Tag Archive | "DEC"

DEC Will Revise Mute Swan Proposal

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Mute Swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on Monday, 2/17/14

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced it is considering changes to a draft mute swan management plan following public outcry over plans to kill or capture all mute swans in the state by 2025.

According to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, over the past five weeks, the DEC has received more than 1,500 comments on the plan from individuals and organizations, as well as more than 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures on various petitions.

“The draft plan for management for mute swans received significant public interest and DEC received many thoughtful and substantive comments,” Commissioner Martens said. “DEC is listening to these comments and concerns and will revise the draft plan and provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the revised plan this spring.”

In revising the plan, the DEC likely will acknowledge regional differences in status, potential impacts and desired population goals by setting varying goals for different regions of the state. In addition, the DEC will consider non-lethal means to achieve the management plan’s intended goals.

New recommendations are expected to be released this spring, and according to the DEC prior to finalizing the next draft, the DEC will meet with key stakeholder groups to ensure all potential management options are identified and considered.

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

Mute swans at the East Hampton Nature Trail on February 17. Michael Heller photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was introduced in December, and require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the birds altogether.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the ecosystem or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the [DEC] to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are a species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200, most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan in East Hampton. Zachary Persico photo.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem.”

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”

Although opposed to the DEC plan, local ecologist Tyler Armstrong said there are ecological benefits to reducing the population. “It would help rare native waterfowl, as mute swans defend large nesting territories and exclude other birds from nesting, as well as competing with native birds for aquatic vegetation, like eelgrass,” he said.

The DEC has conducted “mute swan control activities” since 1993, but not to the extent permitted by the new management plan, which will include shooting free-ranging swans on public lands and private lands (with owner consent) and live capture and euthanasia.

North Haven resident Richard Gambino, professor emeritus at Queens College, said the DEC’s reasons for exterminating the swans are scientifically flawed.

“Everything affects the environment. The question is, do we have a sufficient reason, a necessary reason to kill them off, to exterminate them—and I don’t think we have one here,” he said, calling the plan “extreme.” The aggression shown by swans is evident in all mammals when they feel threatened and it’s arbitrary to call a species “alien” when it has been present for over 130 years, he added.

“If you’ve got a system such as nature—which is the most extreme system, with countless variables changing just about every second—we’re very limited in our ability to predict it,” he said, referring to the chaos theory.

Comments can be sent to the DEC by email to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line by February 21.

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Virginia Briggs photo.

A mute swan swims in East Hampton. Virginia Briggs photo.

Editorial note: an updated version of this post can be found here.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor and state senators Tony Avella of Queens and Steve Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was completed and introduced in December 2013. The legislation would require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the species.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the eco-system or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are an invasive species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200. The swans, says the DEC, are still most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley, although they are also present in the Lake Ontario region.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

To express your comments to the DEC on its draft mute swan plan, email fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line or send letters to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway in Albany, NY 12233-4754. The deadline for submitted comments is February 21.

To express your comments to Mr. Thiele, call his district office in Bridgehampton at 537.2583.

Hundreds of Protestors Gather at “No Cull” Rally in East Hampton to Protest Government Plan to Kill Deer

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Protest organizers concert promoter Ron Delsener and East Hampton Group for Wildlife founder Bill Crain at the "No Cull" rally in East Hampton Village Saturday, January 17. (Michael Heller photo).

Protest organizers, concert promoter Ron Delsener and East Hampton Group for Wildlife founder Bill Crain, adress the crowd at the “No Cull” rally in East Hampton Village Saturday, January 17. (Michael Heller photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Some three hundred people gathered in East Hampton Saturday in opposition to the village’s plan to bring federal sharpshooters in to cull the deer herd. Hunters and wildlife activists joined together at the “No Cull” rally, organized by the East Hampton Group for Wildlife and supported by hunting organizations like Hunters for Deer and Long Island Archers.

Chanting “What do we want? Stop the cull? When do we want it? Now!” demonstrators, some who had driven hours to reach the village, marched from the Hook Mill in East Hampton to Herrick Park.

