Bird species face a number of threats as they go about their daily lives. Foremost, they must be ever vigilant of predators of all sorts - other birds such as birds-of-prey like Great Horned Owls and Cooper’s Hawks - and a host of mammals, snakes, even fish in some cases! Layered on this are the significant and numerous threats posed by one specific mammal - Homo sapiens - that are adversely affecting birds, causing many species to decline, some dramatically.
These suite of threats include: poisoning both intentional and incidental (oil spills); flying into wind turbines and power lines; destruction of wild habitats upon which birds depend; predation by feral and outdoor-roaming pet cats; the still evolving, multiple pronged threats posed by climate change; and birds dying when they fly into highly reflective or transparent windows. Seatuck is focusing on this last threat in the hope that local and New York State lawmakers implement a set of strategies that begin to reduce the magnitude and scope of this source of avian mortality.
The number of birds that die from flying into windows is staggering. Based on a detailed 2014 study between 365 and 988 million birds die annually from this cause; that comes out to between 1 and 2.7 million birds daily. Common collision victims in New York include hummingbirds, sparrows, owls, numerous warbler and thrush species, American Woodcock; in total several dozen bird species regularly die flying into windows since they do not see them for what they are - an unyielding, rigid, surface.
The problem stems from two basic characteristics that most windows have - either they’re transparent, allowing birds to see some inviting feature on the other side of the window pane or are highly reflective, creating a mirror-like image of the adjacent landscape the bird wants to travel to. The transparency problem can be especially problematic when there’s another transparent window aligned with the first, creating an alleyway the bird thinks it can negotiate through.
But there is much good news amidst this deadly despair, most notably the development of a number of “bird friendly windows” and window treatments by private companies that can reduce or eliminate the magnitude of the impact. One example of many, is the emergence of windows that reflect patterns of UV light in the glass; the window pane looks normal to the human eye which cannot discern ultraviolet light but to s bird the pane is revealed as the bird sees the UV-reflecting pattern - and knows to steer clear of the window. Other solutions involve the use of fritted (small numerous dots in the glass spaced inches apart) and frosted glass.
For existing windows there’s a variety of decals, stickers or whole window films that can be applied that are effective in reducing collisions as they eliminate either the transparent or reflective nature of the window pane. You can also apply netting, screening, and vertical strings in front of the window.
Seatuck is addressing the problem in three ways. First, we are commenting on specific development proposals such as the proposed new entertainment venue at Belmont Race Track, the new nature centers at Hempstead Lake and Jones Beach State Parks, and SUNY Stony Brook’s proposed 100,000 square foot Engineering Building, urging project sponsors to use bird friendly glass. Second, we are consulting with some building managers and owners on steps they can take to reduce bird strikes at their facilities including one middle school in a Suffolk County School District. Lastly, we are working with state lawmakers and key bird conservation groups such as the American Bird Conservancy, NYC and NYS Audubon, to introduce (and adopt!!) state legislation mandating bird friendly windows in new construction, and to provide financial incentives and state environmental funds to retrofit existing problematic buildings.
August 14, 2017
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Crustacean Unit Leader
205 N Belle Mead Rd, STE 1
East Setauket, NY 11733
Dear Ms. McKown:
The Seatuck Environmental Association, ‘Seatuck’, is a Long Island-based not-for-profit conservation organization whose mission is to preserve native wildlife and the natural communities upon which they depend. To give focus to this effort Seatuck has developed a “Campaign for Wildlife” designed to safeguard, and in some cases restore, such iconic species as river herring, horseshoe crabs, diamondback terrapins, among others. I write to you in regard to this last species and the Department’s proposed rule, to take effect January 1, 2018, to require the installation of terrapin excluder devices (TED’s) on commercial crab traps/pots placed in certain waters in New York State (as detailed in a map produced by the Department). Seatuck strongly supports the adoption of this regulation and urges the Department to implement it in a timely fashion.
TED’s have proven to be a highly effective, relatively inexpensive means to reduce drownings of adult and young-adult diamondback terrapins in crab traps, a significant source of mortality to the species. Terrapins enter the trap, attracted to the bait situated there, and being unable to escape unfortunately drown. Seatuck has documented terrapins drowning in crab pots situated in more than a dozen locations throughout Long Island, in some cases traps in these locations containing several individuals each. It is expected that adoption of this important rule will significantly reduce the number of individual turtles that are able to enter traps, thereby preventing the deaths of countless terrapins, a species that due to its limited reproductive capability can be especially hard hit by the drowning deaths of adult female terrapins.
