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How Many Fish in the Ocean for NY?

April 13, 2011

NEW YORK - A law to rebuild depleted ocean fish populations was passed by Congress 35 years ago today, and experts say it has produced positive results along the shores of New York and other mid-Atlantic states.

The law has undergone plenty of fine-tuning through amendments in the past 3 1/2 decades, says Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy for the Pew Environment Group, but the end result is that fish once in danger of disappearing from New York's coastline now are back to healthy population levels.

"The rebuilding requirements from '96 are what led to the success stories in the mid-Atlantic, where we have summer flounder almost restored, bluefish restored."

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has proposed a new amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Act that would extend the time period for rebuilding fish stocks. Easing some of the current fishing limits would give local fisherman a better chance to make a living, Schumer says. However, Crockett believes there are better ways to help fishermen, including involving them in research projects, rather than weakening the current law.

Carl Safina, president of the Blue Ocean Institute and host of the PBS series "Saving the Ocean," says foreign fishing boats used to be easy to spot off Long Island beaches. The law pushed them out to 200 miles offshore, but problems persist to this day.

"It has not worked well for maintaining the stocks of the big offshore fish like sharks, and bill fishes and tunas, that lots and lots of countries are hammering away at."

Protecting fish can and does have economic consequences for fishermen, Crockett says. Rather than weaken the current law, he says, a better way to help New York fishermen who are hurting is to involve them in cooperative research efforts.

"So it's a win-win situation where you provide some economic assistance to fishermen, but it's not just a handout. They're out collecting data, which then the managers can use to better manage our fish."

More information is online at

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY