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Ladder for Little Fish on Long Island

The alewife is an important part of the marine food chain. Credit: Duane Raver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife/Wikimedia Commons
The alewife is an important part of the marine food chain. Credit: Duane Raver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife/Wikimedia Commons
November 19, 2015

MILL NECK, N.Y. – A Long Island community project is helping small fish get upstream and also restoring an important link in the marine food chain.

The project is one of 22 grants totaling almost $1.3 million that have been awarded for community-based efforts to improve Long Island Sound's ecosystem.

In the village of Mill Neck the money will be used to build a fish ladder at the Beaver Lake dam.

Sally Harold, director of river restoration and fish passage for The Nature Conservancy, says the project will help migratory fish return to spawning grounds above the dam.

"Many of these small coastal watersheds such as those on the north shore of Long Island, provide an important spawning habitat for the river herring species, the alewife and the blueback herring," she explains.

Those smaller fish are an important source of food for birds, land animals and other species of fish such as tuna and striped bass.

But populations of those fish have been declining throughout their range, from South Carolina to Labrador. According to Harold, many of the historic spawning grounds along the Atlantic coast were made inaccessible to fish when streams were dammed for power or for collecting winter ice in the days before refrigeration.

"We can help them get over these dams where dams can't be removed and with access to this appropriate habitat for spawning we're hoping to rebuild the populations of these important fish," she states.

Combining the grants with funds from the recipient groups is resulting in almost $2.4 million for hands-on conservation projects in New York alone.

Harold says the Beaver Lake dam project should serve as an example to other communities.

"Where people see that there's an opportunity to engage with conservation partners and secure funds through something like the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, there are opportunities to help with these conservation measures," she points out.

The grant program pools funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY