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Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2012

Today was the Pocono Environmental Education Center/Audubon Annual Christmas Bird Count. I donned the snowshoes and hit the forest & fields on a cold blustery day recording the number and species of birds I saw. Fantastic afternoon!

In addition to the birds, I stalked within 30 yards of a deer leisurely feeding among some dead-falls in a grove of white pine. If you've never participated in this event you're missing a really nice opportunity to spend a winter's day outdoors. Next Fall check on Audubon.org for the date of your local Christmas Bird Count.

For me, this wasn't a social event. I signed up on line and received an email of the Count Area with a breakdown of sections. I chose a section and went on my merry way. I didn't see a single person or other person's footprint in my coverage area. Sweet, to say the least.

Urban dwellers can also participate in the cities. The elderly or those who are ill can tally what comes to their bird feeder and the less adventurous can count birds they see from their cars. A filed guide is handy to have as are binoculars. I never ran into anything unrecognizable so the field guide stay tucked away in my coat pocket.

I didn't set any records and I didn't see any rare or oddball species. I simply had a great time. Most of the birds I saw were Juncos followed by Chickadees. There were a few Nuthatches, a Blue Jay, two Red-tailed Hawks, a couple of American Crows, some Tufted Titmouse, half dozen Wild Turkey Toms, Mourning Doves, and the rarest of the species was a Pileated Woodpecker.

I should've brought along an SLR with a telephoto but I wanted to travel light for the 3 hour trudge through the snow. I did bring the old "Big Bird" point & shoot that did zero justice to any wildlife shots but did manage to capture some landscape pictures.

The sign up cost? Zero. It used to be a measly $5, but Audubon scrapped the fee. Of course a small donation to Audubon would help them with their mission: To conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Part of Pennsylvania Gives Kids a Jump Start on Opening Day Fishing

The 18 county area that makes up southeast Pennsylvania will have an earlier opening day for trout season for kids but only on certain waters.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced the start of a pilot program called the Mentored Youth Trout Day.

“The Commission is piloting the Mentored Youth Trout Day as part of its goal to keep young anglers and their families fishing,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “The pilot program gives us the opportunity to gauge interest and to determine the feasibility of expanding the program across the state.”

To participate in the program, kids under the age of 16 must register with the PFBC before joining a mentor angler, who must have a current fishing license and trout permit. They will then be able to fish on the Saturday before the southeast opener on the select waters from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“The waters will be stocked to ensure a plentiful supply of fish to catch for the youth day and the regular season to follow,” said Laurel Anders, PFBC director of Boating and Outreach.

The 12 waters in the program include (by county):
Adams – Waynesboro Reservoir
Berks – Antietam Lake
Berks – Scotts Run Lake
Bucks – Levittown Lake
Cumberland – Children’s Lake
Cumberland – Doubling Gap Lake
Dauphin – Middletown Reservoir
Lancaster – Muddy Run Recreational Lake
Lebanon – Lions Lake
Lehigh – Lehigh Canal, Section 8
Montgomery – Deep Creek Dam/Green Lake
Schuylkill – Locust Lake

“Registration is free and youth will have the opportunity to receive a free one-year subscription to the Pennsylvania League of Angling Youth (PLAY) newsletter,” added Anders. “The PLAY newsletter is written for young anglers and includes articles and activities on fish, fishing, and PA’s aquatic resources published four times each year.”

On-line registration is currently available on the PFBC website at: http://fishandboat.com/MentoredYouth.htm. Paper registration forms will be available at many of the Mentored Youth Trout Day locations starting Feb. 1, 2013.

The regional opening day of trout is March 30, 2013. The Mentored Youth Trout Day is March 23, 2103. The statewide opening day of trout is April 13, 2013.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

NJ American shad fishery has been closed for 2013 with some exceptions

Effective January 1, 2013, all American shad fisheries in New Jersey (both commercial and recreational), with the exception of the Delaware Bay, Delaware River and its tributaries, will be closed (no possession, take or harvest). The recreational possession limit in the Delaware Bay, Delaware River and its tributaries will now be 3 fish with no minimum size and an open season all year.

