Measure Protecting Saltwater Fisheries, Habitat Clears Crucial Albany Committee

ALBANY (April 25, 2006) - Lawmakers in Albany today took a big step toward passage of landmark legislation protecting New York's ocean and coastal waters. The New York Ocean and Bays Protection Act (A-10584) would develop a comprehensive approach to fix the problems facing these valuable and irreplaceable habitats, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a strong supporter of the measure.

"Our ocean and coastal waters are a vital part of New York's livelihood, and are the essential to the way of life in hundreds of communities along our shorelines," said Sarah Chasis, head of NRDC's Ocean Initiative. "We depend on the ocean for food, for recreation, and for jobs, and right now the ocean is in serious trouble due to overfishing, pollution, and destruction of the habitat that fish need to survive."

More than 40 percent of New York's coastal estuary and bay waters are impaired or threatened, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and nearly 30 percent of the state's most important commercial and recreational saltwater fisheries are depleted or being harvested at unsustainable rates. The total weight of seafood landed in New York State today is just a quarter of what it was 50 years ago.

The new bill passed today by the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee creates a New York Ocean and Bays Protection Council to coordinate state marine resources decisions, encourage ecosystem-based management approaches, and ensure that accurate information about the state of coastal fisheries is more widely available. It also calls on the Council to create a comprehensive, ecosystem-based ocean management plan by the fall of 2008.

The actions called for in the bill implement key recommendations recently made by a pair of national ocean commissions -- the congressionally-established U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the independent Pew Ocean Commission of scientists and other leaders from fisheries, business, and government. Both commissions urged immediate action by government to save our oceans, and laid out blueprints to help protect and restore marine life.

"Chairman DiNapoli and the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee have responded to the call for action by passing a bill that provides enhanced protection of New York's ocean environment," Chasis said.