.? They said yes. They wanted to be able to splash in their headlines that the president of the NJ Chapter of the HRFA endorsed their findings of lower PCB levels found in Hudson River Striped Bass. The same headlines splashed by NBC on the nightly news. G.E. Owns NBC. It's true, the levels were found to be the lowest in fifty years. What they didn't tell you was they changed the test!
They Changed the TEST! Clever spin doctors. They did not lie!
The commercial guys are now on the side of G.E. hoping to get their jobs back. The same G.E. that put them out of business back in 1976! All in an effort to avoid cleaning up the Hudson River of a toxin they deliberately dumped.
The fish have not changed. The striped bass you catch outside of the Varazano Bridge are the same striped bass in the Hudson River . They do not shed toxins when they get out to Montauk. Our tagging studies show that most of the fish caught by the Long Island Baymen and sell to the Fulton fish market were born and raised in the Hudson River. They spend the first five years of their lives in the Hudson River. They still have the PCBs in them. They just don't want to put those guys out of business too. All they did was change the test.
One of the strongest and consistent arguments by the General Electric company for leaving the PCBs in the sediments is the fact that they say the "Hudson is Cleaning itself." They mean that over time the sediments get washed down river in a "Cleansing Action."
I love the term "Clean Itself." And "Cleansing Actions." What does that mean? I'll tell you. It means it comes down here to Jersey! The problem doesn't go away, it just moves somewhere else. Do they think the marinas down on the lower Hudson are pleased with the fact that they can't keep their slips clean for their clients because of the restrictions on dredging.
Do they think we look forward to health restrictions on the fish we catch down here? Does the NJ DEC need to spend millions of dollars on testing fish for PCBs because they enjoy doing it?
NO! They have to because the upper Hudson is "Cleansing itself!" How about the thousands of dollars worth of signs that have to be posted every year warning of health restrictions on eating Hudson River fish?
How about the health risks forced on people in New Jersey and lower New York by eating the fish that had lived in the Hudson for much of their lives and now have migrated out? Once past the Verazzano Bridge and caught are they suddenly shed of all G.E's toxins? If so, that's some Bridge!
When the Upper Hudson "Cleanses Itself", where do they think the cleansing goes?
This is a statement by NY State Assemblyman Brodsky answering one of our e-Mail letters on the subject of Re-Opening the Commercial striped bass fishing on the Hudson:
December 6, 2000 EPA decision to Dredge.
In a statement released today, EPA Administrator Carol Browner has rendered the decision that the best way to restore the Hudson River and protect the citizens and wildlife is to dredge the River sediments of the PCBs that remain there. Enough evidence has been examined, the time has come to make a decision. The decision is that the PCBs need to be removed from the Hudson River. Environmentally safe dredging is to be used as to not re-suspend any of the contaminants back into the water column. General Electric is expected to appeal the decision.
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December 6, 2000 NY Attorney General Supports EPA Decision.
I strongly support the EPA proposal to remove the PCB hot spots from the upper Hudson River. This action will go a long way toward protecting the health of future generations of New Yorkers and restoring the vitality of the river and it's ecosystem.
An entire generation of new Yorkers has never known a Hudson river free of PCB contamination. PCBs suspend in the river's water and deposited in its sediments pose a health risk that has denied us full use of the river for too long. Beyond the negative impacts on humans, PCBs also harm animals living in and along the Hudson River.
The issue of PCB contamination in the Hudson has been studied long enough. Today's announcement by the EPA is an essential step toward reclamation and true revitalization of the treasured ecosystem.
I commend the work of EPA Administrator Carol Browner and her staff. I call on all New Yorkers to support the EPA in its effort to restore the river to the magnificence and health it deserves. we should not delay a moment longer.
Elliot Spitzer NY Attorney General
EPA Public Hearing on Dredging
March 7, 2001 Saddle Brook Marriott
The HRFA NJ insisted the that a hearing on the EPA proposal to remove the PCBs from the sediments of the Hudson River be held in New Jersey. This issue is not just a New York issue. These PCBs affect the citizens of New Jersey as well. As such, we demanded a hearing in this state. The EPA took public comments and answered your questions on this important environmental issue for the states of New York and New Jersey.
The Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2001
The Time: 7:00 p.m.
the Place: Saddle Brook Marriott
Garden State Parkway at Interstate 80...Saddle Brook, NJ
EPA had taken public comments on the Proposed Plan until April 17, 2001. You can send comments to: Doug Tomchuk / Alison Hess Hudson River Comments, USEPA, 290 Broadway, 19th floor, New York, NY 10007
or...you can e-mail your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The EPA site is www.epa.gov/hudson which has more information on the contamination of the Hudson.
This was a great meeting with over 100 people in attendance. Only two people spoke out against the EPA decision to remover the PCBs. The rest in attendance fully supported the EPA Proposal.
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Bush Appoints G.E. Top Lawyer to White House
The New York Times
May 12, 2001, Saturday, Late Edition - Final
BYLINE: By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
President Bush has filled several senior environment-related jobs in his administration with pro-business advocates who have worked on behalf of various industries in battles with the federal government, largely during the Clinton years.
Here is a couple that might affect us in our fight to clean up and protect the Hudson:
His choice for No. 2 at the Environmental Protection Agency was a lobbyist for Monsanto, the chemical company now devoted to agribusiness. His chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality a lawyer who represented General Electric in its fight with the E.P.A. over toxic waste sites.
"They are lawyers and lobbyists who built their careers by helping industry get out of environmental regulations," said Maria Weidner, policy advocate for the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund. "Now, assuming they're confirmed, they will be doing the same thing, only the taxpayers will be paying for it."
Guided by the tone set at the top -- from Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to Gale A. Norton, the Interior secretary, and Christie Whitman, the E.P.A. administrator -- these nominees will help determine what policies to advocate, what regulations to enforce and what litigation to pursue.
Mr. Bush has also said he would nominate Linda J. Fisher to be deputy administrator of the E.P.A. Most recently she headed the government affairs office at Monsanto. Ms. Fisher served at the E.P.A. in the Reagan and first Bush administrations as director of the office of pesticides and toxic substances; assistant administrator for policy, planning and evaluation; and as chief of staff.
Phil Clapp, president of
the National Environmental Trust, called her a "moderate, corporate-style
Republican, not a hidebound conservative" and said "But afterward," he
said, "she headed Monsanto's lobbying operation while the company was trying to head
off any government oversight of genetically engineered crops."
For chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Mr. Bush
has picked James Connaughton, a partner at Sidley & Austin, a law firm that advises corporate clients and trade groups on environmental law. He has represented General Electric and Atlantic Richfield in fights against the E.P.A. about cleanup of Superfund sites.
Report a Polluter!
Report a Polluter!
RECREATIONAL FISHING ALLIANCE CALLS FOR PHASE-IN OF MANDATORY CIRLE HOOKS
IN STRIPED BASS BAIT-FISHERY 8/28/01
The Recreational Fishing Alliance today called for the phase in of
mandatory circle hooks for anglers using bait to target striped bass.
"We believe that enough study of this issue has been done that we can now
begin to take the next step to implementation. The standards for what
constitutes a circle hook and how to implement their use into regulations
should be developed as soon as possible. This will not be easy and it will
take time and careful consideration," said James Donofrio, Executive
Director of the RFA.
Recent studies, such as the one conducted by the Maryland Department of
Natural Resources, show that using circle hooks instead of standard "J"
hooks significantly reduces the release-mortality rate of striped bass.
Michael Doebley, Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs for the RFA,
explained some of the details: "The RFA offers to serve as a liaison
between recreational anglers and each State's enforcement division.
However, as a first course of action, we ask that RFA affiliated and other
independent angler's organizations support us on this position. We will
ask states designated as producer areas to incorporate the mandatory use of
circle hooks for bait fishing into regulations governing spawning areas
during the periods when striped bass are present for spawning."
