Wednesday, April 30, 2008

No Shad

Back in the 1980s, the Soundkeeper sued Norwalk to get the city to upgrade its then-abominable sewage treatment plant. John Cronin, who was then the Hudson Riverkeeper, went to Norwalk to help announce the suit and, to drive his point home about how bad water quality was, said that at the upcoming Norwalk Oyster Festival, they wouldn't even be serving oysters from Norwalk.

I remembered that a decade later when someone told me that there were so few shad left in the Hudson that Cronin was on his way down to the Delaware River to buy shad to serve at Riverkeeper's annual Hudson River shad-fest.

And now another decade or so has past and the Riverkeeper's shad-fest has come to this: shad will be completely missing from the menu:

For the past few years, Riverkeeper, the Hudson River conservation group, has been easing the fish off the menu of the festival it stages in Garrison, N.Y. This year’s event, on May 18, will be completely shad-free.

The issue is simple conservation. Shad swim from the ocean to the upper reaches of rivers each spring to spawn. In the Hudson River, the number of shad has been dwindling because of overfishing and decades of environmental sins.

This year, some biologists predict the run might be the smallest in memory, prompting the state Department of Conservation to enact emergency restrictions on commercial and recreational shad fishing. The shad is the only Hudson River fish that can be sold commercially.

In a show of support for Riverkeeper’s decision, shad was taken off the menu at the Hudson River Maritime Festival May 10, too. Their motto: Please don’t eat the shad. Save the shad.


If you want to read something else that is sad, in retrospect, read William Warner's Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. Sad because the incredible bounty he wrote about 40 years ago has been so severely compromised, in the same way that the Hudson has been compromised by the loss of shad and Long Island Sound compromised by the loss of lobsters. I read Warner's book while I was working on mine, just as I read Bob Boyle's The Hudson River: A Natural and Unnatural History. Warner died yesterday at age 88.

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Blogger John said...

The end of so many fisheries is really sad. Maryland and Virginia just had to enact new restrictions on crabbing because the Chesapeake is so poor now.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...

Overfishing may not be confined to humans. The striped bass population in the Hudson River has been robust for a number of years, and stripers do feed on river herring, such as shad.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Up in Essex, CT we used to have a giant shad run BBQ every year, a big deal. They'd get fishermen from Old Saybrook to Haddam to sell some fish cheap and for a few bucks you could eat all you wanted. There was some beer involved ... but definitely family fun.

Shad is a poor man's dish, and is often just cleaned and split and thrown on a giant BBQ with loads of butter, lemon, pepper, and whatever mopped on, about 5 minutes a side. I liked it, although it's certainly not sushi grade stuff except for the roe. Sure, some did tomato sauce and all that ... but not the Essex shad festival.

That was back when an enterprising fisherman could catch 10,000 pounds a season and donate a bunch to the cause. I don't even know if there's any left in the Connecticut these days, not the tons we used to see. /sam

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Joe Zaientz said...

My name is Joe Zaientz; I have a shad museum in Higganum,Ct.This year there was a slight increase of shad in the Ct. River which gives us hope for the future. There were enough fish netted to provide sales at the supermarkets and for shad bakes. The shad sold are usually deboned by skilled deboners because most people are turned off by the many bones. The fish is delicious as well as the roe(the female fish eggs).Check out the Haddam Shad Museum on your search engine.

5:23 PM  

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