East Hampton Village and Southold Town have agreed to a Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) program that would bring USDA sharpshooters to the East End to cull the deer herd, which many local residents and farmers say is overpopulated and destructive. LIFB executive director Joe Gergela estimates 1,500 to 2,000 deer would be killed during the 40-day cull.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has not yet issued a permit for the cull (see sidebar).

Proponents of the plan say the deer population, with no natural predators, has outgrown the available food supply and natural environment on the East End. Deer, they say, create hazardous conditions on roads, carry tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and negatively impact the local agriculture industry.

East Hampton Town agreed to the program in December under the last administration, but new town supervisor Larry Cantwell said last week he is unsure whether the town will still take part.

The program is funded by a $200,000 state grant LIFB received for deer management and would be one of the largest removals of deer ever undertaken by the government.

The hundreds who gathered Saturday are calling on the LIFB to stop the cull and for all municipalities to withdraw their support. East Hampton Village has committed $15,000 to the farm bureau and Southold Town has pledged $25,000. Those funds support sharpshooters coming into public lands, but the cull can continue on private land without official support from local governments.

In December, The Group for Wildlife, along with 13 individual plaintiffs and the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, filed suit against East Hampton town, village and the town trustees.

“We’re going to sue each and every town or village that even thinks about entering into this plan,” Wendy Chamberlain, a Bridgehampton resident who helped organize the rally, told the crowd Saturday.

“It gets better,” she added, “We’re also going to sue the heinous USDA!”

Despite the uncommon collaboration of hunters and animal rights advocates, the rally was peaceful aside from one disruption, when concert promoter Ron Delsener shouted at East Hampton school board member Patricia Hope.

Hope was passing out flyers supporting immuno-contraception as a more peaceful way to cull the herd than the “wholesale slaughter of does and fawns” when Delsener, who has a house in East Hampton and is funding the anti-cull lawsuit, yelled, “This lady wants to kill the deer!”

“I don’t want to kill the deer,” Hope replied, moving away from Delsener.

Group for Wildlife founder and Montauk resident Bill Crain encouraged the crowd to write letters and call their government officials to “let them know we will not stand for this.”

“They don’t have a chance of re-election if they are going to pursue this barbaric, murderous slaughter,” Crain said.

Many protestors dressed in hunting gear and held signs with slogans like, “Cull the board not the herd,” “Slaughter, savagery, stupidity,” and “Deer epidemic NOT proven.”

One sign said, “Are the swans next?” referring to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) new proposal to kill or capture all mute swans by 2025. Another had a photo of fawns and the words, “Are you going to kill my mommy?”

“They don’t deserve to die,” Sag Harbor’s Anne Plucis shouted to passing drivers, “They’re not the reason for this.”

Plucis said mice and rats are to blame for the prevalence of tick-borne illnesses, not deer.

Mike Tessitore, a former Sag Harbor Village policeman who is a member of Hunters for Deer, called the proposed plan “a slap in the face to the community, as well as the hunters on Long Island and in New York State.”

“If hunters were given the same opportunity as USDA in killing deer they would be successful,” said Tessitore.

The LIFB has said all meat would go to Long Island Harvest to be processed and sent to food banks, but with a cost of $50 to $80 to process each corpse, many of the cull’s opponents are skeptical the meat will be properly used.

Tessitore called the plan “$250,000 to $500,000 to throw deer in dumpsters.”

“Hunters,” he added, “actually use the meat to provide for their family and friends – and we do it for free.”

Local residents remain divided on whether or not the federal sharpshooters should be welcomed. Usually allied, many farmers and hunters are on different sides. Some wildlife advocates favor culling the herd, saying deer overpopulation negatively affects the habitats of other animals and that being shot is more humane than starving to death.

Those wildlife activists opposed to the cull, however, were in clear view Saturday.

Calling the plan “cruel and inhumane,” ARF co-founder Sony Schotland said immunization worked to control the population in several other areas. East Hampton resident Brooke Spencer circulated a petition against the cull through the crowd.