"We realize that not all anglers prefer to use circle hooks," said Captain
Jack Ferrara, RFA's New York Chairman, "but there is mounting concern that
the striped bass are not reaching their full size and age structure. By
beginning to implement the use of circle hooks now, we can significantly
reduce release-mortality and help avoid future season and bag
restrictions," said Captain Jack.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is a national 501(c)(4) non-profit
political action organization whose mission is to safeguard the rights of
salt water anglers, protect marine, boat, and tackle industry jobs, and
ensure the long-term sustainability of our nation's marine fisheries.
More NJ DEP Regs
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We'll take menhaden
BY H. BRUCE
In the nine days after the Sayreville sewer main ruptured on March 2, more than half a billion gallons of raw sewage mixed with storm runoff gushed into the Raritan River, polluting Raritan Bay all the way to Sandy Hook.
In less than a week, fecal coliform
levels in the western part of the bay had shot up to 50 times the standard safety level,
Although the pipe has now been
repaired, the sewage will continue to affect the entire
Nature, however, has already
dispatched a gigantic rescue squad to help us ward off this potential ecological
catastrophe. Due to arrive in late March or early April, this water restoration task force
consists of millions of menhaden, an oily toothless fish known locally as bunkers. Each
year, these huge schools of menhaden cram into
But as soon as these wonder workers arrive, they will be targeted for mass slaughter. Why? For profit, of course. And also perhaps because our legislators, like most residents of our state, do not understand what these little fish do for us.
Their filtering clarifies the water, allowing sunlight to penetrate to greater depths. The sunlight encourages the growth of plants that harbor fish and shellfish, while also releasing dissolved oxygen through photosynthesis. Even more important, the menhaden prevent deadly algae blooms. The nitrates and phosphorus in even treated sewage and normal runoff can stimulate the growth of algae blooms that block sunlight, kill fish, and sink in thick carpets to the bottom, sucking dissolved oxygen from the water and creating dead zones. Because algae and other phytoplankton are their favorite diet, the bunkers stop this process before it mushrooms out of control.
Marine biologist Sarah Gottlieb, the leading expert on the filtration performed by menhaden, explains: "Think of them as the liver of a bay. Just as your body needs its liver to filter out toxins, ecosystems also need those natural filters." Overfishing of menhaden is "just like removing your liver," she says, and "you can't survive without a liver."
The herculean work of these humble fish, combined with strenuous human efforts over the past few decades to reverse the pollution of Raritan Bay and restore its glory days as a vacation and shellfish paradise, have helped make this great estuary the cleanest of all saltwater bodies in the New York metropolitan area. The menhaden have also helped make the bay once again a mecca for saltwater anglers.
These bunkers serve one purpose while eating -- and another purpose while being eaten. Menhaden are the single most important food for the prized game fish of the region as well as many of the Atlantic fish you buy in the supermarket. As the bunkers arrive in the bay, they are accompanied by hordes of ravenous striped bass and bluefish (as well as some large spawning weakfish). These game fish in turn lure numerous eager anglers to our piers, beaches, and party boats, where they make a major contribution to the state's economy. The bunkers also attract countless birds, including terns, gannets, gulls, cormorants, and coastal ospreys, which cannot survive without menhaden. Late in the summer and the fall, baby menhaden known as "peanut bunkers" will jam many of the bay's creeks, cleaning these vital tributaries while providing sustenance for weakfish and fluke.
Evidently, however, we in
Over the years, there have been many
attempts -- all blocked by a handful of vested interests -- to pass laws banning
commercial netting of menhaden in Raritan and Sandy Hook bays. Besides
This limitation has little practical
effect, for the bunker boats simply wait for the ever-moving schools to swim out of
Before the sewer main ruptured, we had
succeeded in reversing decades of pollution in
But we have an awfully long way to go, and we need all the help we can get. To restore the bay to anything like its natural condition, we do need a permanent ban on commercial netting of a crucial element of that natural condition: the bay's menhaden.
Meanwhile, however, the Legislature cannot possibly act in time to stop the slaughter of the bunker schools that will be arriving in two or three weeks. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection must immediately issue an emergency ban on the wholesale killing of the bay's rescue squad.
H. Bruce Franklin is the John Cot
ton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at