In an effort to defray the expense of complying with the proposed rule Seatuck (and the Long Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy) purchased approximately 7,000 plastic and metal TED’s, and several thousand zip ties to attach the TED’s, which were provided to your agency for distribution. Seatuck may be able to provide an additional number of TED’s and ties to assist the agency in minimizing the financial impact of baymen compliance with the rule prior to and shortly after the regulation has been enacted.
With regard to the proposed regulation, we offer the following observations/ recommendations:
1. We recognize the rule doesn’t cover all of the state’s estuarine environments frequented by diamondback terrapins, such as the main sections of the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay, and the south shore bays, focusing instead, on the shallower, in-shore areas of these estuaries where terrapins predominantly occur. This compromise (along with providing the above-mentioned TED’s), is designed to respond to the concerns of baymen who note that the deeper open water areas are used much less frequently by terrapins and by not requiring the use of TED’s will allow for the harvest of other commercially valuable species such as whelk.
2. We recommend that all of Jamaica Bay and not just the streams and creeks which flow into it be included under the rule. We recognize that virtually all of Jamaica Bay is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, under the jurisdictional authority of the National Park Service, and that commercial crab harvest is not permitted in the area. Nevertheless, terrapins are more abundant here and we believe it makes sense to include the entire Bay area to provide easier enforcement for the DEC as it relates to potential enforcement cases in the many streams and creeks that flow into the Bay. Similarly, given the shallow nature of Flanders Bay and its productivity as a site for terrapins, we urge that all of this embayment be included within the rule.
3. Seatuck strongly supports the proposed dimensions of the TED’s. The 1 and 3/4-inch-high by 4 and 3/4-inch-wide opening has been proven, through several studies and common practice, to be highly effective at reducing terrapin deaths while having no adverse impact on crab catch. In fact, in some studies, involving TED’s with the same dimensions as proposed for New York, crab catch and CPUE has increased.
4. We support the provision that allows for the DEC to close additional areas upon a finding that mortality to terrapins is unacceptably high.
5. We urge that the map the Department has prepared, indicating the location of the affected streams, creeks, and embayments, be distributed to all crab license holders, and further recommend the map be of such scale so as to make it as easy and clear as possible for the permit holder and DEC Law Enforcement staff to be fully aware of the line that demarcates the boundary to the stream, creek, and embayment beyond which TED’s are not required and within which they are.
6. Seatuck strongly urges that the draft regulation be amended to require that all commercial crab traps sold in New York State after the effective date of the regulation be equipped with TED’s. This provision would ensure that the cost of regulation compliance shifts away from the conservation community and toward the manufacturers, and through their trap prices, to the individual users of the traps where it appropriately belongs.
On behalf of Seatuck I appreciate the opportunity to provide these observations and comments on this important rule and we hope the Department adopts it in a timely fashion so that it may take effect January 1, 2018 and terrapins can be afforded the additional protection the rule provides and the species deserves.
John L. Turner
Conservation Policy Advocate
Seatuck Environmental Association
On January 1, 2018, a new Suffolk County Law took effect that establishes a 5-cent fee on disposable bags used at stores in Suffolk County. The fee’s purpose is to provide a financial incentive to motivate customers to move away from single-use paper and plastic bags and towards sturdy multi-use bags. These durable bags, which are made from a variety of materials such as cloth, heavy plastic, canvas and netting, can be used hundreds of times before wearing out. The reduction of single-use bags will not only save energy and reduce pressure on landfills and incinerators, it will also significantly reduce adverse impacts to wildlife and help clean up waterways, roadsides and parklands.
Many other countries, states, and local municipalities have enacted identical or similar bans over the past decade. Those that have been in place for several years have met or exceed their goals of reducing plastic bag use and curbing the proliferation of plastic in the natural environment. On Long Island, the City of Long Beach and the Villages of Patchogue and Southampton have recently enacted measures designed to curtail single-use bags.
Seatuck Environmenal Association’s strong support for the laws stems from an awareness of the pernicious impact that plastics have on the natural world, and the need to alter the throwaway mindset that pervades our collective lifestyles. Plastic bags are, of course, only part of the problem. But they symbolize a society that, in too many ways, is simply unsustainable over the long-term and which does not reflect an understanding of the fragility of the earth’s natural systems on which we rely. The proliferation of plastic bags in the environment is one piece of the problem that we can solve.
The adverse effects of intact plastic bags to wildlife are well documented. We have all seen images of sea turtles and marine mammals that have ingested them (thinking they’re sea jellies), or fish and birds that have become entangled with plastic bags, often with fatal results. Arguably even more problematic, however, is the effect from the countless small plastic pieces that are produced as plastic bags break apart in the open environment.
