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EcosystemsThere Are, in Fact, Fish within the Hudson River

There Are, in Fact, Fish within the Hudson River

There Are, in Fact, Fish within the Hudson River

Helena Kilburn
|November 2, 2022

Photo: Helena Kilburn

People are inclined to laugh after I tell them that my job after college was catching fish out of the Hudson River. As someone who lacks the actual brand of outdoorsy-ness fitting to this job, it looks as if an unlikely position for me, but what’s more unlikely to people is that there are fish within the Hudson. Many assume that the river is incapable of supporting life. That the river itself is dead.

My first 12 months in Latest York starting in September 2020 was permeated with the narrative, popular on the time, that “Latest York is dead.” To those outside the town, it was unimaginable that the culture could ever recuperate from the impact of COVID.

Within the early days of the pandemic, with the empty streets and closed businesses, I can see how this might need rung true. But by the point I moved in, this narrative got here more from the leagues of Latest York residents leaving the town, in the event that they had the means to achieve this. This crowd appeared to have large voices, and their proclamation that Latest York was over had settled into the minds of those that had no personal experience on the contrary.

My friends and I’d walk through Washington Square Park and note the irony on this narrative. It was hard to take seriously as skateboarders zipped around us, groups of friends chatted on blankets, and the standard din of musicians filled the air.

It was during this time that I started my job as an environmental educator at Hudson River Park, where catching fish was a part of my role. It was my first job in my field since I had graduated college the summer before — which I did from the lounge of my childhood home, since I had left my college campus to live with my parents in March of 2020.

I distinctly remember driving to my parents’ house in Massachusetts from my college in Tennessee and crying after I saw the skyline of Latest York, anxious that my dream of moving to the town, the one place I even have ever really felt comfortable, would never come true.

4 months later, I moved into an apartment on Bleecker Street with my two best friends. Still mid-pandemic, we created a social pod, got takeout drinks, and I landed my job at Hudson River Park.

The Hudson River, which the Lenape people called the Muhheakantuck, has an ominous fame. Latest Yorkers and visitors alike consider it primarily as dirty to the purpose of being hazardous, and the dumping ground for bodies in mob movies.

This fame just isn’t without foundation. With industrialization, this historical trade route fell victim to excessive waste and chemical dumping. Should you Google the Hudson River, considered one of the primary suggested results is “is the Hudson River the dirtiest river.”

Nevertheless, considered one of the opposite suggested results is “is the Hudson River clean enough to swim in,” to which the reply is, on most days, yes.

With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the river began to show around. Large-scale dumping drew to a detailed, the tides worked to cycle the water, and there was an increasing concentrate on rebuilding the river’s oyster communities as these mollusks filter the water; each removes the river’s contaminants at a rate of fifty gallons per day. Individually, these animals wouldn’t make much impact, but as their population has recovered to number within the hundreds of thousands, these communities have contributed enormously to creating the Hudson a hospitable ecosystem to creatures reminiscent of 10-foot-long sturgeon, eels, and even seahorses. Most of the fish populations are abundant and a few are healthy enough to be caught and eaten by the town’s residents with guidance from the Latest York State Department of Health. With time, tides, and oysters, the river has recovered to remarkable health.

As for Latest York, there was undeniable and tragic loss in our dear city. But similar to the river has its tides, Latest York had its social distancing protocols, and similar to the river has its oyster communities, Latest Yorkers got here together, got their vaccines, and worked to assist their city recuperate.

During this tumultuous time, I got to maneuver to my favorite place and work at a park in the center of the town. For the reason that work was outside where masks weren’t required, I got to see the amazement on students’ faces once they learned how much life is in a river that they had lived next to their entire lives. And, better of all, I got to observe Latest York come back to life while I stood beside the Hudson River.

Helena Kilburn is a graduate student in Columbia University’s M.S. in Sustainability Management program.


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