For schools of migratory shad, sturgeon, herring, alewives, blue crab, mackerel, menhaden, and striped bass, the Hudson is an unimpeded corridor from the Atlantic to the ancestral spawning grounds. Tidal action stirs the brackish broth and traps the rich stock of nutrients and minerals drained from the Hudson’s 13,500-square-mile watershed, feeding the younger migratory fishes and making the Hudson one of the two principal spawning grounds on the East Coast.
However, recent studies have shown that many Hudson River fish species are in serious long-term decline and at risk of collapse if quick and aggressive measures are not taken. Of the thirteen key fish species studied in Riverkeeper’s Pisces Report, ten have declined in abundance since the 1980s: shad, tomcod, bay anchovy, alewife, blueback herring, rainbow smelt, hogchoker, white catfish, weakfish and white perch. Only three species — striped bass, bluefish and spottail shiner — have increased in abundance, mostly due to regulations and circumstantial changes that favor them. Contrary to public perception, this report shows an increasingly unstable ecosystem in the Hudson.
Riverkeeper’s Fishable River Campaign is aimed at halting the decline of Hudson River’s signature fish species and restoring their numbers to sustainable levels. The campaign addresses the many negative impacts on the health of the fish including: habitat loss and degradation, sewage overflows, power plant fishkills, invasive species, ocean bycatch and overfishing.
Despite the public perception that the Hudson River is in good health, the new evidence indicates an increasingly unstable ecosystem and long-term declines for signature Hudson River fish species. A Riverkeeper report released in May 2008 (“Pisces Report”), reveals that many Hudson River fish are in serious long-term decline.
Of 13 key species studied, ten have declined in abundance since the 1980s including shad, tomcod and white perch. Three species, striped bass, bluefish and spottail shiner, have increased due to circumstantial changes that favor them. Other important species not included in the study, such as the American eel, also show long-term declines.
There are a variety of factors putting pressure on fish in the Hudson River, all of which need to be addressed if this critical natural resource is to be stabilized and restored to healthy levels.
- Habitat/spawning grounds have been lost
- Low dissolved oxygen
- Power plants with once-through cooling
- A warming river
- Ocean bycatch
- Invasive zebra mussels
The fish of the Hudson River support recreational and commercial fisheries along the Atlantic coast worth hundreds of millions of dollars as well as a 350-year-old commercial fishery within the Hudson.
Riverkeeper was founded more than 40 years ago by local fishermen intent on protecting Hudson River fish. We continue that important work today, monitoring and influencing fishery management decisions that impact our fish.