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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Releases Annual List of Candidates for Endangered Species Act Protection

Yadkin River goldenrod.
Yadkin River goldenrod.  Photo credit: USFWS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released the Candidate Notice of Review, a yearly status appraisal of plants and animals that are candidates for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection. Three species have been removed from candidate status and three have a change in priority from the last review conducted in November 2012.  There are now 146 species recognized by the Service as candidates for ESA protection.

“Protecting America’s most at-risk wildlife one of our highest priorities,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “We are currently working with landowners and partners across the nation to implement voluntary conservation agreements on some 5 million acres of habitat for more than 130 candidate species, helping address some of the threats they face before they are ever listed under the ESA.”

Candidate species are plants and animals for which the Service has enough information on their status and the threats they face to propose as threatened or endangered, but for which a proposed listing rule is precluded by other, higher priority listing actions. The annual review and identification of candidate species helps landowners and natural resource managers understand which species need to be conserved, allowing them to address threats and work to preclude the need to list the species.

Although candidate species do not receive ESA protection, the Service works to conserve them and their habitats using several tools: a grants program funds conservation projects by private landowners, states and territories; and two voluntary programs ­– Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs) and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) ­– engage participants to implement specific actions that remove or reduce the threats to candidate species, which helps  stabilize or restore the species and can preclude the need for ESA listing.

For example, the Service’s Southeast region completed a CCA with Alcoa Power Generating Inc. to conserve the Yadkin River goldenrod.  This plant occurs in two discrete locations along a 2.5-mile stretch of the Yadkin River in North Carolina.   The continuing implementation of the CCA fully addresses threats to the species by controlling invasive exotic vegetation and implementing a propagation and population expansion program and includes regular monitoring and reporting.  As a result of these efforts, the goldenrod no longer meets the definition of a candidate species and was removed from the candidate list.

The removal of the other two species announced today – Brand’s phacelia and Orcutt’s hazardia (two plants native to California and Baja California, Mexico) – was based on new information that provided a better understanding on the range and distribution of populations, as well as implementation of management actions that addressed habitat loss and degradation and impacts from recreational activities.

All candidate species are assigned a listing priority number based on the magnitude and imminence of the threats they face. When adding species to the list of threatened or endangered species, the Service addresses species with the highest listing priority first. Today’s notice announces changes in priority for three species – the southern Idaho ground squirrel, Kentucky arrow darter, and Cumberland arrow darter – based on changes in taxonomy.

The Service is soliciting additional information on the candidate species, as well as information on other species that may warrant protection under the ESA. This information will be valuable in preparing listing documents and future revisions or supplements to the candidate notice of review.

The complete notice and list of proposed and candidate species appears in the Federal Register and can be found online at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/cnor.html

50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish.

It's no secret that most of the best trout fisheries in the US are tailwaters. That's what prompted Terry & Wendy Gunn to put together a book of the 50 best. In addition to being writers, fly fishing TV show hosts, speakers and just plain old excellent anglers, Terry and Wendy own Lees Ferry Anglers on the Colorodo River, just below the Glen Canyon Dam; they are far from strangers when it comes to tailwaters.

It was over a year ago when Terry contacted me to write the chapter on the Upper Delaware River. To say I was flattered would be an understatement. Just finding myself the recipient of a call from one of the who's who in fly fishing was over the top enough.

In this book that's divided into regions, West, Rockies, South, and East you'll find experts like Tim Linehan, Mike Lawson, Craig Matthews and 52 others. There are actually 56 tailwaters that made the grade, I guess the publisher just liked the ring of "50 Best..." better than "56 Best..." If it were me, I would have asked Terry and Wendy to add one more river (I'm sure it's out there, just as I'm sure there's someone who'll say, "hey, why wasn't Dioxin Creek included") and went the "57 Varieties..." route.  There's good reason why I'm not a publisher.

If you're in need of some winter reading material, a Christmas present, or a bucket list, pick up 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish

Terry and Wendy have autographed copies available through Lees Ferry Anglers

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Report Reveals Continuing Coastal Wetlands Losses in U.S.

