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Hudson River Fish in Peril

US - A report commissioned by conservation group Riverkeeper reveals that many Hudson River fish are in serious long-term decline.

Of 13 key species studied, 10 have declined in abundance since the 1980s including shad, tomcod and white perch.

Three species, striped bass, bluefish and spottail shiner, have increased due to circumstantial changes that favour them.

Other important species not included in the study, such as the American eel, also show long-term declines. Despite the public perception that the Hudson River is in good health, the new evidence indicates an increasingly unstable ecosystem and long-term declines for signature Hudson River fish species.

The report, The Status of Fish Populations and the Ecology of the Hudson ("Pisces Report"), was produced by Pisces Conservation Ltd.

Power plants kill fish in staggering numbers according to Riverkeeper.

Every year, power plants withdraw more than 70 trillion gallons of water from US oceans, rivers, lakes and reservoirs, killing billions of adult and juvenile fish and shellfish, larvae, eggs and other organisms.

Power plants use the water to cool their facilities and discharge heated water back into the rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Technology exists, however, that would dramatically reduce the numbers of fish killed by power plant cooling systems.

Riverkeeper said it has fought to have closed-cycle cooling, the "best technology available" (BTA), installed in all Hudson River power plants, as required by the Clean Water Act. Closed-cycle cooling would eliminate 95% of the massive fish kills currently caused by the power plants.

For its power plant litigation, Riverkeeper asked Pisces Conservation to analyze the state of fish in the Hudson, using data collected by the power plants themselves since the 1980s. Pisces’ report found that the temperature of Hudson River water has risen 2 °C (3.6 °F) since the 1960s, which results in less dissolved oxygen in the water, and increases the impact of thermal discharges and other stresses on the fish. Hudson River power plants have claimed that "the Hudson River has a healthy and robust fish population."

The decline of Hudson River fish has serious implications for the health of ocean fisheries, because the Hudson is one of the most important estuaries along the Atlantic seaboard, serving as a critical spawning ground and nursery for many Atlantic species.