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Hallets Cove class shows Astoria children local sea life

Students from the Goodwill Industries Greater New York at Beacon IS 10 marvel at fish pulled from Hallets Cove. The class was run by marine educators Luis Gonzalez (l.) and Patricia MacNamara (second from l.).
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Boys and girls were out in Hallets Cove catching fish with nets last week, but the 9- and 10-year-olds were trying to learn about their finned neighbors rather than eating them.

“I was surprised when I saw how much fish we caught,” said 10-year-old Max Ma. “It was interesting how we used those nets.”

The group of about 15 children from the Goodwill Industries Greater New York, at Beacon IS 10, a child care program at 45-11 31st Ave. in Astoria, were the latest participants in the City Parks Foundation’s Coastal Classroom.

From April to mid-March, the program holds 60- to 90-minute workshops for adults and students in the fourth-grade or higher at the cove near Socrates Sculpture Park, at 32-01 Vernon Blvd. in Astoria. During the classes, participants put on chest-high waders and use large skeins to remove fish, plants and other creatures from the cove.

Afterward the kids from Beacon IS 10 put the fish in buckets and identified their species using flashcards.

“It was really cool to go in the water,” said 10-year-old Ankita Deb. “I hope I can go in again.”

City Parks Foundation is a nonprofit that holds entertainment, sports and education programs in public parks across the city. Joel Rodriguez, who works in the foundation’s education department, said he created Coastal Classroom six years ago because as a marine scientist he wanted to expose city residents to the marine ecosystems around them.

“It’s a city of water,” Rodriguez said. “There’s water everywhere.”

In addition to the class on identifying the species in the cove, the program also hosts workshops on topics like the food chain, the interaction between organisms and their environment and water quality.

Rodriguez said Hallets Cove is an ideal spot for marine education as the water is much slower than the rest of the East River. This makes the area rich in nutrients and provides a good place for different species to hide. Many fish and other marine life use it as a breeding ground, and most of the fish caught in the nets are babies or juveniles.

“The cove is a nursery for small fish,” he said.

Some of the species the children caught included Atlantic silverside fish, horseshoe crabs, rockweed seaweed and comb jellyfish.

“The crab was roving around and the baby jellyfish was calm,” said 9-year-old Gyzariys Megia.

Lucas Ayala, 10, said he had been fishing with a pole before, but stepping into waders to catch fish with nets was new to him.

“It was kind of uncomfortable, but after awhile it wasn’t uncomfortable at all,” he said about wearing the waders in the water.

But Rodriguez warned any potential anglers that the fish could be carrying heavy metals in their systems and, if eaten at all, that they should not be consumed regularly.

For more information on the program, visit cityparksfoundation.org/education/coastal-classroom.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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