The United States is losing wetlands in coastal watersheds at a significant rate, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These wetlands are vital to the survival of diverse fish and wildlife species. Wetlands also help sustain the country’s multi-billion-dollar coastal fisheries and outdoor recreation industries, improve water quality and protect coastal communities from the effects of severe storms.

Suisun Marsh, California, by USFWSThe report, Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009, which was also funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tracked wetland loss on the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts, as well as the Great Lakes shorelines. It concludes that more than 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are being lost on average each year, up from 60,000 acres lost per year during the previous study.

“Wetlands are important to our nation’s heritage, economy and wildlife – especially when it comes to coastal communities,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “When a study shows that an area four times the size of Miami is disappearing every year, it underscores the importance of strengthening our collective efforts to improve wetlands management, to reduce losses and to ensure coastal infrastructure and resources are protected.”

“Wetlands are essential to fish and shellfish, and are integral to the health of the nation’s multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industries,” said Mark Schaefer, NOAA Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management. “The three most valuable species that depend on habitats supported by our wetlands—crab, shrimp, and lobster—had a combined value of $1.6 billion in 2012. The disappearance of this habitat could be detrimental to our nation's seafood supply.”

Notable wetland losses were recorded along the Gulf Coast (257,150 acres) and accounted for 71 percent of the total estimated loss during the study period. The Atlantic Coast lost 111,960 acres and the Pacific Coast 5,220 acres. Although the losses along the Pacific Coast were 12pt in comparison to the others, they represent an important component of coastal wetlands in this region, which has a predominantly high, rocky coastline. The watersheds of the Great Lakes region experienced a net gain in wetland area of an estimated 13,610 acres.

“In addition to the important economic and safety benefits they provide to people, coastal wetlands are also vitally important to native fish and wildlife species,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “While they comprise less than 10 percent of the nation’s land area, they support 75 percent of our migratory birds, nearly 80 percent of fish and shellfish, and almost half of our threatened and endangered species. We can’t sustain native wildlife for future generations without protecting and restoring the coastal wetlands that support them.”

The increase in the overall rate of wetland loss was attributed to losses of saltwater wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico due to coastal storms, in combination with freshwater wetland losses in both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Large losses of freshwater, forested wetland areas were attributed to urban and rural development and some forestry practices.

In some coastal watersheds, rising ocean levels are encroaching into wetlands from the seaward side, while development from the landward side takes a further chunk out of the existing wetland area and prevents wetlands from being able to migrate inland. This dual threat squeezes wetlands into an ever 12pter and more fragile coastal fringe.

As evidenced in published reports to the Congress on the status and trends of wetlands in the lower 48 states, conservation programs on agricultural and other undeveloped lands have helped conserve and restore wetlands. These programs have helped ameliorate wetland losses in the Great Lakes States and in agricultural portions of other coastal watersheds and are viewed as important programs contributing to wetland conservation strategies.

“For decades, USDA conservation efforts have contributed a great deal to protecting and restoring our wetlands," said Ann Mills, Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources & Environment. "Today’s report to Congress underscores the value of these conservation programs, many of which are authorized under the Farm Bill, and serves as yet another reminder that America needs passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible to continue these critical investments in wildland conservation.

Several federal agencies are collaborating to better understand how wetlands are affected by land use practices and other factors and incorporating wetlands protection into policy. These efforts have been incorporated into activities under the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan (National Ocean Council 2013), which describes the specific actions federal agencies will take to address key challenges and promote stewardship of coastal resources.

The data in this report provide new and more comprehensive information about coastal wetland trends and may be instrumental in forming additional recommendations to improve the management of wetlands in coastal watersheds, reduce losses and ensure coastal infrastructure and resources are protected.

The report is available online at http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Documents/Status-and-Trends-of-Wetlands-In-the-Coastal-Watersheds-of-the-Conterminous-US-2004-to-2009.pdf.

For more information on wetland issues, visit www.fws.gov/wetlands and www.habitat.noaa.gov/coastalwetlandsreport.

