Blogs > Boat Blog > What’s killing Hudson River sturgeon? A response to NYS’ claims

What’s killing Hudson River sturgeon? A response to NYS’ claims


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In this two-part interview with FiOS 1 News, Riverkeeper’s John Lipscomb details the alarming spike in reported sturgeon deaths along the Hudson – coinciding exactly with the start of construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

He responds to various arguments from New York State that there is no evidence of a link between the increased sturgeon mortality and the bridge construction project. Watch and see excerpts below.

Part 1

Of the 120-plus fish found dead since the project started, the fish that are found are just a fraction of the total dead.

More than half the fish that are found have been hit by a propeller or a boat.
The fact is, a number of the fish found by the contractor and others close to the site, recent kills, meaning they haven’t been dead long, have been hit by a propeller.
When you’re going to build a project like this in a vital, living river like the Hudson, where you have migrating endangered species, you have to go to National Marine Fisheries, or NMFS, it’s called, and get their sign-off, a biological opinion. And they were very concerned with vessel strikes.

Until we started to publicize this spike in mortality, there was silence.

Sturgeon-chart2016-01-04One of the responses was that, “It’s not really more fish dying, it’s more people reporting dead fish.” Of course, there’s no data to support that. There IS data to support more dead fish, but there’s no data to support that we have 20 times more reporting of dead fish.

We’ll concede that that might be part of the increased number of reported dead; it doesn’t account for all of it.

The other thing the state has said is, “Well there are more fish now.” We stopped killing Atlantic sturgeon and other sturgeon for their caviar in 1996, when they had been driven down to just about fumes. The Atlantics reach sexual maturity in 18 or so years, so we expect now, if you do the math, to have some producing adults that wouldn’t have been producing if the fishery, if the harvest hadn’t been cut off. That’s great. We want the river to recover! There used to be tens and tens of thousands of these fish. And for the ecosystem of the Hudson to be restored, we need to have much more robust numbers.

We want follow-up. When an agency classifies a fish as endangered species, and we start to see this increase in mortality, we want to see follow-up. We want to see action.

The state has also said: “It’s not the few propeller-driven boats that work on the project, it’s the 8,000-16,000 vessels that transit the ship channel every year.”
Those were going through in 2007 and 2008 and 2009, before the project started…. If those are the cause of mortality, where were the dead fish?

Part 2

We’re saying that a 20-plus-time increase in mortality that coincides exactly with the start of this project – one has to assume that the project is related to some of that mortality unless you prove otherwise. Especially in the context of that very stringent allowed mortality that the National Marine Fisheries gave the project, of two shortnose and two Atlantics. With that stringent a mortality limit, these numbers have to be investigated.

The best that we can do is to try and ensure permit and regulatory compliance with the largest project in North America, in this living river. The river can’t defend itself, that’s the whole game. That’s why the public exists and why we exist.

Please consider TAKING ACTION to protect the sturgeon by clicking this link.

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