This shouldn't pose a problem to recreational anglers since the Delaware River is where almost all shad fishing in NJ takes place.

NJ Black Sea Bass Regulations Changed for 2013

New Jersey announced changes to the black sea bass regulations for 2013.

The new sea bass regs, which will cover both state and federal water call for a season from January 1 through February 28 with a size limit of 12 1/2 inches and a 15 fish possession limit.  

The current sea bass season is split up throughout the year, May 19 - Sept.3 Sept.23 - Oct.14 Nov.1 - Dec.31 and has a 25 fish possession limit with a 12 1/2 inch size limit.

What's not clear in their announcement is if these regulations are instead of the current regs above or if it's an add on.  As NJ says,  "all new regulations will be announced on the division website and via the NJ Marine Fishing E-mail List when they are determined" So I guess it's still a wait & see.

Friday, December 21, 2012

2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation

Wildlife-related outdoor recreation increased dramatically from 2006 to 2011.   The national details are shown in the final report (Final Report) of the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). The Final Report, which follows the August 2012 Preliminary Review and the September 2012 State Overview, provides more information on the types of activities and money spent for fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching.
Highlights of the Final Report include:
  • More than 90 million U.S. residents 16 years old and older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011; that is up 3 percent from five years earlier. The increase was primarily among those who fished and hunted. 
  • Wildlife recreationists spent $144.7 billion in 2011 on their activities, which equated to 1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.  Of the total amount spent, $49.5 billion was trip-related, $70.4 billion was spent on equipment, and $24.8 billion was spent on other items such as licenses and land leasing and ownership.
  • The number of sportspersons rose from 33.9 million in 2006 to 37.4 million in 2011. The data show that 33.1 million people fished, 13.7 million hunted, and 71.8 million participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity such as observing, feeding and photographing wildlife.
Other key findings include:
Fishing and Hunting
  • Of the 13.7 million hunters that took to the field in 2011, 11.6 million hunted big game, 4.5 million hunted small game, 2.6 million hunted migratory birds, and 2.2 million other animals.
  • Of the 33.1 million anglers that fished, 27.5 million freshwater fished and 8.9 million saltwater fished. 
  • While 94% of the U.S. population 16 years of age and older resided in metropolitan areas (50,000 and over populations), 89% of all anglers and 80% of all hunters were metropolitan residents.
  • 73% (24.2 million) of all anglers were male and 27% (8.9 million) were female. 89% (12.2 million) of all hunters were males and 11% (1.5 million) were females.
Wildlife Watching Highlights
  • 71.8 million U.S. residents observed, fed, and/or photographed birds and other wildlife in 2011. Almost 68.6 million people wildlife watched around their homes, and 22.5 million people took trips of at least one mile from home to primarily wildlife watch.
  • Of the 46.7 million people who observed wild birds, 88% did so around their homes and 38% on trips a mile or more from home.
  • Other types of wildlife also were popular for trip takers: 13.7 million people enjoyed watching land mammals such as bear, squirrel, and buffalo.  4 million people watched marine mammals such as whales and dolphins; 6.4 million enjoyed watching fish; and 10.1 million enjoyed watching other wildlife such as butterflies.
  • People spent $54.9 billion on their wildlife-watching trips, equipment, and other items in 2011.  This amounted to $981 on average per spender for the year.
At the request of state fish and wildlife agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service has been sponsoring the national survey every five years since 1955. It is viewed as one of the nation’s most important wildlife-related recreation databases and the definitive source of information concerning participation and purchases associated with hunting, fishing and other forms of wildlife-related recreation nationwide.

The U.S. Census Bureau selected over 48,600 households across the country to obtain samples of sportspersons and wildlife watchers for detailed interviews. Information was collected through computer-assisted telephone and in-person interviews.  Starting in December 2012 through May 2013, the State reports will be prepared for release on a rolling basis. The survey is funded by Multi-State Conservation grants under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs which celebrates 75 years of conservation success in 2012. 
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. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New York to Stock Lake Herring in Lake Ontario

Until the mid 1950s, Lake Ontario was home to a diverse group of whitefish that included as many as seven species that occupied varying depths of the lake.

