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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of an effort to consolidate regulations and eliminate special regulations that are no longer warranted or have become outdated.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.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Warming Ocean May Bring Major Changes for U.S. Northeast Fishery Species

The study is formally known as the Northeast Climate Vulnerability Assessment and is the first in a series of similar evaluations planned for fishery species in other U.S. regions. Conducting climate change vulnerability assessments of U.S. fisheries is a priority action in the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy. Similar assessments are now underway for the Bering Sea and California Current Ecosystems.

swimming alewife
An alewife, often called river herring

The method tends to categorize species that are “generalists” as less vulnerable to climate change than are those that are “specialists.” For example, Atlantic cod and yellowtail flounder are more generalists, since they can use a variety of prey and habitat, and are ranked as only moderately vulnerable to climate change. The Atlantic sea scallop is more of a specialist, with limited mobility and high sensitivity to the ocean acidification that will be more pronounced as water temperatures warm. Sea scallops have a high vulnerability ranking.

NOAA scientists have released the first multispecies assessment of just how vulnerable U.S. marine fish and invertebrate species are to the effects of climate change. The study examined 82 species that occur off the Northeastern U.S., where ocean warming is occurring rapidly. Researchers found that most species evaluated will be affected, and that some are likely to be more resilient to changing ocean conditions than others. The study appears in PLOS ONE, an online scholarly science journal.

monkfish on deck
Goosefish, also known as monkfish
“Our method identifies specific attributes that influence marine fish and invertebrate resilience to the effects of a warming ocean and characterizes risks posed to individual species,” said Jon Hare, a fisheries oceanographer at NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and lead author of the study. “This work will help us better account for the effects of warming waters on our fishery species in stock assessments and when developing fishery management measures.”

The 82 Northeast species evaluated include all commercially managed marine fish and invertebrate species in the Northeast, a large number of recreational marine fish species, all marine fish species listed or under consideration for listing on the federal Endangered Species Act, and a range of ecologically important marine species.

Researchers from NOAA Fisheries and NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)’s Earth System Research Laboratory, along with colleagues at the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES), worked together on the project. NOAA OAR and CIRES scientists provided climate model predictions of how conditions in the region's marine environment are predicted to change in the 21st century. The method for assessing vulnerability was adapted for marine species from similar work by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to characterize the vulnerability of wildlife species to climate change.

The method also evaluates the potential for shifts in distribution and stock productivity, and estimates whether climate change effects will be more negative or more positive for a particular species.

“Vulnerability assessments provide a framework for evaluating climate impacts over a broad range of species by combining expert opinion with what we know about that species, in terms of the quantity and the quality of data,” Hare said. “This assessment helps us evaluate the relative sensitivity of a species to the effects of climate change. It does not, however, provide a way to estimate the pace, scale or magnitude of change at the species level.”

Researchers used existing information on climate and ocean conditions, species distributions, and life history characteristics to estimate each species’ overall vulnerability to climate-related changes in the region. Vulnerability is defined as the risk of change in abundance or productivity resulting from climate change and variability, with relative rankings based on a combination of a species exposure to climate change and a species’ sensitivity to climate change.

Each species was evaluated and ranked in one of four vulnerability categories: low, moderate, high, and very high. Animals that migrate between fresh and salt water (such as sturgeon and salmon), and those that live on the ocean bottom (such as scallops, lobsters and clams) are the most vulnerable to climate effects in the region. Species that live nearer to the water’s surface (such as herring and mackerel) are the least vulnerable. A majority of species also are likely to change their distribution in response to climate change. Numerous distribution shifts have already been documented, and this study demonstrates that widespread distribution shifts are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

A specific summary of results has been prepared for each species to help put the rankings into context. These narratives discuss what is known about the effects of climate change on the species and provide the foundation for future research.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Could the Northeast be getting a new wildlife refuge?

US Fish and Wildlife Service responds to wildlife decline with proposal to conserve land in Dutchess County
Agency invites feedback on draft land protection plan and environmental assessment
Over the past century, many shrublands and young forests across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. As this habitat has disappeared from much of the landscape, the populations of more than 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles, pollinators, and other wildlife that depend on it have fallen alarmingly.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, private landowners and dozens of conservation organizations have responded to this urgency by restoring and protecting shrublands and young forest throughout the landscape of New England and New York. Despite significant progress, conservationists have determined that more permanently protected and managed land is needed to restore wildlife populations and return balance to northeast woodlands.

To address this need, the Service is proposing to establish Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge--dedicated to managing shrubland habitat for wildlife to benefit New York residents and visitors. Through coordination with conservation partners, the Service has determined that areas of eastern Dutchess County could provide important habitat for shrubland wildlife and help connect existing conservation areas. Additionally, the agency identified nine areas in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

“This proposal was developed through extensive coordination with our conservation partners, and would enhance our ongoing commitment to conserve species like the New England cottontail, monarch butterfly, and American woodcock that rely on shrublands and young forest,” said Refuge Manager Michael Horne of Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. “Stakeholder input will ensure we direct our conservation efforts where they can make the most difference for wildlife and local communities.”

