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Citizen Involvement in Marine Fisheries

Consider dedicating some of your time to help study marine species by becoming a citizen scientist!

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) offers a variety of opportunities for members of the community to participate in marine science research and conservation efforts. Volunteering your time not only gives you hands on experience, but provides NYSDEC biologists with essential data which they will use to make informed decisions to better conserve important marine species. Here are some of the volunteer opportunities we currently offer:

Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Program (May-early July)

DEC and Cornell staff tagging and measuring horseshoe crabs
DEC and Cornell staff tagging and measuring horseshoe crabs.

In 2004, the horseshoe crab spawning survey was initiated to monitor horseshoe crabs throughout NY's marine district. Every year, the NYSDEC Marine Invertebrates Unit and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County's Marine Program have worked with an extensive network of volunteers to monitor the spawning activities of horseshoe crabs at the night time high tides around the new and full moon. Trained site coordinators teach volunteers to count, measure, tag, and tell the difference between male and female crabs at each of the 18 survey sites. By participating with the 100s of other volunteers on this survey, you will be helping to collect scientific data that will be used to assess horseshoe crabs and inform conservation management decisions in New York State.

To learn more about the horseshoe crab spawning survey and become a volunteer, please visit Cornell's Horseshoe Crab Webpage (link leaves DEC's website).

Striped Bass Cooperative Anglers Program (spring-fall)

52 pound striped bass caught and released by Justin Campbell and Cooperative Angler Capt. Craig McCaslin. Fire Island, N.Y
52 pound striped bass caught and released by Justin Campbell
and cooperative angler Capt. Craig McCaslin out of Fire Island.

If you'd like to help conserve and manage striped bass, becoming a New York State volunteer angler may be for you! Striped bass play an important role in New York's aquatic ecosystems and support commercial and recreational fisheries in our state. Striped bass are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, an interstate cooperative fishery management agency, which requires NYSDEC to provide information on the recreational striped bass fishery. Since 1985, NYS DEC has satisfied this requirement with the help of NYS volunteer recreational anglers.

NYS DEC provides volunteer anglers with logbooks to record fishing trip information, envelopes to take scale samples from striped bass, and instructions on how to properly collect required data. At the end of the season, the data sent to DEC staff will be used to determine the fishing success of recreational striped bass fishers, in addition to helping assess the striped bass population in the region. At the end of the year, the data that is sent in is summarized and returned to you in the form of a newsletter. Whether you live in Long Island, New York City, or the Hudson River region, you can participate in the Striped Bass Cooperative Anglers Program.

For more information about the Striped Bass Cooperative Angler Program in the Hudson River region (north of the George Washington Bridge), please contact Jessica Best at or (845) 256-3009. If you fish for striped bass in New York waters south of the George Washington Bridge and would like to become a volunteer angler, please contact the Diadromous Fish Unit at or (631) 380-3314 .

Visit the Striped Bass Cooperative Anglers Program webpage for more information.

Artificial Reef Fishing and Diving (Year-round)

tautog aggregation on Atlantic Beach Reef rockpile
Tautog aggregation, Atlantic Beach Reef rockpile.
Photo by Christopher LaPorta

New York State artificial reefs were developed to enhance fisheries habitat. Over time, they became homes to a variety of marine species including fish, crustaceans, mollusks, sponges and even temperate corals. There are currently 12 artificial reef sites in New York State that are managed by the DEC Marine Artificial Reef Program. Anglers and divers utilize these sites for many different reasons that include fishing or to simply observe the marine biodiversity. If you fish or dive on one of the many artificial reefs in New York's marine district, we encourage you to share your experience and contribute to the DEC's volunteer reef diver program or the volunteer reef angler program. Information provided to us is valuable and can be used to learn more about the marine populations found on our artificial reefs and provide feedback on how to improve your experience on our reefs. Simply take an Angler or Diver log with you on your next trip, record your reef visit experience and submit the completed log to DEC's Artificial Reef Program.

For more information about volunteering as an artificial reef angler or diver, visit the Artificial Reefs webpage.

Atlantic Sturgeon Salvage Program (Year-round, but mortalities common during the spring and fall)

washed up Atlantic sturgeon on the south shore of Long Island
Washed up Atlantic sturgeon on the south shore of Long Island

The Atlantic sturgeon is an archaic species that was declared endangered in 2012 by NOAA, Fisheries Service. Sturgeon are anadromous species, meaning they're born in freshwater but spend majority of their lives at sea, only returning to freshwater regions to spawn. For this reason, NYSDEC Marine Protected Resources and Hudson River Fisheries Units work together to effectively protect this endangered species in both its marine and freshwater habitats.

The Atlantic Sturgeon Salvage Program is a network run by NOAA to help conserve Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. Sturgeon are particularly susceptible to being caught as bycatch in gillnet and otter trawl fisheries, or potentially getting struck by moving vessels during their migrations. Deceased sturgeon may wash up on beaches in Long Island or in the Hudson River region, and it is important to collect information about these mortality events. We rely on assistance from the general public to help conserve this endangered species and encourage individuals to report any sturgeon they may come across.

Please review Reporting a Dead Sturgeon guidelines on our Atlantic Sturgeon Webpage to help DEC and NOAA, Fisheries conserve Atlantic sturgeon.

Blue Crab Tagging Program (Year-round)

Blue crab being tagged

The blue crab tagging program was initiated to investigate the migration patterns, habitat preferences, and life history traits of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) in New York's waters. Mature female blue crabs, which are captured in various NYSDEC field surveys, are tagged with a yellow wire carapace tag which has a specific number attributed to each crab. This tag is attached externally to the crabs' two lateral spines. If you happen to capture a tagged crab, you can contribute information to the tagging program by answering a few quick questions about your catch. For more information or to submit data to the tagging program, please visit the Blue Crab Tagging Program webpage.

Blue Crab Recreational Survey (June-October)

Blue crab caught in a dip net

Do you fish recreationally for blue crab in the New York's marine district? If so, we would like you to participate in our Volunteer Blue Crab Fishery Survey! Blue crabs are commonly targeted by recreational fisherman in New York, and monitoring catch and effort from the recreational community is vital to properly manage their populations.

In 2016, the blue crab intercept survey and a digital survey were developed to help DEC, Division of Marine Resources (DMR) gather data from recreational crabbers. Information about your fishing trip (where, when and how long you fished), as well as data regarding what gear was used, how many blue crabs were caught, sizes and sex ratios, help the DMR biologist accurately characterize the recreational harvest of blue crabs in the NY marine district. Please consider logging all of your blue crab trips into the digital survey. Remember to also log the trips where you don't catch any crabs. Trips with no catch supply biologists with important information.

For more information about the blue crab intercept survey and the Digital Survey of Recreational Blue Crabbing, please visit the Recreational Blue Crab Survey webpage.

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