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Stop denying evidence, NY; Start protecting sturgeon from bridge construction

babysturgeon

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The fact that there are more juvenile Atlantic sturgeon, as announced this week by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, is great news. We’ve worked closely with DEC Fisheries in the past, and supported some of their research on our patrol boat, and they are a great team. We all hope for a recovery of sturgeon, as well as shad, herring and other species. It’s our greatest hope.

However, it’s a shame that the state is using this good news as a defense against Riverkeeper’s Notice of Intent to Sue over vastly increased adult sturgeon mortality – some of which is clearly being caused by the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project. Everyone, from experts to the general public, gets that. Except for state agencies invested in the bridge.

babysturgeonIt’s obvious but important to remember that it takes adult sturgeon to make juvenile sturgeon. The increase in juveniles we see now is likely because the adult sturgeon harvest was stopped in the 1990s. Preventing additional adult mortality is exactly what Riverkeeper’s Notice of Intent to Sue seeks to do.

The state maintains in this press release that there is no connection between the bridge project and observed mortality. That’s incorrect.

1) In the four years prior to construction, 2008-2011, only six sturgeon were found dead in the Hudson River estuary. From 2013, when the bridge project started, through 2015, 124 have been found dead. That is not just a coincidence.

2) Several of the fish have been found freshly killed – in all likelihood killed by being struck by a propeller – within a half-mile of the bridge construction. That’s not a coincidence.

3) While the state maintains the mortality is spread over 129 miles – which is correct – when we average all those locations, ground zero for mortality, year after year since 2012, has been very near the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project. That’s not a coincidence.

The state attributes the increase in mortality to better reporting. That’s nonsense. In my experience (15 years operating the Riverkeeper patrol boat), the public has always vigorously reported fish mortality. We saw that in the spring of 2002, when there was a multi-species die-off, and again in the spring of 2015, when there was a menhaden die-off. While neither of these die-offs involved high profile, well known, endangered species, the public was distraught at the sight of dead fish, and many, many calls were received by Riverkeeper and the DEC. Robust reporting of what ails the River isn’t just happening now.

In closing, we call on New York State to stop trying to hide from the evidence, and immediately institute protections for sturgeon at the Tappan Zee construction site.

(Photo: Dave Conover, Clearwater)

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