New York fishing news-December
Hey guys. It’s been a little bit since I made a post here after the Derby ended and I was roofied, I was pretty wiped out and had to focus on all the work that I’ve been blowing off during the Derby. Ben keeps promising me there will be a video from the closing party, which was awesome as far as I remember. There’s also been a lot going on with the fishing/water situation here in New York the last month. If you haven’t kept up on the news, I’ll try to summarize it all for you.
Firstly, a bunch of companies got fined earlier this month for dumping raw sewage into Shell Bank Creek in Sheepshead Bay. The creek actually flows from Sheepshead Bay outward to Jamaica Bay, where the sewage spread to the shores of Floyd Bennet Field, Manhattan Beach, and the north side of the Rockaways. The four companies at fault were the TGI Fridays, UA Sheepshead Bay Theater, Knapp Street Bagels, and Deauville Marina, though I suspect more businesses in that area probably dumped into the creek as well. That’s where the all-you-can-eat crab feast place Clemente’s is, and you have to drive through that movie complex area to get there. I remember more than a couple birthdays were celebrated at Clemente’s in summers past. Little did I know then that raw sewage including shit and toilet paper were getting dumped into the water just off the deck by those scumbags up the way. It never ceases to amaze how people and businesses can be so ignorant and callous to freely and consciously dump raw sewage into our waterways. At least the penalties are looking quite steep, if the businesses and parties responsible are convicted, though certainly there will be some deal in place to keep the fines and prison terms to their respective minimums. Currently the four men, a mix of landlords and employees, are facing felony environmental charges stemming from their seven years of polluting the creek, which translates to a maximum term of 4 years in prison, plus huge fines: $75,000 a day for the period they were polluting. A quick calculation not including leap years makes this $75,000 x 2,555 = $191,625,000. I’m not positive each business is being charged $75,000/day each, but they probably should be.
Over on the other side of the city, the Hudson River, the entire length of which is a declared Superfund site due to decades of dumping PCBs thanks to General Electric, is about to enter the second stage of cleanup. For thirty years GE dumped PCBs into the upper part of the Hudson, and as a result nearly 200 miles of the river are contaminated, so you probably shouldn’t eat too many fish that come out of those waters, which was once a major breeding ground for striped bass, nearly rivaling the capacity and fecundity of the Chesapeake Bay. The first part of GEs cleanup dredged and capped six miles of the river, which GE says it capped 37 percent of the polluted area, according to an article by the NY Times. Why GE is telling the EPA how much is capped and cleaned up is still a mystery to me, but corporations policing themselves have always worked out so well for us in the past, right?
The second phase of GE’s mandated cleanup concerns the 40 mile area from Hudson Falls to the town of Troy, which is north of Albany. The EPA is allowing GE to cap (which is essentially sealing, however temporary, the PCBs into the sediment and soil on the riverbed floor) only 11 percent of the projected area. That means GE must dredge and clear the rest. While dredging may seem the preferred method for removing PCBs from the river floor, it also stirs up the sediment and dumping the soil into containers often results in spillage back into the river. Ostensibly, the cleanup should take between five and seven years, assuming GE plays its cards properly. GE has already spent $561 million on phase one, and it claims to have set aside funds necessary to complete phase two. Time will tell how efficient the cleanup of phase two is; an independent panel of scientists has already declared phase one a failure due to the amount of PCBs re-released into the river by dredging and leftover from the “clean up” itself. Although EPA officials claim a 95 percent cleanup rate with the dredging method, scientists are already calling the figure specious and have their doubts to the long-term efficacy that capping supposedly affords. The EPA is demanding more stringent testing and sampling during phase two, though due to the aforementioned self-policing we can only guess that the figures will be dubious at best. We will have to see how it plays out, and if the EPA waffles on its own demands.
Lastly, a court recently ruled against the state’s mandated license for recreational saltwater fishing. Seven East End towns (East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, Southold, Brookhaven, Oyster Bay, and Huntington) have been fighting the DEC on the grounds of the Dongan Patent, a pre-Revolutionary War document that relinquishes control of the provincial waterways to the towns themselves. These towns seem to see themselves as outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, who requires states provide information regarding the year’s catch. Ultimately these towns will hurt the state and fishermen themselves. If you read the article I wrote on the derby last year, you know that the money, whether it comes from the $10 license fee or from the state itself; as it is required to do so to provide the Feds with the necessary information (if the money is not taken from license fees, it will have to come from other funding sources such as hunting and freshwater fishing licenses– plus a large percentage of the saltwater fishing license fees goes back to the state’s marine fund.), will have to come from somewhere. In other words, we can hail the courts for waiving our license fees, but we’re still going to pay, either through tax or through other channels. Personally, I feel a $10/year fee is worth going back to the state’s marine fund, as well as covering the costs toward providing Federal information regarding the fishery, versus the state fronting the cost themselves, with zero money going back to the marine fund. It’s up to you, really. If the state can’t uphold the license in the East End towns, then technically they cannot enforce it anywhere. But what do you want: individual freedoms to the detriment of the overall fishery, or a nominal fee that could really help the state of fishery and marine life in our area? For as much belly-aching as there was last year about the license implementation (i.e. paranoia about the government tracking you, calling saltwater fishing a privilege because you now have to pay a fee, and general feelings of betrayal that the Federal government was infringing on individual rights), most guys on the water have seen the logic behind the state license system. I’m one of them.
Also it’s important to note that while the state cannot now mandate a fee to individuals due to the court ruling, that does not mean the Feds can’t require a fee of their own. So either way we end up paying (in this case, the Feds would require a fee between $15 and $35, which is already more than one has to pay the state for a yearly license, plus none of that money goes to the state marine fund.). Honestly ask yourself whether you’d rather give money to the Federal government with no benefit locally or give a small fee to the state that will actually do some good to the local fishery. It should be a no brainer. The East End towns, for all their clamoring of individual rights, have it backward.
What’s behind the fight for Pre-Revolutionary War rights, sovereignty from the state, is probably money. Well, probably is a mild term. It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to see the towns regulating themselves, i.e. want to fish in Southampton? Buy a Southampton permit. Want to fish in Oyster Bay? Buy an Oyster Bay permit. Is that what you really want?