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Friday, October 21, 2016

Seven Men Plead Guilty for Illegally Harvesting and Selling American Eels

Between the dates of October 4 and October 6, seven individuals pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Portland, Maine, to trafficking more than $1.9 million worth of juvenile American eels, also known as “elvers,” in violation of the Lacey Act.

Yarann Im, Mark Green, John Pinkham, Thomas Reno, Michael Bryant and George Anestis each pleaded guilty to selling or transporting elvers in interstate commerce, that they had harvested illegally, or knew had been harvested illegally, in various East Coast states, including Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, among others.  Thomas Choi pleaded guilty to exporting elvers that he knew had been harvested illegally in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.

The guilty pleas were announced today by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Director Dan Ashe of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  The pleas were the result of “Operation Broken Glass,” a multi-jurisdiction USFWS investigation into the illegal trafficking of American eels.

“Without the robust enforcement of our nation’s wildlife laws, trafficking in species like the protected American eel will undermine vital marine resources to the point of no return,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The American eel is a unique and economically important species in river systems along the U.S. east coast.  These convictions should send a strong message that we will investigate and prosecute poaching as a serious crime, standing side by side with our state law enforcement partners.”

“Skyrocketing prices for juvenile American eels in Asia have led to a surge in poaching and trafficking in this unique species, threatening to wipe it out in the rivers of the Northeast,” said Director Ashe.  “The prosecution of these poachers demonstrates our resolve to work with our state and federal law enforcement partners to halt illegal trade in American eels and sustain the species for future generations.  The success and scope of Operation Broken Glass would not have been possible without this unparalleled collaboration, which will serve as a model for future investigations.”

“Elver landings are one of Maine’s largest revenue producing marine resources,” said Maine Marine Patrol Colonel Jon Cornish.  “Strong enforcement of both state and federal statutes are a key to the success of this fishery.  Maine Marine Patrol is proud to have been a participant within Operation Broken Glass.  These cases represent the results of what can be accomplished when agencies partner effectively.”

“This investigation is an example of excellent collaboration between wildlife law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local level,” said Assistant Administrator Eileen Sobeck of NOAA Fisheries.  “NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement will continue to support investigations to ensure that those fishermen who obey the rules reap the benefits of fair competition and those who do not are caught and justice served.”

“The waters of New Jersey provide ideal conditions for migrating juvenile American eels,” said Director Dave Chanda of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish &Wildlife.  “Despite laws banning American eel harvest, New Jersey continues to experience pressure from those looking to illegally target this highly desired resource to meet overseas demand.  In their pursuit of financial gain, these individuals demonstrated deliberate indifference to the health and viability of our state's natural resource.”

Eels are highly valued in east Asia for human consumption.  Historically, Japanese and European eels were harvested to meet this demand; however, overfishing has led to a decline in the population of these eels.  As a result, harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the resulting void.

American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, an area of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded on all sides by ocean currents.  They then travel as larvae from the Sea to the coastal waters of the eastern United States, where they enter a juvenile or elver stage, swim upriver and grow to adulthood in fresh water.  Elvers are exported for aquaculture in east Asia, where they are raised to adult size and sold for food.  Harvesters and exporters of American eels in the United States can sell elvers to east Asian buyers for more than $2000 per pound.

Because of the threat of overfishing, elver harvesting is prohibited in the United States in all but three states: Maine, South Carolina and Florida.  Maine and South Carolina heavily regulate elver fisheries, requiring that individuals be licensed and report all quantities of harvested eels to state authorities.

Although Florida does not have specific elver-related regulations, the limited population of elvers in Florida waters makes commercial elver fishing impossible.

The seven defendants all illegally harvested, sold, transported, or exported elvers, knowing they had been harvested in violation of state law.  Further, as a means of concealing the illegal sale and export of elvers, the defendants used Maine or Florida eel harvest licenses, whether theirs or someone else’s, to claim in required paperwork that the elvers were obtained legally from Maine or Florida waters.

Elver export declaration packages submitted to the USFWS included this false documentation in order to disguise the illegal origins of the elvers and to facilitate their export from the United States to buyers in east Asia.

