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For Release: Monday, September 30, 2019

DEC and New York Sea Grant Award More Than $74,000 in Grants for Marine and Coastal District Conservation, Education and Research Projects

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in East Harlem, NY on October 2nd at 11 am for "Friends of the East River Esplanade" project

small child playing the the water with a small fishing net
A new small grant to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Marine Program will help connect some 300 students with Long Island's coastal waters and, hopefully, an interest in protecting, conserving and restoring those resources. Credit: Ali Stevens / CCE Suffolk County.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York Sea Grant (NYSG) today announced more than $74,000 in funding for recreational fishing projects. The funding comes from the sale of New York State's Marine and Coastal District license plates (leaves DEC website) and will support six initiatives to help educate students, enhance fishing access for people of all abilities, and improve fisheries data collection to enable more New Yorkers to enjoy the state's diverse marine resources.

"The grants announced today will help small organizations in New York's marine district provide new fishing, education, and outreach programs," said DEC's Director of Marine Resources, Jim Gilmore. "DEC encourages more New Yorkers to purchase the Marine Coastal District license plate and help support more projects that benefit our marine fishery and anglers."

"NYSG is pleased to partner with the DEC and MCD Board to implement the vision of using promotional license plates to fund projects that promote angling through enhancing infrastructure, through developing and delivering curriculum in the classroom as well as through finishing clinics. The importance of immersing oneself in learning about and responsibly using the marine resources we share cannot be overstated," said Kathy Bunting-Howarth, NYSG's Associate Director.

The late Senator Owen H. Johnson and former State Assemblyman Robert Sweeney introduced legislation (leaves DEC website) that established the Marine and Coastal District of New York Conservation, Education, and Research Grants Program to support needs identified by recreational fishing trade groups on Long Island.

NYS Marine and Coastal District license plate

The grant program is funded with $25 from the annual fee charged for the state's Marine and Coastal District of New York license plates (leaves DEC website), which features the Montauk Lighthouse and striped bass. The grants promote marine sport fishing, increase participation in marine recreational angling, increase public awareness and appreciation of marine and estuarine natural resources, encourage conservation of marine fisheries resources, and promote research and increased knowledge of the state's marine and estuarine natural resources. More information on ordering a Marine and Coastal District of New York plate can be found at the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Updates on the program are provided via Facebook. Mr. Sweeney was the first recipient of the Marine and Coastal District License Plate.

"In order to protect our marine environment, we must first understand that education is best started at an early age in all our communities. These projects being funded by license plate holders who have chosen to make a difference will each contribute to a better understanding and appreciation for this essential resource," said Sweeney.

Thirty-one applications were submitted and evaluated by a panel of reviewers familiar with the Atlantic region and who work with Sea Grant College Programs, Cooperative Extension Network, and fisheries management. The Board selected six projects to fund in this first cycle, which will be completed over the next 12 months. Grant recipients are:

Brentwood Union Free School District: From Salt Marshes to Fishing: No Child Left Inside-$14,952

Students in Brentwood Union Free School District will benefit from a new curriculum about the striped bass fishery through the eyes of a salt marsh, which provides valuable nursery habitat. Classes will feature exciting field excursions to the Flax Pond Marine Laboratory at Stony Brook University to engage in hands-on lessons about the interdependence of this important recreational fish with marsh ecology, biology, habitat, eutrophication, restoration, and other conservation actions. Students will prepare bilingual videos summarizing their knowledge to share with the general public. DEC and fisheries researchers based at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (SoMAS) are collaborators for this project.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy: Building an East River Fish Data Group-From Innovative Fishing Clinics and Workshops to a Comprehensive, Exemplary Fish Research Database-$14,986

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy will lead a project that engages student anglers in data collection targeting key recreational fish in the East River. Angling and seining data collected and supplemented with data from five partners who organize fishing clinics and conduct environmental education programs will be used to establish a cooperative East River Fish Database. Students must register to receive this sequential training curriculum to learn angling skills from beginner through advanced levels and acquire in-depth knowledge about East River fish resources.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Marine Program: Sport Fishing Frenzy Programs and Conservation Practices for Under-Served School Districts-$15,000

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Marine Program will offer free sportfishing programs to under-served school districts in Western Suffolk County to increase young peoples' interest and participation in this outdoor activity. By combining the fun of fishing with marine ecology classes, 300 students will connect with Long Island's coastal resource and gain appreciation for its protection, conservation, and restoration.

