Wednesday, June 28, 2006
70,000 Flounder With Nowhere to Go
GOTTA LOVE POLITICAL BUREAUCRACY
Unless they get a reprieve from Gov. George E. Pataki or a court-ordered stay of execution, as many as 70,000 hatchery-raised flounder will be destroyed now that the State Department of Environmental Conservation has refused to give the East Hampton Town Trustees a permit to release them in local waters.
“I’m going to write the governor next, the whole town is for it. Only this small group in the D.E.C. is against it,” said Larry Penny, the town’s director of natural resources. Mr. Penny’s office has acted as an intermediary between the trustees and the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“I will have to put them down,” said Robert Valenti, a biologist and the owner of Multi-Aquaculture Systems on Napeague, who spawned the flounder from locally caught brood stock and raised them under a contract with the town trustees. The trustees paid Dr. Valenti $19,000 to grow the flounder in order to augment local populations of the species.
The juvenile flatfish were ready for release last month, but were kept in Dr. Valenti’s tanks pending the resolution of testy correspondence between the state and the Town Natural Resources Department, which for the second year has overseen the project on behalf of the trustees.
Gordon Colvin, the director of the D.E.C.’s marine resources division on Long Island, had warned Mr. Penny that Dr. Valenti’s license to raise fish would be in jeopardy should the flounder be released, since the D.E.C. had not approved the release into state waters.
On May 9 Mr. Penny wrote back to Mr. Colvin, saying that the town had applied for the permit needed to release the flounder this year and had been given tacit approval for the project last year.
Last year the D.E.C. cooperated with town officials and Dr. Valenti before the release of the trustees’ 2005 batch of 20,000 hatchery-raised flounder, Mr. Penny said. At the time, the D.E.C. insisted that the 2005 batch be tagged with dye in order to monitor the success of the project in the years to come.
Mr. Penny told Mr. Colvin that, at the time of the release, the town was given no indication that future projects would be forbidden. He asked the state agency to reconsider.
A June 13 letter to Mr. Penny from Gerald Barnhart, the director of the agency’s division of fish, wildlife, and guity about the state’s position today.
“You are not authorized to release winter flounder, or any species of finfish, into the waters of the marine and coastal district of New York. Any release would constitute a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law of New York State,” Mr. Barnhart wrote.
Mr. Barnhart, who is Mr. Colvin’s boss, said that “stocking young flounder is unlikely to contribute to ongoing efforts to rebuild winter flounder stocks.”
Rather, a 2005 amendment to a flounder management plan of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission stated that reducing fishing mortality and protecting near-shore habitat were the preferred ways to bolster the population. The state is obliged to follow the commission’s policies under threat of federal intervention.
“The department views the stocking of migratory fish of the sea to be a very serious matter,” Mr. Barnhart wrote. “We believe a decision to stock marine waters should only be made after careful and deliberate evaluation of the need for such stocking, the potential environmental impacts, and the risks for disease and genetic changes in wild stocks.”
“I’m disgusted,” Dr. Valenti said on Tuesday. “They found a weak link, me. They sent me a letter. I can’t transfer the fish to someone [the town] who does not have a permit. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Very negative.”
“These people are backwoods. They’re not scientists,” he went on. “It’s done in other states without any furor,” he said, explaining that migratory fish were raised in a New Hampshire hatchery under contract with the States of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Both states provided the necessary permits to release the fish, Dr. Valenti said.
He added he understand that the D.E.C.’s decision was based, in part, on the policies of the Atlantic States Commission, but that it didn’t make the decision a correct one.
Billy Vorpahl, a town trustee, said yesterday that his board would try to find a way to save the fish, and Mr. Penny said that the trail of letters from the D.E.C. was “filled with misinformation” about the town’s handling of the matter.
“I think it’s definitely litigable,” Mr. Penny said. “The fish belong to the trustees. I don’t want to get Bob in trouble, but they belong to the trustees.”
He suggested that, to buy time for a rescue to be worked out, Dr. Valenti might transfer the juvenile flounder to his larger outdoor tanks. “I’m going to work hard to save the fish,” Mr. Penny said.
Basically, heres how it goes(year by year): Well first we can't be sure that the winter flounder stocks are disappearing... Next, well there may be less winter flounder but lets wait and see if their is a recovery... Then, they haven't returned to prior levels yet, perhaps somehting is wrong... Next, lets investigate possible reasons for their decline, but do nothing to help the population to recover... Further, well the investigations have yielded inconclusive results so more studies need to be undertaken before anything is put in stone... Finally, we don't know why the flounder are going away, however, we do not feel the best course of action is trying to repopulate, but actually to correct the problems of which we have no idea.... NICE GOING GOVERNMENT IDIOTS