Paul Seiswerda is the founder of Gotham Whale, a not for profit advocacy group that catalogs ocean mammals in the New York Bight. Whales, seals, and dolphins all migrate locally through the waters off New York Harbor. Last week, the Gotham Whale naturalists aboard the American Princess, sighted their first whale of the season. Pods of Bottle-nose dolphins were plentiful as they surfaced frequently around the ship. American Princess has started their regular whale-sighting tours.
Photo Credit to Celia Ackerman
Celia Ackerman, one of the Naturalists, aboard the ship, is not only an expert on ocean mammals, she is interested in the overall health of the Jamaica Bay ecosystem. The return of eel grass to Jamaica Bay is high on her wish list. However, in our recent conversation with Jessie Hornstein of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Mr. Hornstein expressed reservations about the grasses imminent return. “Eel grass is a difficult species. It requires clear and colder waters. The nitrogen input causes algae blooms that cause murky water. Plants require light to grow”. In the meantime, NYSDEC continues to partner with the Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Stony Brook School of Marine Science to try to restore eel grass in New York waters.
Mr. Hornstein along with Chris LaPorta are assigned to the Rockaway Artificial Reef program and they are pleased with the positive results of crustaceans and native fish species that have quickly reclaimed the reef.
Meanwhile, the menhaden, or bunker fish, that have also returned to their native waters, thanks to the Rockaway Artificial Reef, are in jeopardy. Omega Proteins, a publicly traded fishmeal processor dispatched their fleet to the waters off New York Harbor when they learned of the proliferation of the Atlantic menhaden in the New York Bight. Omega Proteins nets over 80% of the Atlantic menhaden along the entire U.S. Eastern Coastline. The neutraceutical is then sold to the lucrative vitamin supplement and food manufacturing industry.
Today, the only viable food source that attracts whales to New York is Menhaden. The Omega fleet is operating within NOAA Fisheries guidelines, however, over-fishing of this species is diminishing the chances of a vibrant whale population in the New York Bight. On the return trip back from the last week of seal-watching, we talked to Mitchell Steinhardt, another volunteer and avid photographer for Gotham Whale. Mitchell claims that fish-oil can be produced by catching other species that are readily found in the Mid-Atlantic waters.
A petition has been generated for all concerned citizens in the Metropolitan New York area who are interested in supporting Gotham Whale’s efforts. More signatures are needed to impact legislation that will save the Menhaden from their fate.
Photo Credit to Celia Ackerman
You can add your name here and know you have contributed to making the New York Bight home to humpbacks, fin whales, sei whales, and the endangered Right Whales that are currently migrating right outside of the New York Harbor.