||Univ. of Texas Marine Science Inst.
Family: Needlefishes (Belonidae)
State Rarity Rank:
Global Rarity Rank:
Did you know?
When cooked, the bones of the needlefish turn green (Lake 1983).
|State Ranking Justification||
This is a marine fish that is a regular visitor to the lower Hudson River during the summer months, with specimens captured as far north as Ulster Park (Smith 1985) and Germantown (Robert Daniels, pers. comm. 2007). A single specimen is also documented from the New York portion of the Delaware River, but it is not known how regularly this species occurs in this section of this river (Robert Daniels, pers. comm. 2007). It is thought to be a fairly common marine species with a restricted distribution in the state (marine and estuarine waters around Long Island and the lower Hudson River), but fluctuations in numbers, both in incidental capture data and anecdotal reports, have been observed since the late 1800s (Mearns 1898, Greeley 1937, Lake 2007, Socrates 2007) and there is uncertainty if this represents a decline in the population. The loss of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) at one location on the Hudson River has been associated with a reduction in needlefish numbers there (Lake 2007), but this may be from a resultant shift in habitat use, rather than a reduction in overall needlefish numbers. Additional information on the population and threats is needed to better assess the status of the population.
The short-term trends are difficult to assess, since they are based on anecdotal information and incidental catches during fish sampling efforts. The available data indicates a consistently low catch of fish in samples from the 1990s (compared to catches in the 1980s), but higher catch rates were made during the mid-2000s, with a subsequent drop in numbers during 2007 on the north and south shores of western Long Island (Socrates 2007). Likewise, in the Hudson River, the number of adult Atlantic needlefish caught in educational seining efforts in the 1990s decreased from former high counts in the 1980s, with fewer adult fish found between 2000 and 2007, but many more post-larval, young-of-year, and juvenile needlefish appearing in beach seines during these latter years (Lake 2007). Additional information is needed to determine the status of this species.
The long-term trends are unknown and are based on anecdotal information and incidental catches during fish sampling efforts. Mearns (1898) considered Atlantic needlefish to be common in the late 1800s, while Greeley (1937), although noting that Mearns considered this species to be common in the Hudson River in the autumn, considered it to be rare in the early 1900s. During the 1970s, Atlantic needlefish were not reported often in the Hudson River, but this may be due to a lack of adequate sampling for this species. In the 1980s, needlefish were more commonly reported in the Hudson River (Lake 2007) and found on Long Island (Socrates 2007), and many needlefish caught in the Hudson River at this time were adults approximately 250 to 500 mm in length. During the 1990s, fewer needlefish were reported in catches from the Hudson River. Although fewer adult needlefish were recorded in the Hudson River at that time, young-of-year needlefish began showing up as far north as Kingston and this trend continues to the present, with fewer adult fish reported and many more post-larval, young-of-year, and juvenile needlefish appearing between 2000 and 2007 (Lake 2007). The trend on the north and south shores of western Long Island, based on data collected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, seems to indicate a similar pattern through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, with a few periodic increases in catch rates during mid to late 1990s and mid-2000s (Socrates 2007). These variations in numbers may or may not actually represent a population decline and additional information is needed to determine the status of this species.