NY: DEC plans to loosen baitfish limitations Issue: 5

Western N.Y. may get transportation corridor for

Albany – DEC is planning to soften its baitfish transport
regulations on the heels of strong criticism from western New York
anglers as well as bait dealers who say the rules have crippled
their business.

DEC announced late last month it is developing regulations that
will create a “transportation corridor” where baitfish can be
transported overland for use in the same water where they were

Current state regulations prohibit overland motorized transport of
baitfish, including personally collected baitfish and baitfish
collected for commercial sale. That rule was implemented in 2007
after an outbreak of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a disease
that can cause internal bleeding and death in certain fish, in the
Great Lakes system and several other waters in 2005 and 2006.

The transport restriction has hamstrung anglers, notably those
using emerald shiners, a popular and plentiful baitfish in the
Great Lakes system used primarily by perch anglers.

Baitfish prices skyrocketed on the heels of DEC requirements that
baitfish being transported overland needed to be certified as
“disease-free,” and baitfish dealers saw their costs soar and sales

“And all this time no bait was being rejected (during testing);
they weren’t finding VHS in emerald shiners,” said Bill Van Camp,
owner of Big Catch Bait & Tackle in Buffalo. “VHS is really a
hatchery problem, and DEC has been putting a hatchery problem on

DEC officials said that while VHS was the primary concern, other
“serious fish pathogens” were also addressed when the rule was

But anglers and baitfish dealers in western New York have argued
for the creation of a transport corridor since the regulations were
put into effect, but especially after no additional outbreaks of
VHS were seen.

Other Great Lakes states – Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan – and
the Canadian province of Ontario established regulations that
allowed for the overland transport of baitfish along corridors so
bait dealers and anglers could use and sell bait from the waters in
which they were taken.

DEC fisheries biologists and their colleagues in other states in
September of 2009 put together a document justifying overland
transport of baitfish along a Lake Erie/Upper Niagara River
corridor, but it wasn’t until last July that a public forum on the
issue was held in western New York.

DEC, in a prepared statement announcing the proposed softening of
the baitfish transport regulations, noted that “anglers have voiced
concern that the overland transport restriction impedes their
ability to use personally collected baitfish on the same body of
water from which the baitfish are collected. In response to these
concerns, DEC solicited public input on several alternatives for
revisions to the rule at a number of public meetings and through
the submission of written comments during the summer of 2010. These
comments will be taken into consideration in the upcoming

Pat Van Camp says the lag time has cost baitfish dealers thousands
of dollars, and also cost anglers through higher baitfish

“At one time we were the biggest wholesaler in the Northeast,” she
said. “We’ve gone from 18 employees down to one. It’s costing
fishermen $50 for baitfish that should cost $20.”

The Van Camps purchase certified baitfish from another wholesaler
now. Bill Van Camp says quarterly testing for VHS or even
once-a-year testing of baitfish would have been sufficient.

DEC is planning to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking this
month, which will be followed by a 45-day public comment

Acting DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in the prepared news
release that he appreciated “the helpful criticism of the
department’s existing baitfish regulations, and we are revising the
rule accordingly. Fishing is an important part of our outdoor
sports economy, and we expect anglers will welcome this change and
support our common goal of protecting New York’s world-class

State Sen. Mark Grisanti, chairman of the Senate Environmental
Conservation Committee and a western New York lawmaker, applauded
DEC for “taking a common sense approach to an issue that has been
especially harmful to the residents of western New York.”

Anglers and baitfish dealers, however, say it took the state much
too long for that common sense to take hold.

Additional background information on the current overland transport
regulation is available on DEC’s website:
www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/47282.html .

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