- The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced changes to current state regulations banning the overland transport of uncertified baitfish by anglers, including baitfish that are personally collected. The proposed revisions in the Notice of Proposed Rule Making filed would allow for the overland transport of personally collected baitfish within three specified transportation corridors, as long as the baitfish are used in the same waters from which they are collected.
"We are responding to concerns that regulations adopted in 2007 to protect New York's world class fish stocks were overly restrictive," Commissioner Joe Martens
said. "While we are pleased to relax the current ban within defined corridors along specific waterbodies, we are counting on full support of anglers for the Department's efforts to limit the spread of fish disease organisms throughout the state."
The three transportation corridors include: along Lake Erie-Upper Niagara River; the Lower Niagara River-Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River; and, the Hudson River from the Federal Dam at Troy downstream to the Tappan Zee Bridge. The designated waterbodies also include their tributaries upstream to the first impassable barrier to fish. Only certified disease-free baitfish may be transported in motorized vehicles outside of the transportation corridors specified in the proposed regulations. Details of the transportation corridors are contained in the proposed regulations and may be viewed on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/73305.html .
New York's current fish health regulations were established shortly after Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) was first confirmed in New York waters in May, 2006 in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. VHS is a disease that causes hemorrhaging of the fish's tissues, including internal organs. There is no known cure for VHS. In June 2007, DEC finalized regulations to help prevent the spread of VHS and other fish diseases into New York's inland waters.
The introduction of infected fish into additional uninfected fish populations, including baitfish, is a common pathway for the spread of fish pathogens. The strict prohibition
on overland (motorized) transport of uncertified baitfish that was put into effect in 2007 was intended to ensure that the use of uncertified baitfish was limited to the same body of water from which it was collected. Allowing transport within these defined corridors will still contain the movement of baitfish, including retaining the requirement that uncertified baitfish only be used in the same waterbody from which it has been collected. With strict compliance, the risk of spreading VHS and other fish pathogens into uninfected waterbodies should not be increased.
DEC's proposed regulations will:
• Allow the overland motorized transport of uncertified baitfish that are collected for personal use within the identified transportation corridor. Such baitfish may only be used in the water from which they were collected.
• Allow the overland motorized transport of uncertified baitfish by anglers purchasing the baitfish from licensed bait dealers located within one of the transportation corridors (provided the seller has obtained a permit from DEC to sell uncertified baitfish). The seller must provide the purchaser with a receipt that identifies the waterbody from which the bait was collected. That waterbody is the only place where the baitfish may be used.
• Impose no restrictions on the number of uncertified baitfish that may be collected or purchased for personal use in the waterbodies associated with the transportation corridors. Also, such fish may be retained or preserved in any manner within the boundaries of the corridors. They may not be transported outside of the transportation corridors.
• Continue to subject any commercial sale of uncertified baitfish to a permit issued by the Department.
"Statewide Legislation establishing baitfish transportation corridors was an idea that was proposed by and has been long-awaited by the local angling community," said Dave Woodworth
, President of Southtowns Walleye Association of Western New York. "Transport corridors will adequately address the biological dangers of baitfish transportation while alleviating the heavy regulatory pressure that currently limits anglers. Once enacted, new baitfish regulations will improve local angling opportunities by making fishing more affordable and convenient."
If adopted, the Department will monitor and evaluate the impact of the rule to ensure the proposed transportation corridors do not compromise efforts to guard against the movement of uncertified baitfish beyond the water from which the baitfish were collected. Future regulatory amendments may be necessary based on those evaluations.
Anglers and other interested persons can provide comments on the proposed rule making during a 45-day public comment period which begins April 6, 2011. Comments on proposed rule making being submitted by e-mail should be forwarded to email@example.com or mailed to Shaun Keeler, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.