Polyethylene, from which plastic bags are made, does not biodegrade in the natural environment. Bacteria and other microbes don’t consume plastic or break it down into its component parts. Instead, the sun breaks down polyethylene through a process called photodegradation. In this process, ultraviolet light causes the long polymer strands in polyethylene to become brittle and crack, breaking plastic bags down into smaller and smaller pieces. It doesn’t eliminate plastic; rather, it degrades it down into increasingly small pieces that “disappear” into the natural environment. These microplastics persist everywhere and can have a devastating impact on wildlife.
As they are ingested by wildlife they negatively affect physiology and health. Chemicals added to plastic during manufacturing or absorbed from the surrounding environment can be transferred to wildlife after ingestion and cause a host of additional problems. At the smallest size, these microplastics are capable of crossing cell membranes and causing direct tissue damage.
Scientists fear that the buildup of microplastics in marine and terrestrial environments—and in the stomachs and bodily tissues of wildlife—portends a bleak future in which plastic particles infiltrating every step of the food chain. A plastic bag might disappear in 10 to 100 years if exposed to the sun, but its damaging environmental legacy may last forever.
We urge Suffolk County residents to “go green” in 2018 by embracing this new law and the important goals it seeks to promote. It may take some effort at first to break the plastic bag habit, but over time using reusable bags will become second nature – you’ll reflexively reach for them every time you head to the store. To get started, build up your reusable bag collection so they’re handy when you need them. Hang some by the front door. Keep a few in your car. Give bags out as gifts! Whatever it takes to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags and help turn the tide on plastics! Over time, our aquatic and terrestrial habitats will be safer for wildlife and our parks and roadsides will be cleaner!
Earlier this week, New York State Senator John Flanagan (R-Smithown, Current President and Majority Leader) introduced a bill (#6717) in the Senate Rules Committee that would void the 2016 Suffolk County legislation enacted to address the plastic bag problem. The Suffolk County law, which was crafted with broad stakeholder input and bipartisan support, imposed a 5-cent fee on plastic bags in an effort to curb their use and reduce the proliferation and negative impacts in the natural environment. Similar fees have produced well-documented bag use reductions in other parts of the country and around the world. Please call or write Senator Flanagan and urge him to withdraw his ill-conceived bill. Contact information below:
Senator John J. Flanagan
- Mail: 260 Middle Country Road, Suite 102, Smithtown, NY, 11787
- Phone: 631-361-2154
Seatuck's June 16, 2017 letter to Senator Flanagan is below.
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Re: Senate Bill #6717
Dear Senator Flanagan:
On behalf of the members of the Seatuck Environmenal Association, I am writing to express our dismay at the recent introduction of Senate Bill #6717, which seeks to block a Suffolk County law limiting the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic bags. We find the bill troubling and misguided on several levels, and strongly oppose this ill-conceived proposal.
First and foremost, the assertion in the bill that the Suffolk County law “fails to address any environmental concerns” is plainly wrong. The adverse environmental effects caused by plastic bags are well known. From the devastating impacts to turtles, mammals, fish and birds that inadvertently consume whole bags (thinking they’re sea jellies), to the countless species that take in the increasingly small, even microscopic, pieces of the bags (sunlight breaks down the polyethylene bags through photodegredation), scientists are only beginning to comprehend the full extent of the damage that these and other plastic products are causing to our wildlife and environment (see, “Sources, Fates and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment - A Global Assessment”, Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), 2015). Certainly this threat must be taken very seriously in Suffolk County where – from fishing to recreation to tourism – our economy and quality of life are heavily dependent on the health and vitality of our marine waters and coastal ecosystem.
The recently enacted Suffolk County law will reduce the use of the bags by as much as two-thirds. This estimate is based on well-documented results from similar laws enacted in the United States and in other countries. The direct result of reducing the input of bags into the stream of commerce is, simply, that fewer bags will find their way into the natural environment. Reducing the proliferation of plastic bags in Suffolk County’s forests, streams and bays produces a direct and tangible benefit to wildlife and the health of our coastal ecosystem. In this way, the law directly and effectively addresses a significant “environmental concern.”
Second, the Suffolk County law imposing a fee on the use of plastic bags was broadly supported by the people of the County. The legislation, which was carefully crafted with input from a wide range of stakeholders, enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in the Suffolk County Legislature and passed by a wide margin. It was signed into law by County Executive Steve Bellone without protest or controversy. It would be a brazen overreach of authority, in our opinion, for the state to now override the will of the people of Suffolk County, expressed through the local legislative process, by enacting the proposed bill.