“I’m here,” East Hampton resident Elizabeth Mensch said, “because I just think this whole situation is extremely unethical and inhumane. I believe they have every right to be here and we have no right to say if something dies or lives.”

K.K. Shapiro, Mensch’s longtime friend and former classmate in East Hampton, added, “If you really have a problem with wildlife, move to the city.”

Oh Deer! East End Wildlife Groups Plan “No Cull” Rally for Saturday

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By Tessa Raebeck

Plans to unleash federal sharpshooters on the East End deer population have been met with bureaucratic setbacks and vocal opposition, but are moving forward nonetheless.

In coordination with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) plans to hire USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sharpshooters to kill deer with high-powered rifles to cull the local herds.

In addition to carrying tick-borne illnesses, causing car accidents and adversely affecting other animal habitats, deer destroy an estimated $3 to $5 million worth of crops annually on the East End, according to Joe Gergela, LIFB executive director.

Gergela said the cull, which will be largely funded by a $200,000 state grant, aims to kill 1,500 to 2,000 deer. All processed meat will go to Island Harvest to feed the hungry on Long Island.

“We felt whatever we did with the grant should be for community as well as farming benefit,” Gergela said Wednesday, adding a cull is crucial to having a successful agricultural industry.

LIFB has asked that villages and towns who want the sharpshooters sign onto the program by committing $15,000 or $25,000, respectively.

The DEC has yet to reveal whether it will require a single permit for the program or make each municipality signing onto the program file individually. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said Tuesday although many municipalities have expressed interest in joining the program, they don’t want the legal liability of having the permit in their name.

So far, East Hampton Village, Southold Town and the eastern part of Brookhaven Town have signed on.

North Haven Village opted out, but is pursuing its own organized cull.

Sagaponack Village’s participation is contingent on the participation of both East Hampton and Southampton towns.

Southampton Town has thus far stayed mute on the subject — which has been under public discussion since September. Calls to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst were not returned as of press time.

The East Hampton Town Board, under the previous administration, adopted a deer management plan that included plans for a cull. On Tuesday, however, newly elected Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he was unsure if the town would, in fact, join the LIFB in this initiative.

“At the moment, it’s up in the air,” Cantwell said, adding he would like to see culling on a limited basis and there are advantages to participating, but the town’s decision will be based primarily on the opinions of its residents.

“To some extent,” said Cantwell, “this is happening fairly quickly in terms of building a community consensus moving forward.”

The East Hampton Group for the Wildlife, the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons and 13 individuals have filed suit against East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village and the East Hampton Town Trustees.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order against the town’s deer management plan and specifically, any proposal that calls for an organized cull.

“The lawsuit,” Cantwell said, “is certainly a factor in the decision-making process about this.”

Critics contend little information has been provided to show the cull is truly necessary.

“Killing other beings as a way of solving the problem is abhorrent, unethical and monstrous to me,” said East Hampton Group for the Wildlife President Bill Crain. “These are living beings with families and social lives and emotions, so to kill them just seems like a moral outrage.”

“It’s not about animal cruelty and all the nonsense that the Bambi lovers are spouting,” Gergela said. “If they would sit down and listen to people, they would realize there are no practical solutions other than to hunt or to cull.”

A petition on change.org to stop the “stealth plan to brutally slaughter 5,000 East End deer” had garnered over 10,600 signatures as of press time. In addition to local residents, activists from as far away as Belgium have signed the petition, which calls for the “unethical, ‘quick-fix,’ non-science-based plan” to “immediately cease and desist.”

A rally in protest of the cull will be held Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at the Hook Mill in East Hampton.

Gergela dismissed the opposition as a “vocal minority” of non-locals with “no vested interest other than they enjoy animals and they enjoy their peaceful weekend on Long Island.”

“That’s very nice,” he added, “but for those of us that live here, whether you’re a farmer or a general citizen that’s had an accident, that has Lyme Disease or whatever, everybody says to me, ‘You’re doing a great thing.’”

Local hunters have also expressed their opposition to the cull, arguing if state and local governments lessened hunting restrictions, they themselves could thin the deer population.