The offenses in the case are felonies under the Lacey Act, each carrying a maximum penalty of five years’ incarceration, a fine of up to $250,000 or up to twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss, or both.
Operation Broken Glass was conducted by the USFWS and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section in collaboration with the Maine Marine Patrol, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Law Enforcement, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Conservation Police, Virginia Marine Resources Commission Police, USFWS Refuge Law Enforcement, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement, Massachusetts Environmental Police, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Division of Law Enforcement, New York State Environmental Conservation Police, New Hampshire Fish and Game Division of Law Enforcement, Maryland Natural Resources Police, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission Division of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Yarmouth, MA Division of Natural Resources, North Myrtle Beach, SC Police Department and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The government is represented by Environmental Crimes Section Trial Attorneys Cassandra Barnum and Shane Waller.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

2016 Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the agency will expand fishing and hunting opportunities on 13 refuges throughout the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. The final rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations on more than 70 other refuges and wetland management districts. This includes migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting, and sport fishing
In Colorado, hunting for elk will occur for the first time in designated areas of Baca National Wildlife Refuge, as well as in expanded areas of Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.

“Sportsmen and sportswomen were among the first to champion wildlife protection. Their efforts are the backbone of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model — fish and wildlife belong to all Americans, and they need to be managed in a way that will sustain their populations forever,” said Director Dan Ashe. “We are pleased to offer new opportunities for the continuance of a hunting and fishing tradition that is in accordance with sustainable recreational use in the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

The final rule also includes opening sport fishing of state-regulated species for the first time at Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota, and expanding areas available for sport fishing at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana.

The Service is responsible for managing more than 850 million acres in the Refuge System, including five marine national monuments, 565 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. The agency manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, and other forms of wildlife-dependent recreation on refuges, such as wildlife watching and photography.

In addition, the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, launched in 2013, offers opportunities for residents of America’s cities to learn about and take part in wildlife conservation.

There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive from most major metropolitan areas.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $144.7 billion in economic activity across the United States according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 90 million Americans, or 41 percent of the United States’ population age 16 and older, pursue wildlife-related recreation. The Service’s report Banking on Nature shows that refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 jobs. More than 48 million visits are made to refuges every year.

“Hunting and fishing give families a chance to carry on traditions that they have celebrated for generations,” Ashe added. “These types of recreation also benefit local economies and generate much needed additional funding for wildlife conservation by bringing people into national wildlife refuges, as well as provide an important connection between people and the outdoors.”

The Service’s final rule opens the following refuge to hunting for the first time:
  • Baca National Wildlife Refuge: Open migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is currently closed to other public use activities.
The Service’s final rule opens the following refuge to sport fishing for the first time:
South Dakota
In addition, the Service expands hunting and sport fishing on the following refuges:
  • Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting and open big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting and upland game hunting.
  • Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting and open big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting and upland game hunting.
  • Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
  • Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge: Expand big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
  • Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
  • Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting.
New York
  • Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
  • Washita National Wildlife Refuge: Expand big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
South Carolina
  • Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
To view a complete list of all hunting and sport fishing opportunities on refuges, click here. The final rule will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register on October 4, 2016.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service permits hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation, including wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation, when they are compatible with an individual refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is now permitted on 337 wildlife refuges. Fishing is now permitted on 276 wildlife refuges.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Anglers asked not to fish Esopus between Shandaken Portal and the Ashokan Reservoir

 Low, turbid water poses a risk to spawning trout

Anglers: please don't fish the Esopus Creek from the Shandaken Portal to the Ashokan Reservoir. (see attached map for area in question).

If you live near, or fish this section of the Esopus, you have no doubt noticed how low the water level is and how brown and silt-laden the water is.

Photo of low water levels and turbid conditions in the Esopus

Water from the Schoharie Reservoir feeds into the Esopus via the Shandaken Portal. Drought has drastically reduced water levels in the Schoharie Reservoir and last Friday, DEC decided to cut back on the water entering the Esopus through the portal.

DEC Fisheries staff are concerned that the muddy flow from the Portal would hurt the stream ecosystem and threaten trout spawning which will soon be underway.

As a result, water levels in the Esopus, which were already low, will drop further. Fish in the Creek could be very vulnerable to anglers and natural predators. Nonetheless, DEC staff believe that the trout will be better off than if they try to spawn in mud-laden water.

