Whether relaxing on a local beach, fishing in the nearest bay, or sailing on the Great Lakes, New Yorkers love our 1,850 miles of shoreline. However, the question has become “are we loving our waters to death”? With beach closings on the rise, shellfish numbers drastically declining, and the total weight of seafood brought to New York docks plummeting to only 25% of what it was 50 years ago, it is clear that more must be done to restore our oceans, estuaries, and Great Lakes. To expand New York's effective protection and restoration program, additional resources are needed.
Viewing of Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era of Ocean Stewardship, followed by a panel discussion at the Huntington Cinema Arts Scene. This event will be held on May 9, 2012, at 6:30pm. Learn more about the film
Protect Vulnerable Canyons and Seamounts
The Mid-Atlantic’s submarine canyons and seamounts are unique, valuable habitats teeming with ocean life. Corals, sponges, crabs, lobsters, flounder, monkfish, dolphins, and endangered sperm whales are some of the many species that depend on the canyons for shelter and food. The types of coral and sponges found in the seamounts and canyons have been used in cancer treatments, as models for artificial synthesis of human bone, and to construct more durable optic cables.
However, the canyons and seamounts face new threats from advances in bottom trawling gear and offshore oil and gas exploration and development. These activities could quickly devastate these fragile marine ecosystems, destroying in moments rare deep corals that took hundreds of years to grow. CCE is working with an Ocean’s Coalition to ensure that our offshore canyons and seamounts are protected.
CCE, NRDC, and many other environmental groups are working to protect these endangered canyons. At present, four canyons are protected with continuing efforts to preserve the large expanse of canyons from Cape Cod down to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Two landmark reports assessing the quality of our oceans independently, came to one conclusion:our oceans are in trouble.
The Pew Oceans Commission report was released in June 2003 and is available at the Pew Oceans Commission website.
The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report was released in December 2004 and is available at the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy website.
New York and Connecticut collectively have 2035 miles of tidal shoreline. This includes our many bays, rivers, and estuaries, such as the Long Island Sound, the Peconic Estuary, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, the Hudson River, and our hundreds of beaches. Our coastal and inland communities have long been dependent on our waters for recreational and commercial activities, such as boating, fishing, clamming, and kayaking. Connecticut’s commercial fishermen harvest bay scallops, squid, flounders, bluefish, monkfish, butterfish, silver and red hake, lobsters, scup, and royal red shrimp, among other species from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. In 2001, the ex-vessel value of the commercial wild harvest (excluding hard clams and oysters, which are farmed) was more than $18 million! And New York's commercial fishing industry harvested an estimated $52 million worth of finfish and shellfish in 2003 alone! The Long Island Sound is estimated to generate $8.5 billion annually for the local economy. The South Shore Estuary Reserve is estimated to support 3,000 water dependent and water enhanced businesses, employing over 30,000 people.
CCE supports federal and local legislation that is protective of our water resources and the historical use of our waterways.
NY Ocean and Great Lakes Protection
On August 9, 2006, Governor Pataki visited Long Island’s coast to sign the NY Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act into law. This groundbreaking legislation shifts NY’s coastal policy to a more comprehensive, ecosystem-based approach, rather than focusing on a particular species or problem. The Governor and the NYS Legislature have also allocated $3.3 million in funding to the program through the 2006-2007 Environmental Protection Fund.
A nine-member council was formed to ensure inter-agency cooperation and be able to comprehensively analyze any weaknesses or gaps where more information is needed. The state also launched 2 pilot projects, one in the Great South Bay and one in Lake Ontario. Both projects apply an ecosystem-based approach to improve water quality, increase important finfish and shellfish, and restore critical habitat.
More information is available at the EBM Council’s website.
The New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council has recently updated the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Atlas. The online mapping program now has over 300 different informative layers providing information to New York citizens about forestry, biodiversity, status of different groundwater and water bodies, sewage treatment plants, and more. The atlas is user friendly and set up to work with Google Earth in KML format, enabling viewers to explore and print maps. Check out the database.
The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative released the 2006 U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card, which evaluates ocean policy developments over the last year. Formed in early 2005, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative is a collaborative, bipartisan effort of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and Pew Oceans Commission to catalyze ocean policy reform.
In 2006, the overall national grade rose very modestly to a “C-,” up from a “D+” average in 2005. Due largely in part to New York enacting the Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act, the category “Regional and State Governance Reform” in the 2006 report earned an A-, a significant increase from the B- earned in 2005. To learn more about New York’s landmark bill to practice Ecosystem-Based Management statewide, see the NY Ocean and Great Lakes Protection section below.
In 1976, Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). This act is intended to prevent valuable fisheries from collapsing and to prevent overfishing. Twenty years later, the MSA was amended to strengthen provisions to end overfishing and require fishery managers to rebuild exploited fish populations. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) promulgated regulations in 1998 to implement the 1996 MSA amendments.
Victory: Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorized!
In December 2006 Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) – the primary law governing fishing in U.S. ocean waters. The bill was in jeopardy of not passing or being significantly weakened. Due to pressure from members of the public, the new bill makes several important strides forward, including ending overfishing on depleted fish populations and increasing the science in fisheries management decisions.
Updated by mmurphy 3/8/12