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NY plans to ban shad fishing to help save species

ALBANY, N.Y. - ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — State regulators plan to ban commercial and recreational fishing for American shad, saying the population remains at its lowest record level despite efforts to restore it by restricting fishing.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will hold three public meetings in September to explain the move and the steps to be taken to save the species. The ban will take effect before the next shad fishing season starts next spring, department spokeswoman Maureen Wren said Tuesday.

Shad, like salmon, hatch in rivers, spend their adult lives at sea and return to their inland birthplaces to spawn. In 2007, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission conducted a coastwide assessment of American shad and concluded that the Hudson River shad stock has declined dramatically since the 1990s.

The 15-state fisheries commission released a draft management plan last week that proposes a variety of protection options, including a coastwide moratorium on shad fishing, shad fishing restrictions and maintaining the status quo. Public hearings will be scheduled and comments will be taken until Oct. 22.

Kate Taylor, fishery management plan coordinator for the commission, said states can impose stricter regulations.

Once a prominent commercial fish along the East Coast from Virginia to Maine, shad declined with overfishing, habitat loss and construction of river dams that blocked spawning runs. Maryland in 1980 shut down its shad fishery and Virginia followed in 1994, effectively closing the Chesapeake Bay.

A handful of commercial shad fishers remain on the Hudson, a dam-free tidal estuary that runs from New York City 150 miles north to Troy. One is John Mylod of Poughkeepsie, who has been fishing for shad, herring and blue crabs for 35 years.

"It knocks the air out of you when you get news like this — that you've been put out of business as far as the shad fishery," Mylod said Tuesday. "It's very disappointing. But it's probably easier for them to close the shad fishery and put a few people out of business than to address other reasons the shad population is down, including striped bass and the power companies."

Cooling water intakes at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County kill millions of shad eggs and babies annually, Mylod said, and striped bass devour large quantities. Opening commercial fishing for striped bass would be an effective way to boost shad populations, Mylod said.

According to the department's Hudson River American Shad Recovery Plan, cooling intakes are one cause of the shad's decline. But it rejects the notion that striped bass are to blame, saying studies have shown no relationship between striped bass numbers and shad abundance.

The recovery plan also says that declines in water quality are not to blame because water quality has improved in the Hudson over the last 30 years.

The 2007 study found juvenile shad production dropped to its lowest recorded level in 2002. Hudson River recreational and commercial fisheries were sharply restricted in 2008 in hopes of triggering improvement in production of young shad.

The department decided to close the Hudson River shad fishery because juvenile shad numbers stayed low.


On the Net:

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

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