November 3, 2005
Contact: Jake Kritzer, Environmental Defense, 917-575-4286
New York Environmental Conservation Commissioner Denise Sheehan announces funding to support fish passage projects on Long Island. Environmental Defense Marine Scientist Jake Kritzer comments:
“The projects being supported today are a critical step toward inviting migratory fish back to New York waters and restoring access to Long Island habitats that species like alewives need to reproduce. Long Island once was a prime nursery for migratory fish — until the rampant damming of rivers blocked their return. With these grants, we can begin to re-build vital connections between the sea and freshwater ecosystems provided by these fish.”
“Alewives, sea-run brook trout and American eel are critical to New York’s fisheries. Alewives in particular are among the most important prey found along the east coast, and are eaten by popular species like tuna, seals, stripers and ospreys. Restoring these species will have considerable ecological, social and economic benefits.”
“The nation cares about migratory species like alewives and American eel, but many of the most important steps towards their restoration will occur locally. By supporting these projects, New York is showing itself to be a leader in fisheries conservation. And, the State must continue to lead. On the South Shore of Long Island alone, more than 30 dams block passage of migratory fish. Miles of critical spawning and nursery habitat wait to be opened.”
In 1996, Governor Pataki signed the Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act, which provided millions of dollars to support environmental improvement projects by municipalities within the State. Today’s announcement marks the final allocation of grants for water quality and aquatic habitat restoration projects within the South Shore Estuary Reserve and the Peconic Estuary Program.
In 2004, Environmental Defense and the South Shore Estuary Reserve formed the Long Island Diadromous Fish Work Group, comprised of representatives from municipalities, state and federal agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. Staff from Environmental Defense, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Suffolk County, the Town of Brookhaven and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with support from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of State, prepared a series of Bond Act proposals to re-engineer dams on several South Shore tributaries to allow fish passage. The proposals also include storm water remediation and invasive aquatic plant inventory and control to improve freshwater habitats on Long Island.
These habitat restoration projects will help meet objectives outlined in the South Shore Estuary Reserve Comprehensive Management Plan, the New York State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Fishery Management Plans for Shad/River Herring (which includes alewives) and American Eel.