Terry Crowley, a lifelong Sagaponack resident whose family has been hunting on the East End for generations, called the cull “a little ridiculous.”

“They should just change a few laws so more deer can be killed,” Crowley said Tuesday.

Thiele is working on legislation that would implement the state deer management plan, which has a number of recommendations to increase hunting opportunities, including expanding the January season to include weekends and allow bow and arrow hunting.

Cantwell voiced his support of such legislation.

“I certainly want to work with the local hunters who want to take deer,” the supervisor said Tuesday, “because I do think that removing some deer from the population on an ongoing basis is necessary to control the population.”

DEC Releases Pesticide Pollution Prevention Strategy

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Late last month, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released a draft pollution prevention strategy for pesticide use on Long Island.

The proposed Pesticide Pollution Prevention (P2) Strategy proposed five actions to reduce threats to water resources from existing pesticide-related sources and prevent potential contamination from new sources.

According to the DEC, the purpose of the P2 Strategy is to enhance the protection of Long Island’s groundwater and surface water resources from pesticide-related contamination and thus prevent potential adverse effects on human health while continuing to meet pest management needs of farms, residents and businesses.

The DEC developed the P2 Strategy in response to concerns over the detection of pesticides in the groundwater over time at various locations on Long Island.

The P2 Strategy would start with a DEC pesticide assessment including an evaluation of the chemicals’ location, frequency and concentration on Long Island, as well as their reported use, and prioritization for potential preventive measures and available alternatives.

The P2 Strategy also calls for convening a Technical Review and Advisory Committee (TRAC) by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders involved in pest management and water quality protection on Long Island — state and local health departments and other governmental agencies, agricultural, commercial and other sectors that use pesticides, pesticide businesses, environmental groups, and academia — to partner with the DEC in implementing pest management pollution prevention measures.

Under the proposed P2 Strategy, the DEC would work to integrate pollution prevention measures including best management practices, water quality protection and enhanced monitoring of groundwater into pest management efforts.

In a press release issued last week, New York State Assemblyman Thiele encouraged anyone concerned with the health of Long Island’s groundwater resources to attend an April 3 public meeting on the proposal. That will be held at the Suffolk County Community College eastern campus in Riverhead from 7 to 9 p.m. with officials from the DEC available for queries from 6 to 7 p.m.

Through April 30 comments can also be emailed toLongIslandStrategy@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by fax to 518-402-9024. Comments can also be mailed to Scott Menrath, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Materials Management, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.

“The East End of Long Island’s economy is dependent upon a healthy and productive environment,” said Thiele. “With Suffolk County being New York’s largest revenue-producing agricultural region, we need to ensure that our farms and vineyards can still produce economically sustainable crops yield. At the same time, we also need to preserve ground and surface water quality to help support our commercial and recreational fishing and shellfishing industries. We need workable solutions for managing pesticide use that won’t harm our economy or environment.”

For more information, please visit DEC’s website at

http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/87125.html.

DEC Reopens Sag Harbor Shellfishing

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Approximately 490 acres of shellfish lands in Sag Harbor Cove, Town of Southampton, is re-opening for the harvest of shellfish, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. These areas were closed on April 26, after DEC’s Bureau of Marine Resources detected saxitoxin, a naturally occurring marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, in shellfish in Sag Harbor Cove.

Effective at sunrise on Friday, May 25 the biotoxin closure for shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters) is rescinded in all of the normally certified shellfish lands in Sag Harbor Cove, including upper Sag Harbor Cove. The biotoxin closure for carnivorous gastropods (conch, whelks, moon snails, etc.) is also rescinded for all of Sag Harbor Cove, including upper Sag Harbor Cove.

In addition, the DEC is rescinding the prohibition against taking carnivorous gastropods in Shinnecock Bay. Approximately 3,900 acres of underwater lands in western Shinnecock Bay was closed to the harvest of carnivorous gastropods on April 10. Effective at sunrise on Friday, May 25, the taking of carnivorous gastropods is permitted in all of Shinnecock Bay.