“We’ve had incredible success in restoring New England’s only native rabbit and its habitat. Yet our work is far from done,” said Rick Jacobson, New England Cottontail Executive Committee chair and Connecticut Department of Environmental and Energy Protection Wildlife Division Director. “We need to preserve and manage more land as shrublands and young forest to continue to advance conservation for the cottontail. But this isn't just about a rabbit. It's about American woodcock, ruffed grouse, golden-winged warblers, monarch butterflies and a whole suite of wildlife that depend on this habitat.”

Other wildlife that would benefit include several turtle species, including the threatened bog turtle, whippoorwill and blue-winged warblers.

A land protection plan and environmental assessment is an early step in a public process that examines whether the Service can establish a national wildlife refuge. The draft Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge Land Protection Plan explains the need for land conservation, complements existing conservation activities, and describes each of the 10 focus areas across the six states. At this stage in the process, the Service invites public comment on the draft plan, which will shape our final decision.

“As landscapes and land use patterns change, one of the most important roles that conservation efforts like this one can play is to maintain a mosaic of habitats that support the greatest diversity of wildlife,” Horne said. “A quick visit to nearby wildlife refuges like Shawangunk Grasslands and Wallkill River demonstrates this approach. The best part of all is that we work closely with our neighbors and partners to achieve these goals.”

“A new federal wildlife refuge in Dutchess County is a welcome step to protect New York’s New England cottontail habitat and conserve an important forested area that is home to a variety of fauna and flora,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos.  “In addition to DEC lands and State Park properties, this refuge dedicated to providing wildlife habitat for this uncommon rabbit would help secure the future of the unique species.  We look forward to working with our federal partners to manage more lands for New England cottontails and other wildlife species dependent on young, regenerating forest habitat and making these habitats accessible to the public.”

If the plan is approved after the public comment period, the agency could begin working with willing and interested landowners in Dutchess County to acquire up to 1,500 acres through a combination of purchasing conservation easements and buying land, from willing sellers only. Current refuge staff would manage all acquired lands using existing resources.

This process would take decades, as the Service works strictly with willing sellers only and depends on funding availability to make purchases. Lands within an acquisition boundary would not become part of the refuge unless their owners sell or donate them to the Service; the boundary has no impact on property use or who an owner can choose to sell to.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest network of lands in the nation dedicated to wildlife conservation, with 563 national wildlife refuges – at least one refuge in every state – covering more than 150 million acres. A hundred years in the making, the refuge system is a network of habitats that benefits wildlife, provides unparalleled outdoor experiences for all Americans, and protects a healthy environment. Wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 2,100 types of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, including more than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stepping stones while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes.

National wildlife refuges don’t just provide a boost to wildlife. They are strong economic engines for local communities across the country. A 2013 national report Banking on Nature found that refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 jobs.

The Service will accept comments through March 4, 2016 by:
  • Email northeastplanning@fws.gov with "Great Thicket LPP" in the subject line
  • Mail to Beth Goldstein, Natural Resources Planner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA; 01035-9589
  • Fax to 413-253-8480
The draft plan and all related documents are available at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/refuges/planning/lpp/greatthicketLPP.html.
Direct links to more resources:

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Intersex Prevalent in Black Bass Inhabiting National Wildlife Refuges in Northeast

Eighty five percent of male smallmouth bass and 27 percent of male largemouth bass tested in waters in or near 19 National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast U.S. were intersex, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers.

Intersex is when one sex develops characteristics of the opposite sex. It is tied to the exposure of fish to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can affect the reproductive system and cause the development of characteristics of the opposite sex, such as immature eggs in the testes of male fish. Intersex is a global issue, as wild-caught fish affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found in locations across the world.

Estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals are derived from a variety of sources, from natural estrogens to synthetic pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals that enter the waterways. Examples include some types of birth control pills, natural sex hormones in livestock manures, herbicides and pesticides.

“It is not clear what the specific cause of intersex is in these fish,” said Luke Iwanowicz, a USGS research biologist and lead author of the paper. “This study was designed to identify locations that may warrant further investigation.  Chemical analyses of fish or water samples at collection sites were not conducted, so we cannot attribute the observation of intersex to specific, known estrogenic endocrine—disrupting chemicals.”

This prevalence of intersex fish in this study is much higher than that found in a similar USGS study that evaluated intersex in black basses in nine river basins in the United States. That study did not include river basins in the Northeast.

"The results of this new study show the extent of endocrine disrupting chemicals on refuge lands using bass as an indicator for exposures that may affect fish and other aquatic species," said Fred Pinkney, a USFWS contaminants biologist and study coauthor. "To help address this issue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encourages management actions that reduce runoff into streams, ponds and lakes -- both on and off of refuge lands.”

The journal article, Evidence of estrogenic endocrine disruption in smallmouth and largemouth bass inhabiting Northeast U.S. National Wildlife Refuge waters: a reconnaissance study,” by L.R. Iwanowicz, V.S. Blazer, A.E. Pinkney, C.P. Guy, A.M. Major, K. Munney, S. Mierzykowski, S. Lingenfelser, A. Secord, K. Patnode, T.J. Kubiak, C. Stern, C.M. Hahn, D.D. Iwanowicz, H.L. Walsh, and A. Sperry is available online in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.