Fishery in Connecticut would have harmed Long Island Sound food web, other wildlife

Environment Connecticut

New Haven, Ct.—Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Save the Sound, Audubon Connecticut, the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club, Environment Connecticut, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Rivers Alliance and recreational anglers celebrate Governor Malloy’s veto of Public Act 14-190. If passed, the law could have allowed a fishing season for glass eels, the juvenile form of the American eel. The American Eel is currently under consideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a candidate for the Endangered Species list.

Glass eels are a crucial part of the regions’ aquatic ecosystem. They’re a key component of the food web that keeps the Sound healthy and thriving—allowing an eel fishery would have seriously damaged a major food source for larger fish and migratory birds.

A group of state representatives worked hard to protect these eels after the legislation was passed, with Representative Mary Mushinsky spearheading an effort to request the veto; 22 other legislators joined her in signing a letter to the governor.

“We thank the Governor for vetoing this bill, which would have put already-threatened American eel at greater risk,” said Leah Lopez Schmalz, director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound. “Glass eels are a crucial part of the marine food web, not just in the Sound but in rivers throughout the Northeast and in the Atlantic. Save the Sound and the state of Connecticut have devoted significant funds to restoring safe migratory access for these eels in rivers across the state, and we’re pleased they’ll continue to be protected from fishing so they can return to the abundance they once enjoyed.”

“Governor Malloy’s veto of this ill-advised legislation demonstrates an understanding of the importance of protecting Connecticut’s environment and the wildlife it supports. It also further demonstrates the need to have environmental leaders in elected office, like Representative Mary Mushinsky and the other lawmakers who worked to defeat this legislation and who are watching out for the public’s best interest when it comes to Connecticut’s natural resources,” said Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters.

“We welcome the governor’s veto as a positive step towards protecting our river ecosystems,” said Margaret Miner, executive director of Rivers Alliance. “As a group that frequently works to remove dams and other barriers to migration on our rivers, we know first-hand how important it is to restore Connecticut’s aquatic wildlife populations and how counterproductive it would be to allow a fishery for eels, a population that hangs in the balance.”

“The Sierra Club is very much concerned about depletion of our natural resources for the short term economic benefit of just a few,” said Martin Mador, legislative and political chair for the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club. “The Governor’s veto of HB 5417 helps protect the Atlantic coast glass eel population, and is very much appreciated.”

“The late-night deal cut by legislators to allow fishing for threatened glass eels in return for passing the moratorium on dumping of toxic fracking waste was outrageous. We applaud Governor Malloy for doing the right thing by vetoing the glass eel fishing bill,” said Chris Phelps, Environment Connecticut campaign director.

“Connecticut should be creating policies that defend threatened species, not ones that seek to profit from their demise,” said Louis Burch of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We applaud Governor Malloy for his leadership in rejecting this shortsighted legislation and protecting glass eels.”

“Audubon Connecticut applauds Governor Malloy for taking this action to ensure that one of our most amazing migratory species, the American eel, remains protected at the start of its life as a glass eel,” said Sandy Breslin, director of governmental affairs for Audubon Connecticut, the state office of the National Audubon Society. “Until we have a better scientific understanding of existing population levels and threats, careful stewardship of this rapidly declining species is the best way to guarantee a robust fishery in the future.”

“Bluefish and striped bass get a lot of the attention, but they don’t come out of nowhere,” said Kierran Broatch, a Milford-based fisherman who runs the popular Connecticut Yankee recreational fishing blog. “Without glass eels and the big American eels they grow into, there wouldn’t be as many game fish to catch. I’m dead set against a fishery for glass eels—it makes no sense to take advantage of a species that’s already struggling. Life is best for fishermen when the whole ecosystem is strong and able to sustain large populations of fish.”