The decision to re-open these areas was based on the results of the DEC’s testing of shellfish samples and is consistent with the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. DEC’s microbiology laboratory has tested more than 150 shellfish samples for biotoxin since March 2012.

East Hampton Fisherman Continue Quest to End Warrantless Search & Seizures by the DEC

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Following a request last month by a group of East Hampton baymen, acting New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott has begun investigating what some fishermen view as the illegal seizure of fish and shellfish by officers of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

However, the baymen’s attorney, Daniel G. Rodgers of Riverhead, said he has also asked the Inspector General’s office to investigate whether officers confiscating fish and shellfish related to cases and selling it, rather than finding a way to save it for trial, actually flies in the face of the agencies own laws.

On Monday, Rodgers — surrounded by the Lester family and fisherman Larry Keller — said he and his clients had met with investigators in the Inspector General’s office last Friday.

Rodgers’ clients have asked the state to investigate warrant-less searches and subsequent seizures of fish and shellfish by DEC officers who believe a fisherman has violated fishery law. It’s a decades-long practice they contend violates their Constitutional rights. In light of the fact that much of the seafood confiscated is sold by DEC officers to local fish markets or simply dumped off a vessel, Rodgers has also asked for a forensic audit of the proceeds of those sales. He’s also asked for the overall lose in revenue for local fisherman, particularly since some of the DEC’s cases against these individuals are later overturned.

Rodgers said because the seizures happen before any trial, and property is not returned or restitution provided to fishermen found innocent of Conservation Law violations, a full forensic inquiry by the state was necessary to restore public faith.

He has found support from local government leaders, including New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., and State Senators Ken LaValle and Lee Zeldin, who have drafted legislation that would eliminate the DEC’s ability to seize fish or equipment from fishermen without a warrant.

“The Investigator General’s Office is taking this very seriously,” said Rodgers. “And we are grateful for that.”

Rodgers said the DEC’s explanation for why they should be able to search property such as backyards, trucks and boats (though not inside  baymen’s homes, which are protected),  is because fish should be considered “mobile,” as in something that can get away and therefore enforcement rules need to be relaxed so DEC officers can do their jobs.

“Well, we call that Constitutional relaxation,” said Rodgers. “And everyone knows there is no such thing as Constitutional relaxation. It is a fixed document. You cannot relax the rules from one individual to another.”

Worse, said Rodgers, is he believes it is possible DEC officers are breaking their own laws by seizing fish and selling it rather than retaining it for trial.

“While DEC officials continually point to rules to search and seize properties, seemingly they do not follow the rules that require them to follow some minimal role in Constitutional restraint,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers cited New York State environmental law that specifically deals with the powers and duties of enforcement officers — the very section that gives officers the explicit authority to seize fish, shellfish, game or plumage without a warrant. In that section of law, Rodgers said it demands that if officers seize fish or shellfish without a warrant they must retain custody of that property until the determination of any prosecution in which it is being held for evidence.

“DEC officers have been violating their own rules by illegally converting that property of fisherman and paying [the department] with the proceeds,” said Rodgers. “Fisherman are getting ripped off, possibly in the many thousands of dollars.”

Rodgers said he immediately brought this to the attention of the Inspector General, and hopes it will be added to the overall investigation into the DEC’s regulation of East Hampton baymen.

“Part of the argument is, what is the alternative,” noted Rodgers. “If any officer attempts to confiscate fish, shellfish, lobsters or any other food fish how will they keep it for trial? Well, frankly, that is not my problem. If you are going to confiscate someone’s fish as evidence for trial in a criminal case, the law says you must keep it safe until a determination is made by court. That is called due process.”

Many baymen and fisherman, added Rodgers, have had to watch for years as their livelihood was seized, knowing it would be sold or thrown back into the water before their guilt was ever determined.

Two of Rodgers’ many clients, siblings Paul and Kelly Lester, had a case against them dismissed last summer by East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana. They were charged with possession of untagged fluke, for having fluke over the daily catch limit and for not having a permit to sell shellfish from a roadside stand in front of their Amagansett homes.

