Fisheries Past and Present

The Hudson River is blessed with high fish biodiversity for a temperate estuary, with more than 210 species recorded from its entire watershed (Chapters 13,14).The Hudson once supported rich commercial fisheries throughout its tidal waters. American shad were landed along the entire river, even across from Manhattan. Today, nearly all of its native fishes survive - some in robust numbers -but its commercialfisheries are almost extinct, shut down in 1976 because of contamination with PCBs. Among finfish, only American shad (a species that spends most of its life outside the system) are still harvested for profit, albeit in limited numbers as both fish and fishermen dwindle. Blue crabs, at the very northern limit of their range, also are caught by commercial and recreational fishers alike.

Other formerly important commercial fishes are protected from any harvest or from commercial fishing alone. Shortnose sturgeon appear to have quadrupled in stock size since the 1970s, yet remain off limits to all fishing because of their listing as a federally endangered species. Atlantic sturgeon -the behemoth of the river, once reaching 12 feet and 800 pounds - have been protected from all harvest in U.S. waters since 1998. Striped bass, formerly a major commercial species, can only be legally taken by anglers. However, the Hudson's striped bass population has grown enormously over the past two decades and it now supports a regionally-important recreational fishery during springtime for large, spawning-size fish.

Resident freshwater fishes such as channel catfish, white catfish, brown bullhead, yellow perch, and white perch are fished recreationally despite consumption advisories. The two non-native black basses-largemouthandsmallmouthbass-arealso avidly sought in the Hudson, where they form the basis of catch-and-release tournament fisheries.

Electric generating stations that withdraw Hudson River water for cooling purposes have caused considerable mortality of young life stages of Hudson River fishes, but their eventual replacement with modern facilities which use far less water should reduce these effects. Long-term reductions in PCB levels should allowfor greater enjoyment of the river's fish resources.

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