Finally, the fact that New York State blocked the enactment of similar legislation in New York City and established a Statewide Task Force to consider measures to reduce the use of plastic bags should not undermine a validly established law in another jurisdiction. If the task force eventually develops and proposes a statewide measure that addresses the plastic bag problem (we understand only one meeting has been held to date) and such a proposal is successfully enacted into law, then the Suffolk County measure can be easily repealed and superseded. While the fact that a Statewide Task Force has been established highlights the importance of the plastic bag problem, it should not stop the important and meaningful progress that Suffolk County is poised to make towards a solution. Suffolk County has a long, proud history of leading on environmental issues – from DDT to bottle recycling, it has often acted first and paved the way for statewide legislation. Its effort now to once again lead New York State forward on an important conservation matter should be celebrated and embraced, not thwarted.
For these and other reasons, we strongly urge you to withdrawal Senate Bill #6717 and allow Suffolk County to implement the reasonable and effective measure it enacted to address the threat from plastic bags.
Very truly yours,
Enrico Nardone & John Turner
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Photo, Bags at Dawn, by Jonathan Kos-Read, 2015 All Rights Reserved
Earlier this year Seatuck sent the following letter to Governor Cuomo expressing outrage over the Port Authority's recent killing of coyotes at LaGuardia airport:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
RE: Coyotes on Long Island
Dear Governor Cuomo:
On behalf of the membership of the Seatuck Environmental Association – a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving Long Island’s wildlife and environment – we are writing to voice our outrage over the recent governmental killing of coyotes in New York City and our alarm about the unwise precedent it sets.
As was widely reported, in late 2016, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (“Port Authority”) determined that a group of pioneering coyotes that had settled into a wooded area near LaGuardia Airport were a threat to the safety of airport staff and visitors, as well as residents in surrounding neighborhoods. At the Port Authority’s request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) killed almost all of the coyotes (nearly a dozen in all), including both adults and pups.
As an avid outdoorsman and someone who appreciates the natural heritage of New York, we are sure you can understand our dismay at the actions taken by the Port Authority and USDA. Long Island has been missing terrestrial apex predators since colonial times, resulting in an ecosystem that is out of balance in many regards. Coyotes, ecologists expect, will eventually fill this empty niche and help restore equilibrium to Long Island’s natural communities. For example, Long Island’s deer herd is expanding well beyond the natural carrying capacity in many places, destroying the woodland understory and prevented natural forest regeneration. These impacts reduce the quality of forest habitat and harm countless species of birds and other wildlife. For these and other reasons, many Long Islanders have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of coyotes and anticipating the positive ecological impacts that will come with the reestablishment of an apex predator.
Coyotes have been expanding their range (which was historically limited to Midwestern prairies and Southwestern deserts) for more than 200 years, taking advantage of the extirpation of Gray Wolves and human landscape modification. They now exist in every state in the country. They first became firmly established in New York State in the 1940s; by the 1980s
they were settled into every corner of the state, except New York City and Long Island. Over the past two decades, they have expanded into New York City, taking up residence in parts of the Bronx. Long Island now remains one of the few places in the country that these adaptable canids have not conquered.
Despite their wide range and presence in most major cities and countless suburban neighborhoods, conflicts between coyotes and humans are extremely rare. While conflicts can certainly arise (generally in situations where coyotes are fed or simple precautions are not taken), the concern about risks to people and pets is grossly exaggerated. The simple fact is that coyotes coexist alongside humans throughout North America, from Canada down through Mexico; there is no reason why they cannot coexist on Long Island.
Given this reality, as well as the positive ecological impacts they will bring, we find it completely unacceptable that taxpayer dollars were used to thwart the welcomed expansion of coyotes to Long Island. The USDA and the Port Authority should not be unilaterally acting against the interests of the people of New York City and Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
We request that New York State conduct an investigation of the coyote killings at LaGuardia Airport, especially regarding the process through which the decision was reached and the applicability of federal and state wildlife laws. The incident may prove to have a silver lining if it helps to confirm and clarify the State’s support for coyote expansion, and establish a clear protocol for the next time coyotes move on to Long Island (which experts say will be soon).
Again, we strongly support the expansion of coyotes to Long Island and urge you to intervene to ensure that the misguided actions of the Port Authority and USDA are not repeated.
ENRICO NARDONE, Esq.