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.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NOAA , Twitter and our other social media channels.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Texas Game Wardens “Like” End Result of Angler’s Facebook Post

AUSTIN – A South Texas man has pled guilty to nine charges of possession of oversized red drum, one charge of no saltwater fishing license, and one charge of exceeding the possession limit for red drum.

The investigation leading to the filing of charges against 30-year-old Luis Castro began with a Facebook post showing a man holding a large red drum with eight other oversize drum on display in the bed of a pickup truck. (The bag limit for redfish is three per day, and they must be between 20 and 28 inches. Only one redfish longer than that can be kept, and only with a properly completed redfish tag attached to it.)

On Nov. 1, game wardens in Cameron County were contacted about the Facebook picture, which had originally been placed on line by Castro’s brother. Accompanying the image was the comment, “just for fun.”

Game wardens ended up receiving multiple complaints regarding the Facebook post. TPWD dispatchers and game wardens were able to review records which eventually resulted in the positive identification of Castro and his place of employment.

On Nov. 6, game wardens interviewed Castro and obtained a signed written statement. Five days later, Willacy County Justice of the Peace George Solice issued an arrest warrant for Castro and game wardens arrested him the same day. Following arraignment, he was released with a court date of Nov. 19.

“Anglers on several social media sites were posting negative comments, and a day after the picture was originally posted, it was removed,” said Game Warden Maj. Alan Teague. “However, the picture had been saved by many anglers and reposted.”

Teague said the picture made it to fishing groups as far away as Florida.

“With tips from anglers and hard work by our game wardens and dispatchers, we were able to track the individual to a city in South Texas,” Teague said.

During sentencing, Justice of the Peace Solice noted how important recreational fishing is to the people in Willacy County which includes Port Mansfield.  Before sentencing Castro, the judge pointed out that there are people in the county whose livelihood depends upon the quality and future of recreational fishing.

“It was an obscene number of fish that you caught,” the judge said to the defendant.  “We are all living paycheck-to-paycheck but none of us are going hungry.  It was completely unnecessary to take that many fish.”

Castro was fined $2,600 and an additional $2,645.91 will be assessed as part of the civil restitution.

Tests Find Asian Carp eDNA in PA, WV Sections of Ohio River

State officials from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) have confirmed that environmental DNA (eDNA) from the invasive Asian silver carp has been found in two water samples collected from the Ohio River.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) tested 200 water samples collected from the upper Ohio River between Wheeling, W.V., and Pittsburgh on Oct. 21-22. The tests found eDNA in one Pennsylvania sample taken from the Ohio River in Aliquippa, Beaver County, about six miles upstream of the confluence with the Beaver River. A second positive eDNA result was found in a West Virginia sample near Chester in Hancock County. None of the samples tested positive for bighead carp.
Researchers use eDNA analysis as a tool for the early detection of Asian carp, which include silver and bighead carp. The findings indicate the presence of genetic material left behind by the species, such as scales, excrement or mucous. But eDNA does not provide physical proof of the presence of live or dead Asian carp.
“Unfortunately, the test results provide some evidence that this invasive species could be in the upper Ohio River in Pennsylvania,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “This is an early warning sign, since we don’t know for certain the origin of the genetic material. We don’t know if the eDNA came from live or dead fish or if it was transported from other sources, like bilge water or storm sewers, or even waterfowl visiting the basin.”
“The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia have been cooperatively working over the last two years to address Asian carp upstream migrations in the Ohio River,” added Curtis Taylor, Chief of the West Virginia Wildlife Resources Section. “These efforts have focused on fishing down these species at the population’s leading edge by using contracted commercial fishermen. The main reach of this effort has centered in the Meldahl and Greenup navigation pools that span the river between Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.” This cooperative effort will continue in 2014.
Asian carp are a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems because of their voracious appetite and ability to quickly reproduce. Once in a waterway, they devour much of the microscopic algae and animals that other species rely on for food, effectively decimating other species. This, in turn, can harm local economies which rely on the revenue generated from sport fishing and boating.  
Because of the destructive nature of the Asian carp species, officials urge anglers and boaters to help slow the spread. Anglers and boaters should thoroughly clean gear and boats before entering new waters and learn how to identify Asian carp. A video teaching people how to identify bighead and silver carp is available from the USFWS on YouTube at http://youtu.be/B49OWrCRs38.
Anglers and boaters are urged to contact the PFBC or WVDNR if they suspect the presence of Asian carp. Both agencies maintain a website for easy communication: PFBC - http://fishandboat.com/ais.htm and WVDNR - www.wvdnr.gov/fishing/asian_carp.shtm.
Additional information is available on the national Asian carp website at: http://asiancarp.us/.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

