New York State's Strained Ocean Resources
Commercially and culturally vital, New York's shorelines, beaches and fisheries are in trouble.
Healthy, diverse ocean ecosystems are an important part of New York's coastal heritage and economic well-being. Yet these ocean systems are severely strained from pollution, destruction of productive marine habitat, and overfishing.
New Yorkers Rely on Their Ocean Resources
- New York is bordered by 1,850 miles of tidal shoreline with hundreds of beaches and a rich assortment of distinct coastal environments, including the Peconics, East End, South Shore ocean and bays, Hudson River estuary and Long Island Sound.1
- Fire Island National Seashore, one of the 10 national seashores within the National Park Service, had more than 670,000 visitors last year.2
- In 2004, commercial fishing industries in New York landed nearly 34 million pounds of fish and shellfish, worth more than $46 million.3
- In 2001, more than 350,000 saltwater anglers spent over $190 million on fishing trip expenditures in New York.4
New York's Marine Resources are Under Pressure
- The total weight of seafood brought to New York docks is only 25 percent of what it was 50 years ago.5
- Shellfish numbers have drastically declined in recent decades -- Great South Bay, once one of the most productive clamming areas along the East Coast, is at 2 percent of 1976 levels.6 More than 2,950 acres of Peconic Bay -- 14 percent of the productive shellfish area -- is closed part of the year to shellfishing.7
- Landings for eight of New York's top commercially-prized fish have fallen by an average of 84 percent since 1950.8 Nearly 30 percent of New York's most important commercial and recreational saltwater fish and shellfish are depleted or are being overfished.9
- When destructive fishing practices like trawling and dredging -- dragging heavy nets across the ocean floor -- are used, discarded finfish and shellfish represent a significant portion of the catch.10 In 2004, New York commercial fishers used otter trawls to land more than 14 million pounds of fish -- yet we have no accurate record of the amount of wasted marine life and habitat dredged up with the catch.11
- More than 40 percent of New York's important estuary and bay waters are impaired or threatened.12 Ninety-five percent of commercial fish stocks and 85 percent of recreational fish stocks spend part of their lives in coastal wetlands and estuary habitats.13
- In the past century, more than a third of Long Island Sound's tidal wetlands have been lost.14 In addition to filtering pollutants from the water and mitigating flood damage, these ecosystems provide irreplaceable habitat for marine life.
- The New York health advisory for sportfish advises anglers to eat no more than a half pound per week of fish from freshwaters and some marine areas. Because of toxic contamination, there are also health advisories for consumption of locally caught striped bass, American eel, bluefish, American lobster and blue crabs.15
- In 2004, Suffolk County beaches experienced 318 days of closings or advisories due to measured or anticipated increases in water bacteria levels.16
- Stormwater runoff and overflows from sewage treatment plants contribute to harmful algae blooms that strip oxygen from the water and kill underwater grasses which serve as nurseries for fish. Long Island Sound's giant summer algae blooms are, on average, almost nine times the size of Manhattan.17
1. Conover, David O. "Environmental Emergency: Our ocean resources are in jeopardy, A new federal report warns that we must make waves now if we hope to save our troubled waters." Newsday 23 Apr. 2004. A51.
4. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Revised March 2003. 27.
5. Conover, David O. "Environmental Emergency: Our ocean resources are in jeopardy, A new federal report warns that we must make waves now if we hope to save our troubled waters." Newsday 23 Apr. 2004. A51.
6. Conover, David O. "Environmental Emergency: Our ocean resources are in jeopardy, A new federal report warns that we must make waves now if we hope to save our troubled waters." Newsday 23 Apr. 2004. A51.
9. NMFS. 2005. Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries - 2005. Fourth Quarter Update. U.S. Dept. Commerce, NOAA, Natl. Mar. Fish. Serv., Silver Spring, MD. Accessed 3 Feb. 2006. www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/reports.htm.; ASMFC. "Species Fact Sheet: American Lobster." Accessed 3 Feb. 2006. asmfc.org/speciesDocuments/lobster/lobsterFactsheet.pdf.
10. National Marine Fisheries Service. 2004. Evaluating Bycatch: A National Approach to Standardized Bycatch Monitoring Programs. U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS - F/SPO-66, 108 p. On-line version, http://spo.nmfs.noaa.gov/tm. 19.
last revised 12/22/2006
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Oceans on Switchboard
NRDC experts write about the growing risks to the health of our oceans on the NRDC blog.
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