Photo by Mark Hallun
The Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers applaud a new law that protects a species of fish that draws whales, dolphins and seals to waters around the Rockaways.

In his ongoing efforts to preserve marine wildlife in Jamaica Bay and other waters around the Rockaways, legislation sponsored by state Senator Joseph Addabbo was signed into law April 18.

The bill prohibits harvesting a species of fish known as the Atlantic Menhaden from district waters using a fishing net known as a purse seine which is often deployed by commercial fishermen.

“Atlantic Menhaden have fallen victim to overfishing in the waters off the Rockaways,” Addabbo said. “We have seen a strong comeback of Menhaden in the waters off the Rockaways and Broad Channel in recent years thanks to the efforts of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and this new environmental conservation law will only continue that progress and provide sustainable management of this keystone species.”

Menhaden fish are popular for seine fishing because they are used for fishmeal and fish-oil based products and local anglers use them as bait to catch larger fish that they can eat or sell. They are also a major food source for whales, dolphins and other large marine life that are more frequently spotted close to the Rockaway shoreline in recent years.

A single humpback whale can eat thousands of pounds of Menhaden per day, making the small fish one of the most important species in the ocean.

“Last year when the bill failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote, I pledged to get it passed in 2019 ensuring that local fishermen and wildlife would not be negatively impacted by overfishing,” Addabbo said. “This is such great news for coastal areas within the district where Menhaden have been returning to our coastal waters in record numbers. The replenished food source is also bringing whales and dolphins back to New York’s coast, positively contributing to the tourism industry.”

The Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, the environmental organization comprised of fishermen, kayakers, windsurfers, bird watchers, and other Bay enthusiasts who have come together to fight to preserve and enhance the natural resources of Jamaica Bay, commended Addabbo on the law which is already in effect.

“The waters of Jamaica Bay and New York Bay are finally seeing the results of years of hard work in restoring the water quality and habitat of this ares,” Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers’ Dan Mundy said. “This has led to a remarkable increase in the presence of whales, dolphins and seals all who feed on raw Menhaden fish. Menhaden has been recognized as the most critical species of fish for this very reason and the vacuum ships that seek them out do irreparable harm to the ecosystem. It is great to see that they will finally be banned from New York waters.”

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