Only three species are known to remain, the lake whitefish, round whitefish and lake herring. The abundance and distribution of these species in the lake is now greatly reduced. Recently the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) re-introduced the bloater, a deep water form of whitefish, into Lake Ontario. Lake herring occupy and spawn in shallower water than the bloater, and spawn earlier in winter.

"We recognize the economic and ecological importance of Lake Ontario's fisheries," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Re-establishing spawning populations of lake herring in Lake Ontario will diversify the native prey fish community and add stability to the lake's ecosystem."

 Re-establishing self-sustaining populations of native whitefishes in Lake Ontario is the focus of cooperative efforts between DEC, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with supporting research conducted by The Nature Conservancy.

Steelhead and salmon that feed primarily on invasive alewife can experience reproductive failure due to a vitamin B deficiency. Predators that feed on native species like lake herring and bloater are less likely to experience reproductive failure.

Michael Morencie, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Services Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, said, "Ontario has a strong commitment to restoring native species in Lake Ontario. This stocking event represents another pivotal benchmark in our efforts to restore native species diversity in the lake."

Lake herring were once an important prey fish in Lake Ontario, and supported important commercial fisheries that collapsed in the early 1950s largely due to over-harvest. In the New York waters of Lake Ontario, lake herring historically spawned in Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, the Sandy Pond, and Chaumont Bay. Research has documented current lake herring spawning only occurs in Chaumont Bay.

Juvenile lake herring will be stocked this week that originated from eggs collected by DEC staff in Chaumont Bay during November and December 2011.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Messing up less new land for new housing

This is another one of those it's better late than never things.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with a new report looking at residential building trends in America’s metropolitan areas. They  found that nearly 75% of large metropolitan regions had an increase in new housing development on land that was previously developed. This report compares the time periods of 2000-2004 to 2005 t0 2009.

This is good news. This type of development saves resources and open space since the infrastructure like water, sewer, rads and the like are already there. In other words, we're not taking an area that is still in its natural state and messing it up. The government has a name for this kind of development; it's called infill housing.

 Among 51 large metropolitan regions examined in this study, 36 saw an increased share of infill housing development during 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004. For example, eight out of ten new homes in San Jose, Calif. were infill. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco all saw a majority of new home construction in previously developed areas during the same time period.

If you'd like more info. on the report, prior studies, and a map showing regional trends check out this link: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/construction_trends.htm

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Trying to Balance the Colorado River

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released a study that projects water supply and demand imbalances throughout the Colorado River Basin and adjacent areas over the next 50 years. The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, the first of its kind, also includes a wide array of adaptation and mitigation strategies proposed by stakeholders and the public to address the projected imbalances.

One acre-foot of water is approximately the amount of water used by a single household in a year.  This study projects the average imbalance in future supply and demand to be greater than 3.2 million acre-feet by 2060. The largest increase in demand will come from municipal and industrial users, owing to population growth. The Colorado River Basin currently provides water to some 40 million people, and the study estimates that this number could nearly double to approximately 76.5 million people by 2060, under a rapid growth scenario.

“Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and this study provides a solid platform to explore actions we can take toward a sustainable water future. Although not all of the proposals included in the study are feasible, they underscore the broad interest in finding a comprehensive set of solutions." said Secretary Salazar.

“This study is one of a number of ongoing basin studies that Reclamation is undertaking through Interior’s WaterSMART Program,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “These analyses pave the way for stakeholders in each basin to come together and determine their own water destiny. This study is a call to action, and we look forward to continuing this collaborative approach as we discuss next steps.”

WaterSMART is Interior’s sustainable water initiative and focuses on using the best available science to improve water conservation and help water-resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand.

The Colorado River Basin is one of the most critical sources of water in the western United States. The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to about 40 million people for municipal use; supply water used to irrigate nearly 4 million acres of land, and is also the lifeblood for at least 22 Native American tribes, 7 National Wildlife Refuges, 4 National Recreation Areas, and 11 National Parks.