The river herring run at Parsonage Creek in Baldwin has been elusive in recent years. While we had anectodal evidence that it existed, we weren't able to document it until 2016. As the following video shows, our difficulty may have been the result of the run's preference for nocturnal migration. While river herring certainly migrate during the day in many instances, we have found that in some cases they prefer to move under the cover of darkness. There's little research on this question, but biologists think it may occur in situations with large concentrations of light-dependant predators, such as comorants or herring gulls.
This video also shows the even a relatively short barrier can be a complete barrier to river herring. While certainly very capable swimmers, they are not jumpers and simply cannot manage a barrier of more than a few inches.
Seatuck sent the following letter to Long Island's Congressional delegation today urging them to defend the important work of the EPA. It featured a list of 10 ways Long Island benefits from the agency's work.
* * * * *
February 16, 2017
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Schumer:
On behalf of the members of the Seatuck Environmenal Association, we write to urge you, for the sake of all Long Islanders (and indeed people throughout New York State and across the Country), to defend the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its important work of protecting human health and the environment.
Seatuck is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that works to conserve Long Island wildlife and the environment. The organization, which is based in Islip, advocates for wildlife and habitat protection across Long Island and offers a diverse outdoor education program, including the operation of two public nature centers.
We are alarmed by the President’s nomination of E. Scott Pruitt (a long-time critic of the EPA and climate change denier) to head the agency, by the anti-EPA rhetoric from the new Administration, from Congressional efforts to limit the agency’s effectiveness (H.R. 637 “Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017”), and, most recently, by the bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 861) to eliminate the agency entirely!
Long Islanders, like all New Yorkers, rely significantly on the EPA to protect our air, water and natural resources. There are countless ways the work of the agency protects the environment, safeguards human health and enhances our quality of life. In an effort to underscore the agency’s important work, we have compiled the following list of some of the direct and tangible ways Long Islanders benefit from the EPA:
10 Ways Long Island Needs the EPA
1. Clean Water – All Long Islanders get their drinking water from the aquifers that underlie the island. In 1978, this underground water source became the first in the nation recognized by the EPA’s “Sole Source Aquifer Protection Program”. Under the program EPA reviews all proposed projects on the island that receive federal financial assistance to ensure they do not endanger our precious groundwater.
2. Clean Air – EPA oversees a range of programs under the Clean Air Act that exist to safeguard the very air we breathe. Importantly, unlike state agencies, EPA has the ability to address air pollution issues that cross state borders. Long Islanders suffer from both homegrown air pollution (power plants, truck traffic) and “upwind” pollution from out-of-state sources. Despite decades of improvement, Long Island still fails to meet annual air quality standards. However, tough new EPA limits on power plant emissions give us hope for cleaner air in our future.
3. Long Island Sound – Through the establishment of the bi-state Long Island Sound Study, EPA has led the effort to improve Long Island Sound, the nationally-significant estuary that lies between Long Island and Connecticut. Funding and agency-led efforts through EPA’s National Estuary Program have protected coastal habitat, expanded eelgrass beds, reduced nitrogen loading, restricted dumping and achieved a long list of other restoration goals for what was a degraded waterbody. It’s no coincidence that whales have returned to the Sound in recent years for the first time in decades.
4. Peconic Estuary – The Peconic Estuary is another estuary of national significance that is protected through EPA’s National Estuary Program. The EPA-led Peconic Estuary Program directs a multi-jurisdictional effort to protect and improve the quality of the Peconic Bays, which are a key component of the ecologically and economically rich East End of Long Island.
5. Ocean Dumping – Long Island is surrounded by ecologically valuable estuaries and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. The health of our coastal ecosystem and the quality of our lives along the shore depend on the cleanliness and quality of these waterbodies. EPA protects these waters by restricting and monitoring direct (often out-of-state) pollution through the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (also known as the Ocean Dumping Act).
6. Disaster Response – Long Islanders know all to well the human tragedy that resulted from Superstorm Sandy, but storms such as Sandy also produce dangerous environmental conditions and threats to the natural world. EPA works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to protect public health and the environment in the wake of major storm events. From collecting hazardous waste to offering mold remediation assistance to providing more than $340 million in funding for repairs to drinking water and sewage treatment facilities, EPA played a significant role in the island’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
7. Climate Change – Long Island is on the front line of threats from sea-level rise, increasing storm intensity and other impacts of global climate change. EPA is an international leader in efforts to address these threats, contributing world-class research and providing sustainable solutions for adapting to and reducing the impacts from a changing climate.