DEC will continue to monitor conditions in the creek. We anticipate that Emergency Regulations will be issued soon that will temporarily prohibit fishing in the Esopus downstream of the portal to the Ashokan Reservoir. We'll let you know when this happens.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

NY DEC Announces Proposed Changes to Freshwater Sportfishing Regulations

Public Comments Accepted Through October 7, 2016

Regulations to be Effective April 2017

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is accepting comments on proposed changes to freshwater fishing regulations through October 7, 2016, Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

DEC modifies freshwater sportfishing regulations approximately every two years as part of DEC's commitment to enhance fishing opportunities and protect the State's freshwater resources.

"New York provides some of the best fishing in the nation, and the continuous assessment and modification of sportfishing regulations ensure that this remains the case for generations to come," said Commissioner Seggos. "I encourage anglers to review what is being proposed and provide input during the public comment period."

DEC assessed the status of existing freshwater sportfish populations and the desires of anglers in developing these proposed regulations. Many of the proposed changes are the result of an effort to consolidate regulations and eliminate special regulations that are no longer warranted or have become outdated. The new freshwater sportfishing regulations are scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2017. Once enacted, the new regulations will be included in the 2017-18 Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.

The proposed regulations were first provided for informal public review on the DEC website in February 2016. The early feedback helped DEC determine which regulation changes to advance or eliminate.

Comments on the proposed regulations should be sent by email to regulations.fish@dec.ny.gov or mailed to Gregory Kozlowski, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.

The full text of the proposed regulations are also available on DEC's website. The proposed changes include:

Great Lakes Proposals:

  • Clarify that St. Lawrence River tributaries in Franklin and Clinton counties are exempt from Great Lakes regulations.
  • Define the portion of Cattaraugus Creek subject to Lake Erie and tributary fishing regulations from Lake Erie upstream to the Springville Dam.
  • Expand the Lake Erie and tributaries 20-inch minimum size limit one fish daily limit black bass regulation to December 1 through the Friday before the third Saturday in June.
  • Improved language for interpreting combined trout and salmon creel limit in Lake Ontario.
  • Reduce the daily limit from five to three northern pike for St. Lawrence River and define boundary between Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
  • Clarification of boundary between Lake Ontario and the Salmon River.
  • Provide an exception allowing access for fishing to the closed section of the Salmon River on Salmon River Hatchery property by permit.

Walleye, black bass and northern pike proposals:

  • Establish an 18-inch minimum size limit and daily creel limit of three walleye for Titicus Reservoir (Westchester County); Sacandaga Lake and tributaries and outlet and Lake Pleasant and tributaries (Hamilton County); Kiwassa Lake, St. Regis Falls Impoundment, and Little Wolf Pond (Franklin County); Putnam Pond (Essex County); Cazenovia and DeRuyter lakes (Madison County); Waterport Reservoir (Orleans County); Rio Reservoir (Orange and Sullivan counties); East Sidney Reservoir (Delaware County); Taghkanic Lake (Columbia County); Canadarago Lake (Otsego County); and additional portions of the Seneca River (Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca and Wayne counties).
  • Eliminate 18-inch minimum size limit and daily creel limit of three walleye in Chautauqua Lake (Chautauqua County) and Franklin Falls Flow (Essex County).
  • Clarify that the 22-inch minimum size five fish daily limit for northern pike regulation applies to the Wayne County portion of the Seneca River.
  • Clarify that statewide black bass regulations apply to the Hamilton County portion of Fourth Lake.
  • Eliminate the special regulation for black bass in the Hamilton County portion of the Hudson River.

Trout and salmon proposals:

  • Decrease the minimum size limit for trout at Colgate Lake (Greene County) from 12 to 9 inches.
  • Eliminate special trout regulation on Whey Pond (Franklin County).
  • Eliminate the special regulation for landlocked salmon for Piseco Lake (Hamilton County).
  • Decrease the minimum size length for lake trout in Woodhull Lake (Herkimer County) from 21 to 18 inches.
  • Change the end time anglers are allowed to fish Spring Creek on the Caledonia State Fish Hatchery property from 4:00 PM to 3:30 PM.
  • Eliminate the 9-inch minimum size limit for trout in the Carmans River (Suffolk County) in Southaven County Park as well as the catch and release section of the Carmans River for brown and rainbow trout.
  • Reduce the number of brown trout and rainbow trout that can be kept as part of a five fish daily limit in Skaneateles Lake to no more than three of either species.
  • Reduce the allowable daily harvest of brown trout and rainbow trout from five of each to three of each and increase the allowable daily harvest of lake trout from three to five as part of the five in any combination daily limit regulation for trout, lake trout, and landlocked salmon at Cayuga and Owasco lakes.
  • Increase the minimum size limit for rainbow trout from 9 to 15 inches at Owasco, Skaneateles and Otisco Lake tributaries.

