Riverhead Town, with permission of the State DEC hired commercial fisherman to haul in menhaden in the Peconic River in 2016, in the hope of avoiding a fish kill. File photo: Peter Blasl

Below are the bills that passed both chambers in the State Legislature last week and how our local lawmakers — State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Assembly Member Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and Assembly Member Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) — voted on them.

A02571/ S02317 This bill would prohibit the taking of menhaden by use of a purse seine. Provides that menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) from which oil or meal is made may not be taken from the waters of the marine district with a purse seine unless the department determines there is an imminent risk of a fish kill.

Atlantic Menhaden are a major food source for whales, dolphins, coastal sharks, predatory fish, seals, and seabirds. A single humpback whale can eat thousands of pounds of Menhaden per day. They are used as bait fish by recreational and commercial fisherman, and support fish meal and oil based products industries. These small fish have been referred to as one of the most important species in the ocean.

Just prior to 2012, Atlantic Menhaden were overfished to just a small percentage of their historic abundance. Measures were taken by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2012 to attempt to restore the Menhaden population.

These recent efforts have been successful. Menhaden have been returning to New York’s coastal waters in historic numbers. This is good news to the striped bass fisheries on Long Island, and the replenished food source is bringing whales and dolphins back to New York’s coast, positively contributing to the tourism industry.

Purse seines are large nets that encircle schools of fish and are then closed at the bottom like a drawstring purse. Because the Menhaden population has been so low, purse seines have not been used in New York for several years, but as the populations grow, it is important to consider sustainable management of this keystone species. This legislation is necessary in order to prevent repeating history to the detriment of the marine ecosystem and the economies that rely on them.

Palumbo: Yes
Thiele: Yes
LaValle: Yes

A02572/S02316 To prohibit oil and natural gas drilling in New York’s coastal areas. An act to amend the environmental conservation law and the transportation corporations law, in relation to prohibiting state authorizations related to certain offshore oil and natural gas production. [See separate story.]

This bill would amend Environmental Conservation Law § 23-1101 to prohibit the leasing of state-owned underwater coastal lands for oil and natural gas drilling and add a new § 23-1105 to prevent the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of General Services from authorizing leases that would result in the increase of oil or natural gas production from federal waters. In addition, the bill would amend the Transportation Corporations Law to restrict the powers of such corporations to develop pipelines associated with the delivery of natural gas or oil from the North Atlantic Planning Area.

Palumbo: Yes
Thiele: Yes
LaValle: Yes

Editor’s note: In addition, each chamber passed several bills that were not voted on in the other other chamber last week. Those bills will be the subject of future reports if and when passed by the second chamber of the legislature.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.