Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators
Show/Hide Table Data
Forage fish are small, fast-growing species that provide the majority of the food supply for larger fish, including game fish such as striped bass and bluefish, and mammals such as seals. Forage fish can also include juvenile stages of larger species which school in large numbers, such as scup, bluefish, and weakfish. Many forage fish inhabit the low marsh and intertidal areas of the shoreline and are food for birds, reptiles, and crabs.
The Long Island Sound Open Water Forage index uses data collected from the Long Island Sound Trawl Survey, which was established in 1984. Survey catch data from spring (May, June) and fall (September, October) Survey cruises of 14 common “forage” species are averaged into a composite geometric mean biomass/tow. These species are key small-sized adults (e.g., blueback herring, butterfish, and menhaden) or the ‘young-of-year’ life stage of abundant schooling species (i.e., weakfish, bluefish, and scup). These species are important forage for larger game fish commonly sought after by recreational anglers (e.g. bluefish, striped bass, and summer flounder). It is designed as an indicator of forage availability for open water species and may shed light on trends in the abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton assemblages needed as their food base as well.
The Connecticut Coastline Forage indicator uses data collected from the CT DEEP Seine Survey, which was established in 1988. The survey is conducted in September at eight beach sites, from Groton to Greenwich, where six standardized seine-hauls are taken. The index is a composite mean catch (# of individuals)/haul of four species: Atlantic silversides, striped killifish, mummichog, and sheepshead minnow. It is designed as an indicator of forage availability in intertidal and shallow water.
The New York Coastline Forage indicator uses data collected from the NYSDEC Western Long Island Sound Seine Survey, which was established in 1984. The survey is conducted from May to October at twenty beach sites across four bays/harbors. There are four sampling stations in both Little Neck Bay and Manhasset Bay and six sampling stations in both Oyster Bay and Hempstead Harbor. The index is a composite mean catch (# of individuals)/haul of four species: Atlantic silversides, striped killifish, mummichog, and sheepshead minnow. It is designed as an indicator of forage availability in intertidal and shallow water.
The stable trend in the Open Water Forage index indicates that the Sound has a sufficient food base to support the wide diversity of resident marine species as well as those that migrate into the Sound specifically because it is a rich feeding ground. Although there is high annual variability (i.e., the count per haul fluctuates every year), since mid-90’s the Connecticut and New York Coastline Forage indexes have been higher but stable, indicating that productivity in the intertidal zone and marshes is good. For both indices, 2012 and 2013 were poor years, which may have been a result of the destruction of habitat from Hurricane Sandy. The numbers rebounded in 2014.