Gear and use of gear proposals:

  • Eliminate the allowance for spearing bullheads and suckers in all Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne county tributaries to Lake Ontario.
  • Allow for the taking of suckers by snatching (but not blind snatching) from January 1 through March 15 in specific portions of the Otselic and Tioughnioga rivers in Cortland County.
  • Eliminate the allowance for lake whitefish snatching and blind snatching at Piseco Lake in Hamilton County.
  • Continue to restrict the number of devices allowed for ice fishing on Bigsby and Copperas ponds (Essex County), Upper Saranac Lake (Franklin County), and Fawn Lake (Hamilton County).
  • Allow for ice fishing in Rushford Lake in Allegany County.
  • Re-open Crane Pond (Essex County) to ice fishing.

Baitfish and non-game fish proposals:

  • Remove the prohibition on the use or possession of smelt in Lake George and allow for harvest of smelt by angling.
  • Clarify that taking and possessing sauger and mooneye is prohibited in Lake Champlain.

Fishing prohibited proposals:

  • Prohibit fishing at any time on Buttermilk Creek from mouth to Fox Valley Road Bridge.
  • Close two short sections of Fish Creek and Indian River in St. Lawrence County to fishing from March 16 until the opening of walleye season.
  • Close a section of the Grasse River in St. Lawrence County to all fishing from March 16 until the opening of walleye season.
  • Clarify the portion of the Bouquet River that is closed to fishing at any time.
  • Eliminate the angling and dipnetting prohibited regulation on Dutch Hollow Brook in Cayuga County.
Several non-substantive regulation modifications are also proposed to remove duplicate regulations and to make structural changes designed to allow for easier modification of regulations in the future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pennsylvania's Bald Eagle Numbers are Becoming Hard to Track

For the first time ever, the mid-year inventory released annually by the Pennsylvania Game Commission shows a decrease in the number of bald-eagle nests reported statewide.

Does the total suggest eagle populations are hurting?

Far from it, the experts say.

But with staffing cuts at the Game Commission leading to reduced observations, and the public less likely to report nesting activity as bald eagles become more plentiful, 239 bald-eagle nests – a decrease of 38 nests – have been reported so far in 2016.

“In no way do we believe this decreased reported number represents a decline in the bald-eagle population,” said Dan Brauning, who heads up the Game Commission’s wildlife diversity division. “Eagles are doing fine. They continue to thrive and expand into new areas, and the inventory shows that
“But as our field and region staff take on an increased workload due to budget-driven staffing cuts, we are forced to place lower priority on documenting nests,” Brauning said. “While we’re certainly still interested in learning of new nests, and urge the public to report them, knowing nesting locations and nest productivity is harder today than it was in the days following bald-eagle reintroduction, or in the years when the bald eagle remained on the endangered- or threatened-species lists. There are many pressing responsibilities that require the attention of staff.”

Aside from the impacts staffing cuts have had on reporting, Patti Barber, a biologist with the Game Commission’s endangered and nongame birds section, said the lower mid-year number also could be a consequence of so many eagles being out there.

Many of the reports within the inventory come from citizens, and as bald eagles become more abundant and less of a novelty, fewer reports are bound to come in. Previously counted eagle pairs that relocate to a new nesting site sometimes are missed in the inventory. Even when their new nest tree is somewhere nearby, it might go unnoticed or unreported, especially if it’s off the beaten path. And new pairs of eagles that nest between existing pairs often are mistaken as one or the other existing pairs, and not recognized as a new pair.

Barber said citizens can help ensure bald-eagle nests aren’t missed in the inventory. Even nests that have been reported in previous years should be reported again if they were active this year.

Perhaps the easiest way to report a nest is by contacting the Game Commission through its public comments email address, pgccomments@pa.gov, and use the words “Eagle Nest Information” in the subject field.

