The coastal environs of Long Island Sound represent a unique and highly productive ecosystem with a diverse array of living resources, ranging from microscopic plants and animals that drift with the currents to seaweeds and economically important finfish, shellfish, and crustaceans. In addition, many other types of wildlife, such as birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals, spend all or part of their lives in the Sound, on its shores, or in its watershed.
These living resources are important to people. Commercial and recreational fishing in Long Island Sound contributed more than $1.2 billion to the regional economy in 1990. Moreover, the opportunity to observe and appreciate the Sound’s plants and animals is in itself an enjoyment of the Sound for millions of the region’s residents and visitors.
While there are still abundant living resources in the Sound and in its watershed, there is little doubt that their overall abundance and diversity have been diminished by indifferent human uses of Long Island Sound and its resources.
A principal human cause of harm to the Sound’s living resources is water pollution. The Management Conference has identified hypoxia as the major water quality problem in Long Island Sound. The effects of hypoxia and the other priority water quality problems on living resources have been addressed in previous sections of this summary.
There are two more negative human influences on living resources — destruction and degradation of habitat and overharvesting from fishing and hunting.
The states of Connecticut and New York and the federal government have long managed and protected the coastal lands and aquatic habitats of the Sound’s living resources, and have implemented management programs to protect living resources from overharvesting. The Management Conference recognizes the need to maintain these ongoing conservation programs and to make priority improvements. Critical ongoing programs include:
The Management Conference recognizes the importance of these programs in meeting its goals for the living resources of Long Island Sound, and urges the states and federal agencies to maintain them. The Management Conference recommends the following enhancements to ongoing habitat management programs:
Implementing these actions along with the actions to improve water quality discussed in the preceding sections should enhance prospects for a healthy ecosystem with balanced and diverse populations of indigenous plants and animals, improved abundance and distribution of harvested species, and edible species suitable for unrestricted human consumption.
Successful implementation of the plan is predominantly contingent upon the states and federal agencies receiving, at a minimum, level funding for existing programs associated with living resources and habitat management. New funding of approximately $2.46 million per year is needed for living resources and habitat management program enhancements and $33.1 million is needed for living resources and habitat project implementation. The Management Conference recommends that $10 million of the recommended $50 million Long Island Sound Challenge Grant Program (as introduced in the Hypoxia section) be used for habitat acquisition and to initiate habitat restoration actions.