Peter Applebome's column in today's Times, "Why a Fish Didn't Show At a Festival In Its Honor," is a warning about a disturbing trend in the Hudson: the decline of ten out of thirteen species of fish in the river since the 1980s--including the shad.
Over the weekend, the environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper held its 19th Annual Shad Fest and Hudson River Celebration without serving any shad. Baked shad, cooked on a plank next to glowing coals, has long been a sign of spring in the Hudson Valley. "With the population of fish dwindling to historically low levels," Applebome reports, "the decision was made to have the festival without serving any shad for the first time."
A study commissioned by Riverkeeper levels blame at power plants on the river, but also points to overfishing, the netting of fish out at sea before they reach the river, destruction of fish habitats, invasive species, and two changes in the river's water: a decline in oxygen levels and an increase temperature. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation blames overfishing.
I'm not competent to judge which of these factors or others is to blame for the decline of so many fish in the Hudson River. But I do believe that the health of the Hudson is worth fighting for. It would be a tragedy if the reward for the cleanup of the river is a Hudson with fewer fish.
Contact Riverkeeper to learn more about its many activities, including Hudson Fisheries Defense .