Throughout the course of the three-year study, eight interim reports were published to reflect technical developments and public input. Public comments are encouraged on the final study over the next 90 days; comments will be summarized and posted to the website for consideration in future basin planning activities.

The full study – including a discussion of the methodologies and levels of uncertainty – is available at www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html.

Little Fish get a Big Boost

Atlantic Menhaden get the protection they need to rebuild their population
ASMFC Approves Atlantic Menhaden Amendment 2

Baltimore, MD – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has approved Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The Amendment establishes a 170,800 MT total allowable catch (TAC) beginning in 2013 and continuing until completion of, and Board action on, the next benchmark stock assessment, scheduled for 2014. The TAC represents a 20% reduction from the average of landings from 2009-2011 and an approximately 25% reduction from 2011 levels. The Board also adopted new biological reference points for biomass based on maximum spawning potential (MSP), with the goal of increasing abundance, spawning stock biomass, and menhaden availability as a forage species.

“Through the selection of the MSP-based reference points, beginning with adoption of Addendum V in 2011 and continuing today, the Board has made a conscious decision to address the ecosystem services provided by Atlantic menhaden,” stated Board Chair Louis Daniel of North Carolina. “Given the stock is experiencing overfishing and is most likely overfished based on the newly adopted reference points, it was incumbent upon the Board to reduce landings in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource and the fisheries that depend on it.”

The Amendment allocates the TAC on a state-by-state basis based on landings history of the fishery from 2009-2011; allocation will be revisited three years after implementation. Further, it reduces the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery harvest cap by 20% (this is an adjustment of cap which was in place since 2006). States will be required to close their fisheries when the state-specific portion of the TAC has been reached; any overages must be paid back the following year. The Amendment includes provisions to allow for the transfer of quota between states and a bycatch allowance of 6,000 pounds for non-directed fisheries that are operating after a state TAC has been landed. The Amendment also establishes requirements for timely reporting and improved biological monitoring.

For more information, please contact Mike Waine, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at mwaine@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

USPS to Honor Baseball Great Ted Williams

 Legendary pro fisherman Stu Apte met Ted Williams in 1948 and shared his secret fishing spots with him for three months before he knew Williams was a baseball player.

Ted Williams was known for being one of Baseball’s greatest, but he also known for snagging fishing records in the Keys. Several of his old fishing buddies will recount their stories of Ted this Sunday at 4 pm at Robbie’s Marina at 77522 Overseas Highway in Islamorada FL.

Legendary pro fisherman Stu Apte will recount how he met Williams in 1948, share his secret fishing spots for three months before he know Williams was a baseball player. Williams signed his $100,000 annual endorsement with Sears at Apte’s home in the Keys because Williams didn’t want to miss out of three days on fishing with a trip to Chicago. He also attended two thanksgiving dinners at Williams’ FL home (hosted separately by two of Williams’ wives).

On Sunday, December 16, South Florida postal officials will present enlargements of the Ted Williams stamp to Irving R. Eyster, President, Matecumbe Historical Trust, and Stu Apte, Skip Bradeen, Hank Brown, Gary Ellis, and Tony Hammon who will share their recollections of fishing with “The Kid.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Postal Service issued the Major League Baseball All-Stars stamps, recognizing the accomplishments of Williams and three other baseball greats:  Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, and Willie Stargell.  Each of these Hall of Famers was a perennial All-Star selection and each left an indelible impression on the game. But at Robbie’s Marina on Sunday, it will be all about Williams.

