PROTECTING MENHADEN FISH

One of the most important species in the ocean’s food chain is in danger of being overfished. Tonight, we take a look at how New Yorkers are fighting to protect menhaden fish.

For more information on The Nature Conservancy, click here. 

Aired on January 9, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> SO HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF A MEN HATING FISH?

CHANCES ARE YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE, BUNKERFISH, AMONG OTHER THINGS USED AS BAIT, QUITE POSSIBLY MOST IMPORTANT FISH IN THE SEA.

BACK IN THE 1950s POPULATION DRASTICALLY DECLINED ONCE WE GET BETTER AT CATCHING THEM.

SINCE TAKEN DECADES TO BRING THE FISH POPULATION BACK TO WHERE THEY ARE NOW, SEEING BENEFITS TO OUR LOCAL MARINE LIFE AND ECONOMY.

BUT IN DANGER OF BEING OVERFISHED AGAIN.

AS PART OF THE MULTIMEDIA PUBLIC INITIATIVE, PERIL AND PROMISE, CLIMATE CHANGE, LOOK AT WHY THE FISH ARE IMPORTANT, HOW TO DO IT AND MAINTAIN THE NEW YORK COASTAL INDUSTRY.

NEW YORK OCEANS PROGRAM DIRECTOR FROM THE NATURE CONSERVANCY.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

TELL US WHAT ARE THESE FISH?

IN NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, CALL THEM BUNKER.

NOT IMPRESSIVE LOOKING.

NOT AS COOL AS SHARK OR STRIPED BASS.

BUT THINK ABOUT THEIR ROLE IN THE ECOSYSTEM AND CONTEXT, IT'S AMAZING WHAT THEY CAN DO.

I SAID MIGHT BE MOST IMPORTANT FISH AROUND.

PEOPLE PROBABLY LISTENING TO THAT, LITTLE TINIES IN THE SAND AND RIVER?

ECOSYSTEM, ROLE THEY PLAY?

OCCURRED IN HIGH ABUNDANCES, FILTER PLANKTON IN THE WATER, LIVE UP TO TEN YEARS, GROW ABOUT A FOOT.

EVERYTHING THAT FLIES OR SWIMS IN THE COASTAL WATERS, BAIZE AND HARBORS EATS THEM AT SOME POINT.

SOURCE OF NUTRITION FOR ALMOST EVERYBODY ELSE.

DO IT BY TURNING LITTLE PLANKTON INTO SOMETHING EVERYTHING FROM SHARK TO WHALE CAN EAT.

ALSO TALKED ABOUT THE ECONOMY.

WHAT ROLE DO THEY PLAY IN THE ECONOMY?

AS BASE OF THE FOOD WEB, SUPPORTS A LOT OF SPORT FISHERIES, STRIPED BASS FISHERIES IS BIG IN NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY.

USING FOR BAIT.

AND SCHOOLS OF BLUEFISH.

COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN RELY ON THIS AS SOURCE OF INCOME?

TURNS OUT LITTLE FISH THAT PEOPLE DON'T EAT IS LARGEST FISHERY IN THE U.S. ATLANTIC WATERS.

REALLY?

FISH ARE HARVESTED FOR BAIT, 20% OF THEM TO FEED THE LOBSTER AND CRAB FISHERY, BUT 80% OF THEM ARE HARVESTED TO MAKE INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS LIKE FISH MEAL FOR PIG FOOD.

OMEGA, FATTY ACID PILLS PEOPLE TAKE.

ALL COME FROM THAT.

LOOK BACK, IN THE '50s, ALMOST FISHED FISHERY.

HAD TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES FOR STEAM POWER AND AFTER THE WAR, MODERN SHIPS WE SEE, EASY TO FIND THE SCHOOLS OF FISH.

HARVESTED IN MASSIVE AMOUNTS AND NO RULES AT ALL.

AS SAID IN THE INTRO, THEY CAME BACK.

HOW AND WHY ARE THEY THREATENED NOW.

IN THE '90s, A LOT OF FISHERMAN IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY STARTED TO RING ALARM BELLS.

BUILT PARTNERSHIPS WITH SCIENTISTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TO HIGHLIGHT THEY WERE DISAPPEARING AND SEEING EFFECTS ON THE STRIPED BASS.

TOOK ANOTHER DECADE BUT 2012, FIRST COASTWIDE CAP ON AMOUNTS THAT COULD BE HARVESTED WAS PUT IN PLACE.

RESULTS REMARKABLE WITH RECOVERY THINGS WE DIDN'T EXPECT TO SEE IN NEW YORK.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO JEOPARDIZE IT?

SOME OF THE PROTECTIONS ROLLED BACK, QUOTA INCREASED BY THREE THREE SEPARATE TIMES.

WHETHER IS FEARED IS WAY THE CATCHES ARE SET DOESN'T INCLUDE THE WAY THEY'RE IN THE FOOD WEB.

PUT A VALUE ON WHAT WE CATCH BUT NOT WHAT IS LEFT IN THE WATER.

LOOK AT -- BUT NOT HOW THEY HELP EVERYTHING TO EXIST.

INCLUDING THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS TO LEAVING THEM IN THE WATER TO SUPPORT THE FISHERIES AND RESURGENCE IN WHALES AND WHALE WATCHING IN NEW YORK CITY.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

WE'RE WORKING TO TRY TO GET MANAGEMENT ALONG THE COAST CHANGED TO ACCOUNT FOR THE VALUE OF THE FISH WE LEAVE IN THE WATER BEFORE WE SET THE COASTWIDE LIMITS.

SHORTER TERM IN NEW YORK SPECIFICALLY WE NEED GOVERNOR AND NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE TO PREVENT THE VESSELS THAT CATCH MILLIONS AT AT TIME.

NOT JUST ONE GUY WITH NET.

KEEP THOSE BIG SHIPS OUT OF NEW YORK STATE WATERS.

PROTECTS THE SPORT FISHERIES, WHALES AND LOCAL BAYMEN WHO USE SMALLER BAIT.

FASCINATING LOOK AT ISSUE IMPORTANT TO ALL OF US BUT LOT OF US DIDN'T KNOW IT EXISTED.

COUNT MYSELF IN IT.

GREW UP ON THE BEACH.

IT'S IMPORTANT.

HOPEFULLY TAKE THE RIGHT STEPS.

THANKS.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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