Friends of the East River Esplanade: East Harlem Bait Station Project-$15,000

The East Harlem Bait Station Project will be led by the Friends of the East River Esplanade to pilot a new ADA-compliant bait station for anglers to prepare bait, clean their catch, and remove tackle from fish to be released.

For more information on the October 2nd ribbon cutting for the bait station on the East River, please contact Chris O'Brien, Executive Director of Esplanade Friends, at esplanadefriends@gmail.com.

Four people in construction vests pose for a picture on the newly-installed ADA compliant bait station
The East River Esplanade in East Harlem is where small grant monies is helping to pilot a newly-installed ADA-compliant bait station for anglers to prepare bait, clean their catch and remove tackle from fish to be released. Credits: Chris O'Brien / Esplanade Friends; (Inset) Ryan Strother / NYSG.

Long Island Traditions: First Hand Fishing-$10,000

Long Island Traditions received funding to expand its current programs and introduce elementary students to angling in the South Shore Estuary and facilitate interactions with professionals who support recreational fishing. First Hand Fishing allows students in Freeport, where there are a significant number of minority and low-income households, to attend a half-day party boat fishing excursion. Fourth grade students will learn how to properly use a fishing rod, switch bait, and tackle to target different fish species, and understand regulations being used for recreational fisheries conservation. This project involves several 'for hire' businesses as partners, and master anglers who will give special talks in the classroom as part of this maritime and oral traditions lecture series. This oral traditions project will be extended to the annual Tobay Beach Boat Show, where hands-on angling instructional sessions will be conducted with the public under the guidance of a master angler.

Lower East Side (LES) Ecology Center: Take the Bait: Free Public Fishing Clinics at the East River-$4,542

LES Ecology Center in the East River Park facilitates estuary and wildlife education in an urban setting, and will use this grant to strengthen annual public fishing clinic programming. Angling enables hands-on engagement with marine resources, and participants will learn about sustainable fishing practices in addition to other topics being addressed at the learning center. This program will be offered at the Fire Boat House where patrons can practice environmental stewardship through fishing and learn about biodiversity and ecology.

Melissa Dearborn, Chair, MCD Research Board said, "Former Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney and the late Honorable Senator Owen Johnson created a wonderful mechanism through their joint legislation to help the public to better appreciate our marine and coastal resources. Purchasing the beautiful Striped Bass license plate which was inspired by the Montauk Lighthouse supports the fund, and we are thrilled to award these small grants after 12 years of accumulation and hope the fund will continue to grow and support other projects for many years."

Ms. Chirsten Johnson-Tymann, daughter of late Senator Owen H. Johnson, said, "My dad wished the very best for our marine district, and the Marine and Coastal District of New York Conservation, Research, and Education Act was one of his most important legislation. He received many awards since joining public office in 1972, and it wasn't possible to display every plaque, but he made space for this license plate and it is hanging on the wall to this day. He was so very proud of this achievement."

"The projects being funded epitomize the vision behind the legislation introduced by the late Honorable Senator Owen Johnson and the former Assemblyman Mr. Robert K. Sweeney. I was glad to be one of the early subscribers to the special license plate fund when I was NYSG Director, and I'm never going to give it up," said Dr. Jack Mattice, retired NYSG director.

For more information on New York Sea Grant, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, visit the New York Sea Grant website. And news from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which consists of a Central Office in Albany and an office in each of its nine regions that serve the communities within that region, is available at the DEC website.

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