Wednesday, May 9, 2012

To Fish or Not to Fish in City Parks? -- That is the Question

(Photos: 1-- Brad and Wiggly at Harlem Meer yesterday. Subdued and quiet.  2-- Lone goose taking time to recover at Meer? -- Still a mystery.) 
It was rainy and overcast yesterday when returning back to Harlem Meer.
There were few people, few birds and a silent kind of veil hung over the lake as if in mourning or recuperation from events of the past weekend.
Gone were boisterous kids chasing birds, standing with fishing poles on small rocks in lake or dangling loose fishing line into the water.  Gone were the guys casting long fishing lines directly into the area where the few mallards and one goose huddled in the water. And of course, gone was Piggly, one of the three, flightless ducks attempting to make a home at the Meer.
It seems all of the chaotic activity of the past weekend proved too much for the one duck to ultimately survive -- despite making it through the challenges of the entire winter.
I found Brad and Wiggly together, standing on small cobble steps leading into the water at the east side of the lake.  They appeared subdued and quiet -- like everything else yesterday.
Its strange that as much as Brad and Piggly were in constant chatting communication with each other, Brad and Wiggly barely communicate at all. But, perhaps that will change in time.  Perhaps they are just a bit stunned right now just having experienced the loss of their highly animated companion.
I stopped to briefly chat with a couple of area residents passing through the area.  Nice people who seemingly enjoyed and value the park and its (now, scant) waterfowl.
I realized it is not the area residents who are responsible for the seeming mayhem and rule- breaking of this past weekend and other times throughout the "fishing season" at Harlem Meer.
I believe most of the responsibility for the unsavory and illegal activities at Harlem Meer lies with the Dana "Discovery" Center (that rents out fishing equipment and fails to monitor how it is used),  as well as the DEC which, according to the CP Conservancy, mandates that fishing be allowed throughout Central Park.
I have never been a "fan" of fishing. One could say that I just don't "get" the appeal of hooking small fish on a line, gawking for photos with the struggling, wiggling creatures and then, (after what seems like long minutes), finally unhooking and tossing the stunned animals back into the water as is required by park rules.
But, I never complained about the fishing in Central Park until last year. The feeling was that as long as the fisherpeople obeyed the rules and respected the natural widlife, then it was fruitless to bitch about the activity -- even though not personally liked or understood.
But, last year a number of things occurred that hastened personal disdain for the so-called, "sport:"
*  While walking along a pedestrian path one Sunday (at the Meer) with my on-leash dogs, fishing line wrapped around one of my dog's legs. When attempting to free the fishing line off my dog, it became ensnared around me with the hook at the end, jabbing my finger.  Almost in a panic, it required 15 minutes of searching around the park (with fishing line wrapped around me) for a cop to finally cut it.
*  Exiting Lasker Swimming Pool one summer evening, a fisherman cast a huge line in back of him which almost hit me.  I had to jump and duck out of the way to avoid getting smacked and ensnared in more fishing line.
*  Young children hooking a turtle at end of fishing line. Neither the kids nor the adults they were with, knew how to unhook and free the turtle from the line.
* Among disturbing sights witnessed last year was one teenager with a bucket full of dead fish ("catch and release" only).  The kid gave some of the dead fish to other kids passing by.  Kids and fisherman routinely going into "off limit" areas and fishing from rocks (as is occurring now). Fisherman constantly casting long lines directly in front of ducks and other waterfowl.  Fisherman carelessly leaving garbage around (plastic bottles and bags) that eventually wind up in lake, possibly polluting it and creating unsightly mess. 
*  Most disturbing of all, was the crippled Canada goose with fishing line totally engorged around one leg.   The goose could neither stand nor walk without toppling over.  Attempts to rescue the goose failed because s/he was able to still fly and was "guarded" and protected by two other companion geese.
All of these incidents (and others) resulted in my writing one letter to the President of the Conservancy and making numerous calls of complaint to both, Central Park Conservancy and the DEC.
But, apparently to little, if any avail -- as has also been lamented and reported by other park goers and nature lovers.
Terry Carta of the Central Park Conservancy told me yesterday that the Dana Center has "cut back" on some of the fishing invites it issues to "groups of kids" and others and some of the equipment it rents out.
But, it is hard to see evidence of that claim -- especially over the past weekend when there were far more kids and adults fishing at Harlem Meer than there were ducks, geese or any other wildlife in the area.   One suspects that many of the mallards, geese, egrets, herons and other waterfowl leave when the fishing arrives, but that is hard to prove.
Yesterday, there was just one fisherman at Harlem Meer in the rain.
But, I believe the Dana Center is closed on Tuesdays. (Perhaps the real reason for the sense of peace and tranquility yesterday at the Meer?)
As I waked towards the exit of Harlem Meer yesterday, I noted the one, lone goose still in the same grassy area behind the snack stand to the east of Harlem Meer.
I am not sure what exactly is going on with this one goose that she rarely moves from the spot or attempts to find her flock.  It is indeed a mystery.
I am merely hoping that the one goose will be left in peace until such time a potential injury has chance to heal or other geese fly in to aid in protecting her.
Better to see other geese fly back to the Meer than the seedy, disrespectful elements that the unrestrained fishing appears to attract.
Elements that seem to have little regard for anything -- least of all, the fish, turtles or domestic, flightless ducks on a park lake.
Perhaps if we could ever get the illegal and disruptive fishing out of the parks, there would not necessarily be the need for the, "Harassment of Wildlife is Prohibited" signs?
The people of the community seem to "get" that basic rule.
Were that not the case, the flightless ducks and other wildlife would be in as much danger of human harm during the fall and winter as they are during the spring and summer.
But, fact is during the past three years (including a very harsh winter in 2010-2011) we have not lost one goose or duck at Harlem, Meer. (Not counting dog bite injury to "Joey" a Pekin duck in January of 2011.  The tame duck was rescued, treated and then placed.)
Lethal damage to wildlife all seems to occur during the "fishing seasons" when over the same three years, we have lost one swan, two pekin ducks, one Kacki Campbell and now one Rouen duck.
I would personally love to see all the fishing "go" in Central Park the same way of the sheep that once used to graze at Sheep Meadow.  There is nothing, in my view, "sporty" about taunting and harming wildlife for the sheer "fun" (or hell) of it.  
But, that won't happen of course.
It seems we have to fight for restraint, monitoring and controls of the fishing in our city parks.-- as we have to fight for everything else, including trying to save the few geese still surviving in NYC. -- PCA

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