Regarded as one of the all-time greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history, Williams (1918–2002) of the Boston Red Sox was the last Major League player to bat over .400 for a single season, in 1941. He hit .344 over a 19-year career, including 521 home runs.
During World War II, while in the prime of his career, Wil­liams enlisted in the Navy and began a flight training pro­gram after the 1942 season. He earned his wings as a second lieutenant in the Marines and became a flight instructor. He missed three full seasons of baseball during the war. He also missed most of two seasons in 1952 and 1953 while flying combat missions during the Korean War.                                                                              

Despite the interruptions to his career, Williams man­aged to win six American League batting titles and four home-run titles, even though Boston’s Fenway Park was difficult  for left-handed power hitters like Williams. He also was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player twice. In 1947, his second season after returning from World War II, he won his second Triple Crown. In 1957, at age 39, he hit .388 and became the oldest player in the his­tory of the majors to win a batting championship; he then led the league in batting again the next year at age 40. He even batted a more than respectable .316 his final season, in 1960, at age 42.   

Williams was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966. In 1969, he became manager of the Washington Sen­ators and was named American League Manager of the Year. After four years, he retired from managing and moved to Florida to pursue a lifelong passion for fishing.   

Williams died in Florida July 5, 2002, at age 83.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Atlantic Menhaden Management Board Meeting

Meeting Proceedings to be Broadcast via Internet

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will meet on December 14, 2012 from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM in Baltimore, Maryland to consider approval of Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The meeting will take place at the Best Western Plus Hotel and Conference Center, Chesapeake Room, 5625 O’Donnell Street, Baltimore, Maryland; 410.633.9500. The Business Session of the Commission will meet immediately following the Atlantic Menhaden Board meeting to consider final approval of Amendment 2. Meeting materials are now available at http://www.asmfc.org/meetings/atlMenhadenBoardMaterials_Dec14_2012.pdf. Supplemental materials will be posted to the Commission website on the Meetings page prior to the meeting; a subsequent press release will announce their availability.

The public is welcome to attend the meeting or listen to the proceedings via webinar. While the meeting venue will be able to accommodate a large audience (~175 seats), interested parties are invited to listen to the proceedings via the Internet Webinar (both presentations/motions and audio) or conference call (long distance charges will apply). Additional details on the webinar and conference call will be released later this week. Please note that since the Commission has already sought public comment on the main agenda items for the meeting (received 128,333 comments and held 13 public hearings from Maine through North Carolina), there will be limited opportunity for public comment at the meeting. Public comment may be accepted on issues that were not addressed during the public comment process or items that are not on the agenda.

At the meeting, the Board will select the final measures to be included in the Amendment as well as an implementation timeline. Draft Amendment 2, which was available for public comment from September 14 – November 16, 2012, presents a suite of options to manage and monitor the stock in both the short and long-term. These include options to end overfishing; change the biomass reference points to match the fishing mortality reference points; and establish a specification process to set and allocate total allowable catch (TAC), including procedures to close the fishery when a certain percentage of the TAC has been projected to be landed. It presents accountability measures to address quota transfers, rollovers, and overage payback, as well as options to allow for a specified amount of the TAC to be set aside for small scale fisheries and episodic events. To address monitoring and data collection needs, the Draft Amendment also presents options for timely quota monitoring and the collection of biological data through catch sampling.

Draft Amendment 2 responds to the findings of both the 2010 benchmark stock assessment and the 2012 stock assessment update that indicate the stock is experiencing overfishing but may or may not be overfished depending on the reference points chosen. The stock is not overfished based on the current reference points used in the most recent assessment. Given that the stock is experiencing overfishing, the Draft Amendment’s immediate goals are to take steps to end overfishing and manage Atlantic menhaden not only as a fishery but as a critical ecosystem component. However, uncertainties in the 2012 stock assessment update make it difficult to quantify the level of reductions needed to meet those goals. Therefore, the Draft Amendment includes a range of harvest reductions from 0 – 50% from current harvest levels. The broad range of potential harvest reductions and allocation scenarios enables the Board and the public to consider management options beyond the historical allocations and traditional quota setting approaches to best manage this fishery.

For more information, please contact Mike Waine, FMP Coordinator, at mwaine@asmfc.org or

NY Lands Fish Poachers on Long Island

After a two-week investigation by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs), two people were charged with selling 150 illegal tautog, locallaly known as blackfish. A thrid person has also been charged for purchasing the fish illegally.

