This legislation prohibits the use of purse seines when fishing for menhaden, also known as bunker fish (Brevoortia tyrannus, part of the herring family), in New York’s marine district.
Menhaden are forage fish that play a key role in the food chain in coastal areas, serving as a link between the plankton on which they feed and the important predatory species which depend on them as food. By serving as a critical food source for species like dolphins, whales, bluefish, and striped bass, menhaden support tourism and traditional fishing businesses along New York’s coasts. Menhaden are harvested primarily for fish oil and fish meal and as bait.
Menhaden populations have recovered from past overfishing; New York’s fishing quota recently increased from 250,000 pounds to 3.4 million pounds a year. However, there is concern that this increased quota could attract large, commercial fishing operations utilizing purse seines, threatening the progress that has been made to protect menhaden populations. Purse seines are large nets that can capture entire schools of fish at a time, and can lead to the depletion of fish populations.
Protecting menhaden by prohibiting purse seines will ensure long-term benefits to both New York’s coastal ecosystem and the many businesses that rely on a healthy marine environment.
This bill amends Section 13-0333 and 13-0343 of the Environmental Conservation Law, to prohibit the taking of menhaden from the waters of the marine district by use of a purse seine, unless the Department of Environmental Conservation determines there is an imminent risk of a fish kill. In those instances, after determining that other fishing methods will not mitigate the threat of the potential fish kill, the DEC has the authority to issue a temporary order not to exceed fourteen days for the harvest of menhaden using a purse seine.