Spring/Summer 1999: Fisheries

Support for the environmental movement is often boiled down to a desire for clean water and clean air. Certainly when we think of the water we drink and the air we breathe, cleanliness and purity are paramount. What we really want are healthy coastal waters and estuaries – for the fish and shellfish we like to catch or eat, and for the wildlife that we want to see. (I’m reminded by this mid-ninety degree day that we also want waters that are healthy for our families to cool off in during a day at the beach.) We want healthy populations of living resources in Long Island Sound. The Sound will never have the sparkling clarity of the Carribean, nor should it, but it should teem with life, providing abundant recreational and commercial opportunities.

What factors are involved? Consider the abundance of fish. Healthy waters and diverse habitats are needed to provide spawning, nursery, and feeding areas (That’s why so much effort is being made to protect and restore habitat in addition to controlling pollution). Overfishing can still deplete populations of fish from the healthiest waters. To complicate matters further, naturally occurring diseases also can affect the health of living resources. A single-celled parasite, called MSX, has decimated the oyster harvest in Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bays, and has affected Long Island Sound, to a lesser extent, in recent years.

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