8. Pesticide Control – Pesticides are widely used on Long Island: in homes & gardens, in agriculture (Suffolk County is one of the leading agricultural producers in New York State) and in efforts to protect the public from vector-borne diseases. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA regulates the production and use of these chemicals to ensure they don’t present unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. EPA’s ban of the mosquito-control pesticide DDT in 1972 is credited with the recovery of osprey, one of Long Island’s iconic wildlife species.
9. Toxic Waste – In 1980 Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which authorized EPA to identify hazardous waste sites across the country and prioritize the worst (not to mention most complex and most expensive) for long-term monitoring and remediation. A special fund – known as Superfund – was established (with penalties recovered from the responsible polluters) to cover the clean up costs. There are nearly three-dozen Superfund sites on Long Island where EPA works to limit impacts to human health and the environment.
10. Waste Management – The infamous 1987 barge incident made Long Island synonymous with waste management problems. With the island’s population now at 7.5 million and growing, the challenges haven’t gone away. Through RCRA, the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act, EPA helps Long Island municipalities deal with the many issues related to household garbage and non-hazardous industrial solid waste, including everything from source reduction to efficient recycling to safe transport and storage.
This is, of course, only a partial list; it’s a highlight reel from EPA’s vast body of vitally important work. It emphasizes the many ways in which the agency benefits the lives of Long Islanders every day. We urge you to stand up against the assault on EPA to protect this and other important work of the agency. While we understand that there are always ways to improve the agencies’ effectiveness and efficiency, we urge you defend EPA from efforts to shrink its role, gut its staff and limit its ability to protect the environment and the health and well being of people across Long Island.
Please let us know if you have any questions or require additional information.
Very truly yours,
ENRICO G. NARDONE, Esq.
January 18, 2017
President-elect Trump has repeatedly said that he intends to be a President for all Americans. His appointment of E. Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency is a troubling sign that perhaps he didn’t have Long Islanders in mind.
In countless ways, Long Island depends on the EPA to safeguard our quality of life by protecting our natural environment. EPA works to clean the air we breathe, which has consistently failed to meet air quality standards over the past decade. Future improvements are dependent on EPA’s ability to address pollution from power plants, automobiles and other sources – some of the very rules that Mr. Pruitt has long sought to undermine. Similarly, EPA helps to safeguard our drinking water – our aquifer was the first in the nation to be recognized by the agency’s Sole Source Aquifer Protection Program. Long Island also benefits significantly from EPA’s National Estuaries Program, as three of the nation’s 28 national estuaries are in our region: Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay and the NY/NJ Harbor.
Perhaps of greatest long-term concern is sea level rise. Long Island is on the front-line of climate change, with hundreds of thousands living on the ocean’s edge. Superstorm Sandy made troublingly clear how many of our communities are at significant risk, even at current sea levels. The long-term future of Long Island’s coastal communities depends on immediate, aggressive efforts to minimize sea level rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, while Long Islanders deal with the sea level rise that’s already here, Mr. Pruitt is still debating the facts of climate change.
EPA has always had its critics. And calls for rollback of the agency’s rules have been often repeated. However, Mr. Pruitt has taken this stance to another level. In his role as Oklahoma’s Attorney General he filed suit after suit in an attempt to undermine water and air protections and dismantle EPA’s authority. His own website brags that he’s a “leading advocate against EPA’s activist agenda.” Making him the agency’s Administrator is literally like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. For the sake of Long Island’s air and water - and the very quality of our life along our shore - we urge New York’s Congressional delegation to oppose Mr. Pruitt’s nomination.
Fire Island - Randy Levine, 2013 - All Rights Reserved
In late November 2016, Seatuck submitted the following comments on the National Park Services's Draft Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement regarding the Wilderness Breach (Bellport Inlet?) on Fire Island. We applauch the NPS decision to let the breach alone!
* * * * *
Mr. Chris Soller , Superintendent
Fire Island National Seashore
120 Laurel Street
Patchogue, NY 11772
RE: Comments on the Wilderness Breach Management Plan /
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
Dear Superintendent Soller:
These comments on the Wilderness Breach Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement (Breach Plan/EIS) are provided on behalf of the Seatuck Environmental Association, which has had a longstanding interest in the ecological health and restoration of the Great South and Moriches Bay ecosystems. We have followed with interest the public discourse regarding the formation of the Wilderness Breach and the decision-making process the National Park Service (NPS) has undertaken regarding its management, culminating in the preparation of the Breach Management Plan and EIS.
