Did you know you can catch fish in the East River? 100% genuine, living (un-mutated) fish (as well as a lot of other, less pleasant items). And - thanks to environmental educators extraordinaire, Luis Gonzalez and Emily Sherrod from the City Parks Foundation - we had a chance to try catching some ourselves!
Part of our East River State Park Summer Series (check out our upcoming events here), this workshop focused on our City’s coastal ecology, and the East River specifically. With their roving ‘Coastal Classroom,’ Luis and Emily showed us specimens from animals that can be found around NYC, including oysters, horseshoe crabs, spider crabs, this crazy necklace (read: dried eggshells from the Knobbed Whelk), and more.
One of the important takeaways of the workshop was the reminder of how much does exist around us, despite how we have polluted - and continue to pollute - our watersheds and waterways. And perhaps just as important - how plants and animals that had been driven out can return if we improve the conditions of our environment. The salmon returning to the Elwha River in Washington after removal of the Elwha Dam is a good example, as is the return of humpback whales right here in the City.
Now, to the fun stuff! Participants donned waders and braved the swift current to try their hand at seining. Seining is an ancient art - when done without boats, it is a kind of low-impact trawling - and is practiced by people all over the world.
A long net is unrolled and placed in the water (which can be a river, stream, lake, or ocean). Once fish are located, either end of the net is dragged quickly onto shore, while being careful to keep the bottom of the net low so fish don’t escape. It took a few tries - but we managed to catch (and release, don’t worry!!!) a ton of Atlantic silversides, a small fish that can be found all along the Atlantic (and was recently spotted at an NYC Farmer’s Market selling for $9/lb!).
And - thanks to the keen eyes of a couple on the beach - we found and rescued this soft-shelled turtle, whom we named Shirley. The turtle is from the Trionychidae family, and needs freshwater, so the fact that she was on the beach near the East River (a brackish mix of salt and freshwater) means she was likely dumped by a pet owner who couldn’t keep her anymore. She is also suffering from shell-rot, possibly from improper care by the owner, another reason people should never keep wild animals - or any animals - unless they are committed to ensuring their well-being and safety. Luckily, Parks Staff was able to quickly contact the Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve on Staten Island, and they are working on rehabilitating her. We will keep our fingers crossed for you, Shirley!
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