According to Rodgers, in that case the DEC came onto the Lester’s property without a warrant and seized the fish, selling it to a nearby fish market.

Despite attempts, no restitution for the $200 in fish has been offered by the DEC.

“A drunk driver has a vehicle seized if he has more than one conviction in New York State,” said Rodgers, a criminal defense attorney by trade. “A drunk driver has more due process rights in getting a vehicle back than a fisherman in trying to get back the fish they worked hard all day to catch.”

“That is how crazy this system is,” he added. “A drunk driver has more due process rights. They are entitled to a hearing, they are entitled to notice, they are entitled to a lawyer and are actually heard on whether or not their vehicle should be taken from them. The fishermen get squat, they get nothing and I think that is part of the inherent unfairness of this system.”

Image: Riverhead attorney Daniel Rodgers with a group of East Hampton baymen and fishermen on Monday evening. Rodgers is helping the group fight for the end of what they call illegal searches and seizures of their fish and shellfish.

Shellfishing Closed in Sag Harbor Cove After Toxin is Detected

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Photo courtesy of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Sag Harbor and Upper Sag Harbor Coves have been closed for the harvesting of shellfish until further notice. This news came after the state discovered a marine biotoxin in the coves last week. The toxin — saxitoxin — can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.

On Thursday, April 26 The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) closed the 490 acres of the coves and their tributaries west of the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

According to DEC officials, the decision to close the area to shellfishing came after the toxin was discovered in shellfish collected from a monitoring site in Sag Harbor Cove.

In addition to shellfish, residents are also prohibited from harvesting carnivorous gastropods like conch as those creatures feed on shellfish and may also have accumulated the toxin at levels that are hazardous to human health.

According to a spokesperson with the regional office of the DEC, Aphrodite Montalvo, the toxin discovered in Sag Harbor Cove is a neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring algae such as Alexandrium, a marine dinoflagellate that is often attributed to the notorious red tide.

The species is most commonly found in environments with high nitrogen levels.

In the last year, both Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister and Dr. Christopher Gobler, an associate professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, have presented findings showing that the increased density of residential development across Long Island has spiked nitrogen levels in waters leading to both red and brown tides.

Earlier in April, DEC closed areas in western Shinnecock Bay as well as Northport Harbor and parts of Northport Bay for the harvesting of shellfish for the same reason. Those bodies of water remain closed.

According to Montalvo, the DEC will test shellfish in the coves sometime this week. Following guidelines from the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP), Montalvo said the DEC will need to produce three clean tests on shellfish in Sag Harbor Cove over a two week period before it can open the area to shellfish harvesting again.

Areas that have tested positive for toxins, added Montalvo, are sampled weekly by the DEC. Currently, said Montalvo, the DEC has 18 monitoring sites around Long Island set up each early spring before algae blooms are expected to occur. Those stations are tested weekly until the blooms decline, which usually happens in late June or early July depending on the temperature of the water.

The DEC also receives oyster samples from two aquaculture facilities for regular testing, said Montalvo.

For the many families raising oysters in Sag Harbor Cove, Montalvo said that during the closure residents should be mindful that shellfish that take in the algae can accumulate enough toxin in their flesh to be harmful if consumed with the potential to cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. However, she added that being filter feeders, once the algae bloom dissipates the shellfish will filter the toxin out of its flesh as it takes in clean water and will be safe for consumption over time.

In its news release last week, the DEC said it would re-open areas to shellfishing as soon as possible based on the results of further testing. For updates on the closure, call the DEC’s hotline at 444-0480 or contact the DEC’s main shellfishing office at 444-0475.

Town Aims to Increase Recycling Efforts

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By Claire Walla


Christine Fetten is developing a 15-year plan for waste reduction. As Southampton Town’s Director of Facilities Management, she’s been tasked to lead the effort to improve the long-term recycling system laid-out in the town’s overall Comprehensive Plan, which will span through 2025. And as part of this plan, she aims to track every pound of recyclable material that leaves this town, ensuring it all gets disposed of in the most environmentally sound way possible.