We support the breach remaining open due to the numerous, scientifically documented, ecological and water quality benefits, many of which are explained in detail in the EIS. Therefore, we support Option 3, NPS’s preferred option to allow for the breach to remain open unless certain dimensional criteria are exceeded, at which point NPS would move to close it.
While supportive of NPS’s preferred option, we nevertheless note the fundamental difference in approach that exists between Option 3 and the breach management strategy outlined in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed Fire Island to Montauk Point plan (FIMP). The FIMP creates three categories of breach management: one for areas where it seeks to prevent breaches from forming (Proactive Breach Response), one for areas where breaches that do form must be closed immediately (Reactive Breach Response), and a third for those areas where breaches can be permitted to exist temporarily, but only if a breach closure team decides the breach is “closing naturally” (Conditional Breach Response). NPS Option 3, on the other hand, allows a breach to remain open and act naturally, unless certain criteria are met that mandate closure.
This difference in approach between NPS and the Army Corps, while hypothetical with regard to the Wilderness Breach (since the FIMP is still in draft form and not controlling), is a divergence that should be addressed. The NPS Wilderness Breach Management Plan is, on its face, limited to the existing breach (and only necessary because of the lack of guidance provided by the current Breach Contingency Plan), but it is reasonable to expect that the well-supported document will be influential with regard to future Fire Island breaches, especially in the Wilderness Area. However, to the extent the FIMP is in place in its current form, the approach of the Wilderness Breach Management Plan will be superseded by the Army Corps’ approach.
We urge that this difference be resolved in favor of the NPS approach. We encourage NPS to push for its more reasoned breach management approach to be integrated into the FIMP during final negotiation over the plan in the coming year. In fact, in our comments on the FIMP, we urged the adoption of a genuinely nuance, science-based decision making process similar to what took place with the Wilderness Breach in 2012. There, NPS led an effort to convene a team of scientific experts to assess the situation, monitor the breach, gathered data (about impacts to tides, storm risks and ecological conditions), and offer advice on both storm risks and ecological benefits. We urge that a similar process be followed for all future breaches on Fire Island.
In addition, we have the following specific comments on the Breach Plan/EIS:
• To mitigate against the adverse effects of mechanical closure on Piping Plover breeding, the Breach Plan/EIS wisely stipulates that mechanical construction activities occur outside of the breeding season. We note that the Wilderness Breach also provides important stopover habitat for the Federally listed Red Knot (Calidris canutus). These birds refuel at the inlet, feasting on small mussels and invertebrates during bimodal migrations that peak in May and again in late October. We urge that efforts be included to limit construction activities from these migration seasons to avoid adverse affects on the Red Knot.
• The final sentence of the Executive Summary (p. xii) the authors use the word anthropomorphic; this should be replaced with anthropogenic.
Seatuck appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Breach Plan/EIS for the Otis Pike High Dune Fire Island Wilderness Area Breach. Please let us know if you have any questions or require additional information.
Very truly yours,
As anyone fishing or boating (or paying attenton to local news) in 2016 knew, it was a big year for Atlantic Menhaden (aka Bunker) in Long Island's estuaries. In fact, the past few years have seen increasing numbers of the ecologically important fish throughout their range. The Bunker boon, experts say, is largely the result of harvest limits put in place several years ago. In 2017, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will be finalizing plans for their future management. After particpating in hearings and a range of discussions and meetings about the issue, Seatuck submitted the following comments on the Commission's proposed amendments:
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January 4, 2017
Ms. Megan Ware
Fishery Management Plan Coordinator
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
1050 North Highland Street, Suite 200A-N
Arlington, Virginia 22201
Re: Comments on Amendment 3 of the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden – Seatuck Environmental Association
Dear Ms. Ware:
The Seatuck Environmental Association is a not-for-profit wildlife conservation organization whose mission is the protection of wildlife species on Long Island and the natural communities, habitats, and landscapes upon which they depend. One particular emphasis of Seatuck is the restoration of several species of anadromous river herring, most notably alewives, which spawn in the Island’s freshwater streams, through the removal of obstacles that block their path to spawning habitat. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the above-referenced document and thank you for forwarding the power point presentation that was shown at the Freeport, NY public meeting.
Menhaden comprise one of the more important forage fish found along the Atlantic Coast as the species sustains many other species including humpback whales, dolphins, seals, numerous bird species, ranging from ospreys to gannets, and commercially and recreationally important fish such as Striped Bass and Bluefish. It clearly plays a critically important role in marine and estuarine food webs.