Reports also can be phoned in to a Game Commission region office, or the Harrisburg headquarters.
Despite its lower bottom line, the 2016 mid-year inventory provides evidence of an expanding bald-eagle population. Of the 239 nests reported, 16 have been documented in newly established territories.

“From everything we hear and see, Pennsylvania’s bald eagles continue to thrive, exceeding our expectations and the numbers we can effectively monitor,” Barber said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Of course, that hasn’t always been the case.

Over the course of several decades, bald-eagle populations in Pennsylvania and nationwide were decimated by the effects of water pollution, persecution and compromised nest success caused by organochloride pesticides such as DDT. Prior to the Game Commission reintroducing the bald eagle to Pennsylvania in 1983, only three bald-eagle nests statewide were known to exist – all of them in Crawford County, in the northwestern corner of the state.

Over the next seven years, 88 bald-eagle chicks were taken from nests in Saskatchewan, Canada, and brought to Pennsylvania where they were “hacked,” a process by which the eaglets were raised by humans, but without knowing it, then released into the wild.

By 1998, Pennsylvania was home to 25 pairs of nesting bald eagles. By 2006, more than 100 nests were confirmed statewide.

The Game Commission’s mid-year report eclipsed the 200-nest mark in 2011. The number then jumped to 252 nests in 2013, and a record 277 last year.

So far in 2016, bald-eagle nests have been documented in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the numbers tell the story of the bald eagle’s success, and that story is one worth celebrating.

“Many of us grew up in a world that mostly was devoid of eagles, and one where it wasn’t at all clear whether our national bird would continue to survive,” Hough said. “Who could have predicted then that, in our lifetime, we’d see the eagle population rebound to the point where sightings are common, and more people than ever are enjoying Pennsylvania’s eagles?

“It’s a remarkable success story that continues to remind us, no matter how impossible the task seems, when people come together with a focus on working for wildlife, incredible things can be achieved,” Hough said.
While Hough said he’s confident Pennsylvania’s bald-eagle population will continue to thrive, he expressed frustration the 2016 mid-year nest count was deflated, at least in part, by staffing shortages resulting from a long overdue increase in fees hunters and trappers pay for their licenses.

The Game Commission is mandated by the state Constitution to manage all of the more than 480 species of wildlife found in Pennsylvania, and it does so without any appropriation from the state’s general fund.
Instead, the Game Commission’s primary source of revenue comes from the fees Pennsylvania’s hunters and trappers pay each time they purchase their licenses.

While nearly every organized sportsmen’s group in the state has gone on record in support of a license-fee increase, the Game Commission, at the present time, is not permitted to raise or lower license fees to balance its budget; all license-fee adjustments must be approved by the state General Assembly.

“It’s now been more than 17 years since license fees were last increased – there hasn’t been one adjustment for inflation during that time, even though the price of just about everything has shot up,” Hough said. “In the past year, the agency has had to lay off staff, put off recruitment of a new wildlife conservation officer class, explore program cuts and indefinitely postpone construction projects. And the reduced number of bald-eagle nest reports in our mid-year inventory is just another small example of the trickle-down effects of fewer people needing to do more with less.

“Unfortunately, failure to provide new revenues for the agency will make it increasingly difficult to track other species, like the osprey and peregrine falcon, on the road to recovery, making future de-listings less likely,” Hough said. “And critical research and habitat work related to game species – everything we do really – will continue to suffer.

“Senate Bill 1166, which already cleared the Senate by a 47-2 vote, would change this by giving the Game Commission authority to approve when necessary incremental increases to license fees, avoiding the sharp spikes that arise when long-outdated fee amounts finally are brought up to speed,” Hough said. “This legislation would allow for gentler, more affordable transitions. And, if approved, the bill would seem a permanent solution to avoiding in the future fiscal crises like the one the agency now is in. For the sake of wildlife conservation in Pennsylvania, I ask you to please contact your legislators and urge them to adopt Senate Bill 1166.

Eagle-viewing tips

As bald eagles have expanded their range in Pennsylvania, more of the state’s residents regularly have been provided with chances to view them.

Although the bald eagle no longer is considered threatened in Pennsylvania or nationally, care still should be taken when viewing eagles, to prevent frightening them.

Those encountering nests are asked to keep a safe distance. Disturbing eagles is illegal under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Some pairs are tolerant of human activity, while others are sensitive. Their reaction often depends on the activity and approach of the individual, the nesting cycle stage, and if the eagles are used to seeing people.

