Marine Fisheries Issues
Fish Kill Advisory for the Marine District of New York
A significant abundance of adult menhaden (bunker) have made their way into many bays and creeks along the coast of Long Island and New York City. Water temperatures in these areas have risen quickly in the past two weeks, setting up the potential for fish kills. Warm water can hold less dissolved oxygen than cool water. Bunker are particularly vulnerable to low dissolved oxygen content in confined water bodies. The condition, called low D.O. or hypoxia, can often kill bunker while other fishes and marine organisms are stressed but survive.
Hypoxia can be triggered by large numbers of fish in confined bodies of water, excessive algal growth and warm water temperatures, all of which have been seen in the past week or so. These are natural phenomena, so fish kills of this type can be expected during the warm months of the year and generally have little impact on the fish population.
Other organisms use oxygen, too, including the algae that grow in the warmer months and bacteria that break down organic matter. During the day, algae produce oxygen through photosynthesis, but at night, photosynthesis stops. Algae then use up oxygen right along with other organisms. The lowest dissolved oxygen is often found early in the morning, before photosynthesis begins.
Once a kill starts, there is nothing that can be done to stop it. State agencies cannot clean up dead fish. Kills occurring on Town-owned property have been cleaned up by Town crews, while private land owners have cleaned up their shores. Concerned citizens can report fish kills to the DEC, especially if they suspect that a kill is a result of something other than hypoxia, such as a toxic spill. We will investigate but, again, we cannot clean up the fish.
To report a fish kill in marine waters, call (631) 444-0430 or email us at FW.Marine@dec.ny.gov with the subject line "fish kill".
Whelk, Horseshoe Crab, and Crab Rule Makings in Development
DEC is currently preparing to propose a rule making that will change the regulations for whelk, horseshoe crabs, and crabs. This multi-species rule making, an omnibus rule making, may affect many licensed fishermen. Before proceeding with the rule making, DEC will first provide information describing the need for these new regulations and what the regulations will do.
In the column to the right, under Important Links, there is a scoping document which provides more detailed information abut the need for these changes to the regulations.
These channeled whelk were available for
sale at the Fulton Fish Market.
1. Whelk Reporting. DEC is proposing that all whelk permit holders submit trip reports detailing all species landed and other fishing activities. Harvest reporting is necessary to determine the impact of the fishery on the whelk population. Fishing effort on whelk has increased due to increased market value and the decline of the Southern New England lobster population. In 2012, whelk was the tenth most valuable fishery in New York. It is critical for the maintenance of a sustainable whelk fishery that DEC collects and processes complete whelk landings information.
2. Whelk Minimum Size. DEC is proposing a minimum size limit of 5-1/2 inch length or 3 inch width on the harvest of channeled and knobbed whelks. Channeled and knobbed whelks are long lived and slow to mature. Currently there is no minimum size limit on whelks to prevent the harvest of immature animals. Local channel whelk have been collected and examined. The data collected indicate that female whelks do not begin to mature until they are 5-1/2 to 6 inches in length (or 3 to 3.3 inches in width).
Horseshoe crabs native to New York may be
impacted by the introduction of the Asian horseshoe
crab into local waters.
Asian horseshoe crabs. DEC is proposing to prohibit the importation, possession and use of Asian horseshoe crabs as bait. Asian horseshoe crabs have been imported for use as bait and there is concern about the possible introduction of pathogens and invasive species that could impact New York's native horseshoe crab population and other native species. In addition, there is concern about the use of horseshoe crabs that could have the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX). The potential for TTX accumulating in the body tissues of local whelks and American eels and any subsequent threat to human health have not been determined yet.
Crabs and Terrapins
This crab trap has two terrapin exclusion
devices to prevent terrapin from entering the
trap, becoming unable to escape, and
Terrapin excluder device. DEC is proposing to require the use of terrapin excluder devices on crab traps set in New York's estuaries in the Marine District. Terrapin excluder device is a rectangular device which decreases the opening of the entrance to crab traps and makes it more difficult for terrapin to enter the traps looking for food, thus preventing their drowning.
Release of live out-of-state crustaceans. DEC proposes to prohibit the release of any live crustaceans that were not harvested from New York's waters. Crustaceans harvested in other areas are often marketed live in New York and are sometimes intentionally released into New York's waters. These animals may harbor pathogens not native to our local stock or carry other hitchhiker organisms which may become invasive in our waters. In addition, any introduced non-indigenous species may be ecologically harmful to our local marine communities.