ECOs nailed the two unlicensed fisherman, Matthew Ervolino and Matthew J. Savarese as they were weighing the fish before exchanging money with Ding Hai Yen from New Harbor Food, Inc in Flushing, NY The total weight of the fish came to more than 382 pounds.

"DEC establishes recreational fishing limits so individuals can enjoy a fishing resource at a sustainable level," said DEC Region 1 Regional Director Peter A. Scully. "When individuals drastically overfish their recreational limit and then attempt to sell these fish, they are not only depleting the fishing stock, but taking advantage of commercial fisherman who are playing by the rules and harvesting fish at their quota limits."

The arrests were made at a West Islip residence where they kept pens to sell live tautog to the New York City market. The fish have an approximate value of $2,000 on the black market.

Ervolino, 34, of West Babylon and Saverese, 36, of Holbrook were each charged with unlawful possession and sale of the blackfish, selling without a commercial food fish license, and possessing over the limit and undersized blackfish, each a misdemeanor under the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) carrying fines of up to $5,000 for each charge and/or one year in jail.

 Yen, 56, was charged with purchasing fish from the unlicensed fishermen, also a misdemeanor carrying fines of up to $5,000 for each charge and/or one year in jail under the ECL.

Suffolk County District Attorney's Office is reviewing the case and may have additional charges

To report any environmental crime, please contact DEC's toll free 24-hour TIPP hotline at: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332). DEC keeps the identity of all TIPP callers confidential.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Budget Law Will Freeze Sport Fish Restoration Fund

 Unprecedented move will impact economy and fisheries conservation

On September 14, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its recommendations for budget cuts that include withholding parts of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, a move that would have a significant impact on fisheries conservation and the jobs it supports. OMB’s action was triggered by the failure of the Congress and the Administration to enact a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“The angling and boating community was shocked to learn that for the first time in its 62-year history, the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund – the backbone of fisheries conservation in the United States - is recommended for a cut under sequestration totaling $34 million,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.

Robertson further said, “This conservation trust fund, established in 1950 with the support of industry, anglers and state conservation agencies, is an outstanding example of what good government should be and is the backbone of the user-pay model of funding conservation in this nation. It is essential that it remain untouched. The sportfishing and boating communities are ready to work with Congress and the
Administration to solve this problem.”

The Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 placed a federal excise tax on all recreational fishing equipment, which manufacturers pay and is then incorporated into the cost of the equipment that anglers purchase. In 1984 the Act was amended to include that part of the federal gasoline fuel tax attributable to motor boat use. The total annual value of the Trust Fund is approximately $650 million. The monies from the fund are apportioned to state conservation agencies for sport fish restoration, boating safety, angler and boater access and other fishing and boating programs.

“When anglers and boaters pay the equipment tax or the fuel tax they are doing so with the understanding that this money is going to a trust fund dedicated - by law - to the resources they enjoy,” said Robertson. “Withholding funds from this essential program at a time when state fishery programs are already struggling to ensure the best quality service to anglers and resource management will only cause fishery resources to suffer even more and cause job losses associated with the loss of recreation fishing boating programs. The sportfishing and boating industries as well as anglers and boaters themselves fail to understand how cutting a user-pay trust fund helps the economy.”

Recreational fishing adds $125 billion each year to the nation’s economy and supports more than one million jobs. Since its inception, the Sport Fish Restoration Act has pumped $7 billion into habitat restoration, access and boating safety programs.

The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund’s older sibling, the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1936, after which the Sportfish Trust Fund was patterned, is slated for a $31 million freeze. That Act is funded by hunters and men and women who engage in the shooting sports and archery, who pay a similar tax to support wildlife restoration. “This level of cuts to conservation programs that pay their own way is unprecedented and all anglers, hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts must speak up to prevent these cuts,” Robertson concluded.

Along with these two cornerstone conservation acts, many other critical conservation funds are also listed for significant cuts. Congress, with the cooperation of the Administration, must address the sequestration schedule and they will not occur until after the elections and possibly not until early 2013 and with a new Congress.

