A change to the environmental conservation law that would prevent overfishing off the Rockaways is in the works for next year’s legislative session.
State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo said that he continues to support a bill that was proposed this year about net fishing a species of fish called the Atlantic Menhaden. This new part of the environmental conservation law would limit the amount of commercial fishing boats that can take these fish.
State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle proposed this bill, but it was not voted on this year while the state Senate was in session.
Atlantic Menhaden are caught using a large net called a seine. Because they can be caught in large quantities under the current law, it is easy for overfishing to occur.
“Overfishing a certain species can have major unseen impacts on our areas’ wildlife, much as the overfishing, or catching, of the Atlantic Menhaden has had in the waters of the Rockaways,” Addabbo said.
Atlantic Menhaden are popular for seine fishing because they are used for fishmeal and fish oil. The species is also popular bait for fisherman as well as a source of food for whales and dolphins.
According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Atlantic Menhaden population was critically low in 2012. The Commission worked to protect the fish, and now they are making a comeback off the Rockaways and Broad Channel.
Senator Addabbo said he is happy that the fish are coming back as it will positively affect local fishermen and tourism. However, this also means that more boats are looking to seine fish the newly replenished population.
“These ships are not local but rather all based out of Virginia and currently are allowed to enter the NY waters and take millions of Menhaden,” said Dan Mundy, vice president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers.
The proposed law would prevent these ships from entering New York waters, said Mundy.
New York Senate sessions run from January through June. Addabbo plans to push this law forward during the next legislative session.