Adults that are scared from a nest could abandon it, or might not return in time to keep unhatched eggs or young nestlings at the proper temperature. Frightened eaglets also could jump from the safety of the nest, then have no way to return.

Those viewing eagle nests are urged to keep their distance and use binoculars or spotting scopes to aid their viewing.

For more information on bald eagles and eagle-viewing etiquette, visit the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

JetBlue & U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Announce New Partnership to Reduce Demand for Illegal Wildlife Trade

JetBlue and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are joining forces to encourage and empower travelers to play a role in protecting the beauty and wildlife of one of the world’s most popular destination regions: the Caribbean. An increase in illegal wildlife trade in the area is contributing to the decline and potential extinction of indigenous animal species such as sea turtles, parrots, iguanas and coral.

“Tourism brings 22 million visitors a year to the Caribbean. Degradation of wildlife and biodiversity is a risk to demand for air travel to the region, thus impacting JetBlue,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability, JetBlue. “We’ve partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a large-scale dialogue and action highlighting the numerous ways to travel, eat and shop in the Caribbean, leaving the region stable for future tourism.”

JetBlue and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed a five-year partnership agreement, which will launch with a customer education and awareness campaign. The Service and JetBlue will work together beyond the initial onboard video to develop online content, social media campaigns and strategies that will reduce demand for illegal wildlife.

JetBlue will use one of its core differentiators - TVs available at every seat on all flights - to inform customers about responsible travel and shopping practices in the Caribbean. Through an online casting call, JetBlue will recruit Caribbean natives including those in the travel industry to tell their stories in a short inflight video. Participants will discuss their commitment and efforts to protect the future of tourism and the natural resources of their local communities and countries. The call will identify stories that showcase tangible solutions are underway.  Champions of Caribbean conservation can share their stories through March 27 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/caribbeancasting 
“The Caribbean is considered to be a wildlife trafficking hotspot,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are thrilled to work with JetBlue to empower travelers and Caribbean residents to reduce demand for illegal wildlife. We are committed to protecting these special places and species, and with the public as our partners, we can support conservation worldwide by asking questions and learning the facts before buying any wildlife or plant product.”

JetBlue’s Commitment to the Environment - JetBlue depends on natural resources and a healthy environment to keep its business running smoothly. Natural resources are essential for the airline to fly and tourism relies on having beautiful, natural and preserved destinations for customers to visit. The airline focuses on issues that have the potential to impact its business. Customers, crewmembers and community are key to JetBlue's sustainability strategy. Demand from these groups for responsible service is one of the motivations behind changes that help reduce the airline’s environmental impact. For more on JetBlue’s conservation initiatives, visit jetblue.com/green.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Latest NJ Delaware Bay Fish Survey

Since 1991 New Jersey has been surveying the fish in the Delaware Bay in predetermined locations selected for their spawning and nursery habitat. This survey data is used in stock assessments on the state level and also helps in understanding coastwide population trends. In addition to counting fish, the survey measures various water quality parameters like salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen.

Sampling data shows a continued decrease in important forage fish like bay anchovy and Atlantic menhaden, aka bunker. Popular gamefish like striped bass and weakfish have shown modest increases.

One thing I always find interesting about this survey is the different species that have been collected since its inception, especially those usually thought of as more southern like Florida pompano, mutton snapper, and a couple of different jacks.

Check out NJ Fish & Wildlife's 2015 Report  

NYDEC Announces State of Lake Ontario Meetings

Biologists to Update Status of Lake's Fisheries

The public will have the opportunity to learn about the State of Lake Ontario fisheries at public meetings held in Monroe, Niagara, and Oswego counties in March, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. Lake Ontario and its embayments and tributaries support thriving populations of fish, including a variety of trout and salmon, bass, walleye, yellow perch and panfish.

"Lake Ontario and its tributaries provide world-class angling opportunities" Acting Commissioner Seggos said. "Under Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, Lake Ontario's high-quality fisheries and associated economic benefits are thriving. The State of Lake Ontario meetings provide an excellent opportunity for individuals interested in the lake to interact with the scientists who study its fisheries."

