The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Protection Act (A.6520 Englebright / S.5871 Martinez) has passed both houses of the New York State Legislature.
If enacted into law, the bill would protect habitat around Plum Island, Great Gull, and Little Gull Islands by giving the Department of Environmental Conservation the authority to “promulgate regulations to prevent the harassment and for the protection of marine mammals and sea turtles within the marine mammal and sea turtle protection area.”
The islands themselves are home to many rare, indigenous plants and insects, and provide critical habitat for over 210 bird species, including breeding Roseate Terns and Piping Plovers.
The surrounding waters provide critical foraging areas for federally listed species and support diverse marine life, including squid, bluefish, seals, and sea turtles. Great Gull Island is also one of the most important tern nesting sites on earth, with more than 10,000 pairs of Common Terns and approximately 2,000 pairs of Roseate Tern.
“Plum Island is a key breeding and stopover site for thousands of birds, including at-risk and priority species, and a Long Island Sound ecological treasure worth preserving. We are thrilled to see this bill pass the Senate, and look forward to seeing Governor Cuomo sign it into law,” said Ana Paula Tavares, Executive Director for Audubon New York and Audubon Connecticut. “Audubon New York and Audubon Connecticut together applaud New York State for taking this important step to ensure Plum Island the protection it deserves.”
The waters around Plum Island, Great Gull Island, and Little Gull Island are home to a diverse ecosystem and one of the largest fish habitats in the mid-Atlantic region. These three islands have been identified as a Stewardship Area, or area of great ecological significance, by the Long Island Sound Study and are located in the Long Island Sound, an Estuary of National Significance.
The Sound supports over 1,200 species of invertebrates, 170 species of fish, and dozens of species of migratory birds; including the Bald Eagle, Least Tern, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Osprey, and the federally threatened Red Knot.