“We encourage all anglers to go to www.KeepAmericaFishing.org for information about when Congress may act and when anglers should speak up to maintain critical conservation funding,” Robertson said.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry's trade association, committed to looking out for the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice speaking out when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. We invest in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous as well as safeguard and promote the enduring economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America's 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation's waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America's anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation's economy creating employment for over one million people.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Proposal to Ban Dumping Sewage from Boats into Lake Erie

Wow, I would thought this was something that would have been banned long ago! But, under the category of better late than never, The EPA figures the time has finally come to establish a “no discharge zone”. This 593 square mile area takes in several bays and tributaries along 84 miles of coastline.

The no discharge zone means that boats would be banned from discharging sewage into the water.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said, "Creating a no discharge zone for the New York portions of Lake Erie is an important step in protecting this amazing water body.”

Discharges of boat sewage sometimes contain formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine along with the standard feces and urine.

To comment on the proposed EPA approval, email, fax or mail comments to Moses Chang at chang.moses@epa.gov, Fax: (212) 637-3891. Mailing address: Moses Chang, U.S. EPA Region 2, 290 Broadway, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10007-1866

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Illegal gill netting increasing along lower Texas coast

With more than a month left in 2012, state game wardens already are looking at a record number of seizures of illegal gill nets and long lines in Texas and U.S. waters along the lower coast.

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Coast Guard notified the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that following a three-mile pursuit by one of its boats, coast guardsmen had apprehended a commercial fishing vessel from Mexico in Texas waters. At the South Padre Island Coast Guard station, game warden Sgt. James Dunks removed an illegal gill net from the seized Mexican “launcha” and found some 180 sharks entangled in it.

The captain of the seized vessel, a Mexican national, was taken before a South Padre Island justice of the peace and charged with possession of an illegal fishing device and operating an unregistered vessel. The other person on the boat, a 16-year-old male, was released to the U.S. Border Patrol.

On Nov. 7, the TPWD patrol vessel Captain Williams discovered a three-mile-long gill net about 6 miles north of Brazos Santiago Pass and 7 miles offshore.

Dropping 30 feet deep, the net contained 17 greater hammerhead sharks, 13 unidentified sharks (because of their advanced decomposition), 8 black drum, 6 tripletail, 1 large red drum, and several hundred triggerfish. Game wardens confiscated the net and released all live fish entangled in the net.

So far this year, game wardens working aboard the Captain Williams operating along the lower Texas coast have seized 138,080 feet of long line; 53,840 feet of gill net; more than 6,000 sharks, 300 red snapper, 211 red or black drum; 21 gag grouper and 2 sailfish.

All of the illegal fishing devices are believed to have been set in Texas or federal waters by commercial fishermen operating out of Mexico, particularly from the village of La Playa Bagdad, which lies about nine miles south of the Rio Grande.

“Illegal gill netting has an adverse impact on shark species and also traps a wide variety of Texas game fish,” says Special Operations Chief Grahame Jones of the TPWD Law Enforcement Division.

Sharks, the most common target of these vessels, are harvested not only for their meat, but also for their fins.  Shark fins, used for soup, are considered some of the world’s most expensive seafood and its high demand supports a world-wide black market.

In another recent trend, the U.S. Coast Guard recently found illegal long lines with hooked live brown pelicans being used as floats.

“They sometimes use live pelicans in an attempt to hide the lines, since they know we are looking for more traditional floatation devices,” explains Sgt. Dunks, who pilots the Captain Williams.

Dunks says that arrests in gill netting or long line cases are rare. When the commercial fishermen are caught in the act, the only charges that can be filed are misdemeanors punishable by fines. However, the illegal fishing equipment and vessel can be seized.

Marine interests spotting gill nets or long lines in Texas waters are urged to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-792GAME (4263), contact a game warden or notify the U.S. Coast Guard.

