Historically, migratory fish, including alewives, American eel, and the majestic brook trout, made their way from the sea into the rivers of the South Shore Estuary Reserve to use freshwater spawning and nursery grounds. However, nearly 60 miles of the best quality upstream habitat are currently inaccessible to these fish because of more than 30 obsolete dams. Environmental Defense is launching an initiative to restore these migratory fish runs, with a goal of giving fish access to at least 30 new river miles over the next 10 years. This will be achieved by dam removals, where possible, or installing fish ladders.
As a first step, Environmental Defense worked with Suffolk County, the Town of Brookhaven, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited to win nearly $1.5 million through the 1996 Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act to open the Carmans River, Swan River and Mud Creek to fish passage. Now, Environmental Defense is leading a stakeholder work group in identifying and prioritizing the next generation of fish passage projects on Long Island.
Once fish can again migrate up rivers, we must ensure they have clean water and quality habitat. To that end, Environmental Defense is supporting a variety of efforts by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Brookhaven Supervisor Brian Foley and their respective Boards. Both have acquired property to protect as open space within our watersheds, particularly along the Carmans River. And, both are going beyond open space protection to active watershed restoration efforts.
Environmental Defense comments
“At this time of year on Cape Cod, families gather along the banks of rivers and welcome the return of alewives from the vast Atlantic Ocean,” said renowned actress and Environmental Defense member Isabella Rossellini, “By restoring open rivers on our Island, we can share this same enchanting experience that we have missed out on for so long.”
“Long Island’s brook trout streams once offered fishing that was among the best in the world, because trout could freely access both clean, cold-water spawning grounds and rich, productive estuarine feeding grounds,” said Environmental Defense marine scientist Dr. Jake Kritzer, “Restoring that connection will restore those fisheries to their former splendor.”
“The roots of Environmental Defense lie on Long Island in an effort to save our beloved ospreys from the effects of DDT,” said Environmental Defense general counsel Jim Tripp, “Faced with a declining food supply, our new initiative will again help ensure that these birds always soar in our skies by rejuvenating depleted alewife runs.”
“The history of Environmental Defense is one of a close relationship with Long Island communities,” said Dr. Kritzer, “We are excited to have Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven supporting our fish restoration initiative, and we are equally excited to support their important watershed projects that will protect key habitats we will open once again to fish.”