New York's Lake Ontario waters comprise more than 2.7 million acres. A 2007 statewide angler survey estimated more than 2.6 million angler days were spent on Lake Ontario and major tributaries. The estimated value of these fisheries exceeded $112 million annually to the local New York economy.
The meeting dates and locations are as follows:
  • Thursday, March 3: 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Building, 4487 Lake Avenue, Lockport, Niagara County. The meeting is co-hosted by Niagara County Cooperative Extension and the Niagara County Sportfishery Development Board.
  • Tuesday, March 8: 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Pulaski High School auditorium, 4624 Salina Street, Pulaski, Oswego County. The meeting is co-hosted by the Eastern Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Association. In the event of heavy lake-effect snow, the meeting will be held at the same time and location on March 9.
  • Monday, March 14: 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) campus (Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science building (76-1125) - Carlson Auditorium), Rochester, Monroe County. The meeting is co-hosted by RIT and the Monroe County Fishery Advisory Board.
Staff from DEC, the United States Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries, forage fish, and stocking programs. Staff from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will also be in attendance. The meetings will provide ample time at the end of the scheduled program for the audience to interact with the presenters.

Information about DEC's Lake Ontario fisheries assessment programs can be found online. For further information contact Steven LaPan, New York Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head at Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station, (315) 654-2147.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

NY DEC Proposes Fishing Regulation Changes for 2017

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wants to make changes to the fishing regulations and is looking for feedback from anglers. These changes are to the current freshwater fishing regulations, and if they go through, these changes would take effect on April 1, 2017.

Many of the changes are meant to safeguard and/or expand fish populations. Other changes are focused on eliminating special regulations that DEC feels didn't work.  That goal would be to simplify New York fishing regulations.

Changes in walleye regulations seem to dominate with some bass and trout regulation changes on specific waters.

To view these proposed changes and to provide input, visit the DEC website. Hard copies of the list of changes being considered, as well as instructions on how to submit feedback by regular mail, can be obtained by contacting Shaun Keeler, at New York State DEC, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fish hatcheries cause substantial, rapid genetic changes according to new DNA evidence

A new study on steelhead in Oregon offers genetic evidence that wild and hatchery fish are different at the DNA level, and that they can become different with surprising speed.

In a study conducted at Oregon State University with the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, scientists say the findings essentially close the case on whether or not wild and hatchery fish can be genetically different. The research, published in Nature Communications, found that after just one generation of hatchery culture, the offspring of wild fish and first-generation hatchery fish differed in the activity of more than 700 genes.

A single generation of adaptation to the hatchery resulted in observable changes at the DNA level that were passed on to offspring, scientists reported.

Differences in survival and reproductive success between hatchery and wild fish have long showed evidence of rapid adaptation to the hatchery environment. This new DNA evidence directly measured the activity of all genes in the offspring of hatchery and wild fish. It conclusively demonstrates that the genetic differences between hatchery and wild fish are large in scale and fully heritable.

“A fish hatchery is a very artificial environment that causes strong natural selection pressures,” said Michael Blouin, a professor of integrative biology in the OSU College of Science. “A concrete box with 50,000 other fish all crowded together and fed pellet food is clearly a lot different than an open stream.”

It’s not clear exactly what genetic traits are selected, but the study shows some genetic changes that may explain how fish are respond to the hatchery environment.

“We observed that a large number of genes were involved in pathways related to wound healing, immunity, and metabolism, and this is consistent with the idea that the earliest stages of domestication may involve adapting to highly crowded conditions,” said Mark Christie, lead author of the study.

Aside from crowding, a common hatchery occurrence, injuries and disease are also more prevalent.

The study found that genetic changes are substantial and quick. It’s evolution at work, but without taking multiple generations or long periods of time.

“We expected hatcheries to have a genetic impact,” Blouin said. “However, the large amount of change we observed at the DNA level was really amazing. This was a surprising result.”

With the question answered of whether hatchery fish are different, Blouin said, it's now possible to determine exactly how they are different, and work to address that problem. Once the genetic changes that occur in a hatchery are better understood, it could be possible to change the way fish are raised in order to produce hatchery fish that are closer to wild fish. This research is a first step in that direction.

This work was performed using steelhead from the Hood River in Oregon. It was supported by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Oregon State University is one of only two universities in the United States that is designated a Land Grant, Sea Grant, Space Grant and Sun Grant institution. OSU is also Oregon’s only university to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top designation for research institutions and its prestigious Community Engagement classification.