Most Marine Species Remain Undiscovered

A comprehensive study by an international group of scientists suggests that the global oceans may be home to up to one million species, of which only about 226,000 have been identified and described to date. This means that as much as 75 percent of all marine species have yet to be discovered. The rate of discovery has accelerated in recent decades, and most unknown species could be identified, named, and described by the end of this century.
Zanclea orientalis, a small jellyfish of the class Hydrozoa, from Moorea. The bell is less than one centimeter (about one-third of an inch) across. Collected as part of the Moorea Biocode project. Photo credit: Allen Collins, NEFSC/NOAA

Understanding how many marine species exist is important to provide a baseline for what we know or don’t know about life in the ocean. That knowledge also aids conservation and global biodiversity efforts as information about extinction rates become better known.

NOAA zoologist Allen Collins from the NEFSC’s National Systematics Laboratory is a co-author of the study, considered the first comprehensive inventory of marine species world‑wide. “The Magnitude of Global Marine Species Diversity” was published online November 15 in Current Biology and is scheduled to appear in print December 4.

While many of the unknown species are thought to be smaller organisms, such as plankton and tiny bottom dwellers, where animal diversity is likely to be high, there are most likely some large animal species that are still unknown. Researchers estimate that as many as eight new species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) have yet to be identified.

Collins was among more than 120 of the world’s leading taxonomists and species identification experts to contribute to the study of global biodiversity using the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). The registry, an open access, online database created by scientists from 146 institutions in 32 countries, serves as a central repository to access information. WoRMS is maintained at the Flanders Marine Institute in Belgium.
Lead author Ward Appeltans of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), says the team has catalogued about 226,000 marine species, excluding marine bacteria. An estimated 58,000-72,000 species in museums and collections are waiting to be described.

Previous estimates of the number and diversity of global marine species have ranged from 500,000 to as many as ten million, with most estimates exceeding one million. The widely varying estimates came from a variety of methods, ranging from expert opinion polls to models projecting rates of species descriptions based on the accumulation of higher taxa. Once the database was set up for this new study, experts in each area of expertise estimated how many species they thought were undiscovered. Those estimates were checked against a statistical model the WoRMS team constructed based on the rate of species discovery. The result was a total number of undiscovered species somewhere between 320,000 and 760,000. When added to the roughly 226,000 marine species already described and in the register, the revised total is closer to one million.

Collins says a lot of scholarly work has been duplicated because of a lack of a central database to check information about what has already been found. “It takes a lot of time and careful examination of historic records and specimens to determine correct species names, especially when there may be many different names and descriptions of the same animal, commonly known as synonyms.”

Collins, an expert in jellyfish, hydroids, corals, and glass sponges, began working on the study more than two years ago, and is one of two NOAA Fisheries scientists involved in the project. William Perrin of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, a marine mammal specialist, studies the species classification and ecology of cetaceans.

In the past decade, more species have been discovered than ever before, an average of 2,000 discoveries each year. The rate of discovery is increasing because of a greater focus on biodiversity and a growing number of researchers interested and involved in describing new species. New technologies are available that allow researchers to access previously unexplored areas of the world and to better study specimens in the laboratory.

This new study complements the Census of Marine Life and other recent efforts to understand what lives in the oceans. Mike Vecchione, Director of the National Systematics Laboratory and a researcher actively involved in global species exploration, says a better understanding of marine species is critical for managing the ecosystems in which these species live.

Vecchione notes that scarce conservation resources cannot be allocated rationally without knowing what lives where. “This requires the ability to identify species so that we can determine their distribution and monitor their abundance. Basic observations are needed before hypotheses about patterns and trends of biodiversity can be proposed and tested. Consistent species names are needed for scientists, managers, and the public to communicate with each other in addressing problems and developing solutions.”

“It is very exciting, and pretty amazing when you look at the numbers,” Collins said of the recent report. “While these are best estimates from a group of researchers considered experts in their respective areas, people have taken a more careful approach in the past few years to track species and their names, top to bottom.”

The scientists at NOAA’s National Systematics Laboratory, located in the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, each year identify new species from around the world. Collins says he and his colleagues receive a steady stream of inquiries from researchers seeking help in identifying species, “and the numbers grow each year.”