Overall, she said the Town of Southampton is recycling more than the national average, for which only an estimated 33 percent of households are actually reported to recycle. Of the residents who use the town’s transfer stations, Fetten said about 51 percent separate out recyclables from their rubbish.

However, she went on to explain that only 15 percent of Southampton Town residents actually use the town’s transfer stations. This is where enforcing recycling efforts can become tricky.

This is not to say 85 percent of the Town of Southampton is not recycling — Fetten made that clear. But, it does mean that 85 percent of town residents use private carters, and where those recyclables end up, Fetten said, is unknown at this point.

But this is just what Fetten aims to find out.

Southampton Town is required to draft a waste management plan by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The town initially set to work on this document in collaboration with environmental consultants from CDM (Camp Dresser & McKee) and Smith Associates, who recommended the town continue operating its transfer stations. (In addition to facilities in Hampton Bays, Westhampton and North Sea, there is also a smaller transfer station in Sag Harbor.)

However, part of continuing operations included one crucial caveat: “The DEC wants us to gain more information on what all of the town’s garbage is doing,” Fetten explained.

Thus, her department will begin issuing permits to commercial carters in an effort to begin tracking that information.

“We’re looking to obtain: tonnage collected, tonnage disposed of, ultimately tonnage recycled and the location of the receiving facilities and the routes,” Fetten continued.

By collecting this information, Fetten said the town will “Gain an idea of the recycling rates in all parts of the town.”

Currently, she said the town itself is making all efforts to dispose of waste products in ways that minimize their impact on the environment.

“We bring our co-mingled [garbage] to the town of Brookhaven,” Fetten explained. “Plastics are generally baled and loaded into a trailer for overseas transportation containment.”

She said paper is also baled and sent overseas, but the town receives money for these recyclables.

“Waste management is set up to be an enterprise account,” Fetten continued.

So, the fees associated with the sale of recyclable materials go toward running the town’s transfer stations. So does the sale of compost to commercial carters, which is $2 a yard when loaded on site, and $3 a yard when delivered by the town. (It’s free for residents.)

“In addition to being sustainable, we need to make sure we’re covering our costs.”

Fetten said the town sends recyclable materials (paper, cardboard and metal) to Gershow Recyclables in Nassau County; it sends e-waste (including computers, cellular phones and televisions) to e-Scrap Destruction up island; and it takes all other recyclable materials (including glass and plastic) to Brookhaven Town’s recycling facilities, where Fetten said they are reduced and reused.

However, not all materials that can be are currently recycled. Fetten said her department is looking into ways to properly dispose of batteries and Styrofoam. While rechargeable batteries can most often be returned to the store where they were purchased, at this point Fetten said alkaline batteries can only be chucked into green bags, which eventually end up at a landfill.

The same is true for Styrofoam.

“There’s no longer a recycling facility on Long Island for that,” she explained. “At least not that I know of. That’s why it goes in a green bag [used for generic trash].”

She said the town is looking into opportunities to ultimately bale these products and then sell the materials for market value.

In the end, while Fetten said the town will continue to explore the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable recycling options, and will continue to explore newer recycling technologies, she said the overall message is tied to a much bigger picture.

According to statistics compiled by CDM & Smith Associates, individuals in the Town of Southampton generate an average of 4.43 pounds of waste materials a day. And with a year-round population of 60,000, which is estimated to climb to 180,000 in the summer months, Fetten said, “that’s a lot of waste!”

The ultimate goal is waste reduction, she continued. In part, this is contingent on state and federal governments, which have the power to introduce new technologies, like soy-based Styrofoam, which decomposes instead of being co-mingled with regular rubbish and tossed in a landfill.

But, on the local level, Fetten said the town needs to work on fostering sustainability goals and options. Not only encouraging residents to recycle, but teaching them how to cut-down on their waste from the get-go.

“There are so many different opportunities for the population to make choices” about the materials they use, Fetten continued. “That’s really the goal of our education and outreach program: To provide that information to the public.”

The public comment period on the town’s Waste Management Plan will be open through January 31. The public is invited to review the plan online or in the town clerk’s office, and submit comments.