Before commenting on specific elements proposed in the Plan to manage Menhaden we’d like to offer specific comments on two aspects of menhaden management not presented in the Plan - the mandatory use of bait bags in other ASMFC regulated fisheries that utilize menhaden as bait and the creation of Menhaden spawning sanctuaries.
Mandatory Use of Bait Bags – Menhaden are used as bait in other commercial fisheries regulated by the ASMFC, such as American lobster and Blue Claw crab. Indeed, harvest of menhaden for bait in both commercial and recreational fisheries is a primary and growing component of the Menhaden Fishery. For those commercial fisheries which utilize menhaden as bait such, we urge that ASMFC mandate the use of bait bags, which can ensure a more efficient use of fish by using less menhaden per effort compared to not using bags.
Juvenile Development Sanctuaries – Juvenile Menhaden are known to develop in geographically limited, specific ranges within the overall area inhabited by the species; the Chesapeake Bay is one such area. Allowing for juvenile to develop into adults without the threat of harvest and therefore precluding their ability to contribute to the overall population, would provide benefits to the population at large.
COMMENTS ON PLAN ELEMENTS
Ecological Reference Points – The Plan discusses various options for establishing reference points to help manage the Menhaden stock. Seatuck strongly supports Option D - Use existing guidelines for forage fish species until ERPs are developed by the BERP working group, as we believe this will allow for the greatest amount of menhaden to be available to numerous species which utilize or depend upon them, as mentioned above, while also accommodating human demands for the fish.
Quota Allocation – Seatuck has no general comments regarding quota allocation except that it seems equitable to provide a fixed minimum quota to each state with a menhaden fishery.
Allocation Timeframe – we have no comment regarding this issue.
Quota Transfers and Overage Payback – We understand that Menhaden segregate by swimming in large schools of generally uniform size and age. One concern we have is that if a state wanted to transfer a certain poundage of unused quota to another state it could, depending on the states involved, result in many more fish being harvested due to the segregation of age classes mentioned above. If ASMFC believes this concern has validity, we would encourage any quota transfer system to be structured either geographically (i.e. involving nearby or adjacent states where the same age class of menhaden cohabitate) or some other way to prevent more fish, and potentially significantly more fish, from being harvested.
Quota Rollovers – the Plan contemplates allowing for unused quota allocations to be rolled over into subsequent years. Seatuck opposes this concept as it doesn’t seem fair and there is no analog in the recreational fishery. For example, if a recreational fisherman doesn’t meet his daily limit for Summer flounder of Striped Bass he cannot take twice the number the next day; the same should hold for commercial fishing. If for whatever reasons commercial fishers do not collectively take their quota in their prescribed time period, these fish should be kept in the ocean for the benefit of other species.
Incidental Catch and Small Fishery Allowance – According to current policy (page 16 of Amendment 3) menhaden captured after a state’s quota has been reached do not count toward the quota for that directed fishery but are considered by-catch, totaling from 1-2% of the total landings of fish or approximately 5.7 million pounds. In our view there is no reason to exclude bycatch fish from a state’s quota and we, therefore, strongly support the adoption of Option 3.
We will note, as was discussed at the ASMFC informational presentation in Freeport, NY it is illogical to contend that menhaden captured using either beach seines or cast nets can be considered by-catch as these fishing techniques are directed specifically at menhaden. At the very least Amendment 3 should contain a clear explanation as to why fish caught using these techniques should be considered bycatch.
Episodic Events Set Aside Program - We note that one unfortunate episodic event that occurred earlier this year in New York was the death of many millions of menhaden in the locks at the Shinnecock Canal on Long Island, due to an ill-advised closure of the canal locks while a vast school of menhaden was moving through. Entrapped in the locks the school of fish soon depleted oxygen levels, resulting in a large scale die–off. In the recent past there have been similar die-offs of menhaden in the mouth of the Peconic River. Seatuck strongly supports the harvesting and utilization of these fish for the bait industry so they are not wasted and should encourage states/companies/individuals to invest in this activity. One incentive might be to not count fish from these die-offs toward a state’s quota or make it some reduced fraction, so, for example, if 500,000 pounds of fish die from such an event it would only count for 250,000 pounds toward the state’s quota.
Chesapeake Bay Reduction Fishery Cap – we support the continuation of the cap.
Research Programs and Priorities – as mentioned in the section on Quota Transfers and Overage Payback menhaden are well known to segregate into age classes. Better understanding the geographic distribution and movement of the age classes would provide the ASMFC with information useful in their management.
It would also be worthwhile to assess how Menhaden spawning areas may change or be affected by global climate change and warming ocean temperatures.
John L. Turner
Conservation Policy Advocate