First Evidence of Grass Carp Reproduction in the Great Lakes

The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that four grass carp (a species of Asian carp) taken from the Sandusky River in Ohio are the result of natural reproduction within the Lake Erie basin.

Grass carp can threaten native fish populations and could be detrimental to ducks, geese and other large aquatic birds that rely on the vegetation that these carp destroy. Grass carp were brought to the U.S. to control aquatic plants in the 1960s. They eat large quantities of aquatic plants, which could degrade areas important for spawning and early development of native fish.

 Fish captured by a commercial fisherman in October 2012 were examined by USGS scientists and determined that they were at least one year in age and had the capacity to become spawning adults. Bones in the heads of fishes, called otoliths, are useful to biologists because they provide a history of the chemistry of the water the fish inhabited over its life. Analysis of those bones indicates that the four captured grass carp had lived in the Sandusky watershed their entire lives. Scientists ruled out the possibility that the fish originated from a fish farm by comparing their otoliths to those from reference pond fish.

"These findings are significant because they confirm recent USGS research indicating that shorter rivers, like the Sandusky, are potential spawning sites for grass carp and other Asian carps as well," said USGS scientist Duane Chapman. "The study may also provide resource managers an opportunity to address the spread of grass carp before it becomes problematic."

Successful reproduction of grass carp in the Great Lakes is an indication that other species of Asian carp—silver, bighead and black carp—might be able to reproduce there. Silver, bighead, and black carps have spawning and development requirements similar to grass carp. Bighead and silver carps have reached extremely high densities in the Mississippi River Basin and there is great concern that they may invade the Great Lakes Basin.

Scientists are confident that these grass carp are the result of natural reproduction for a number of reasons. The Sandusky watershed has a naturally occurring high ratio of strontium to calcium, and fish inhabiting the Sandusky River have strontium to calcium ratios in their otoliths that reflect this unusual chemistry. The otoliths of the Sandusky River grass carp were not only higher in strontium to calcium ratio than pond fish, but also reflected the Sandusky River’s natural fluctuations in this ratio, which are caused by rainfall. Pond fish otoliths reflected the stable and low strontium to calcium concentration of ponds.

This study was done in cooperation with Bowling Green State University and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Fisherman Faces Misdemeanor for Having Illegal Striped Bass

Over $600 Worth in Fish Found in Restaurant



A Babylon pizzeria owner was served misdemeanor charges Sunday after he was caught by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) with 60 pounds of striped bass that he was illegally selling in his restaurant.

According to Captain Timothy Huss, on October 16, 2013, State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ECOs began investigating an anonymous tip stating a village of Babylon resident and pizzeria owner was illegally selling striped bass. ECOs set up surveillance at the business of Mr. Frank Genovas to determine any validity to the tip. That evening, ECOs observed an employee at the pizzeria, Franchesco's Pizzeria in Babylon, bringing a large striped bass into the restaurant from the back lot. ECOs proceeded to conduct an inspection of the restaurant and located three untagged striped bass in a cooler and 23 pounds of fillets in portion sizes located in a separate cooler. ECOs interviewed Mr. Genovas and employees regarding the origins of the fish and also noted the night's special entrée was locally caught bass.

A total of 60 pounds of untagged striped bass worth more than $600 were seized by the ECOs and donated to Long Island Cares Charity.

"DEC establishes fishing limits and fish food laws to protect fish populations and ensure the food people are consuming is safe and sustainable," said DEC Region 1 Regional Director Peter A. Scully. "When individuals overfish their recreational limit, they not only deplete the fishing stock, but take advantage of those commercial fishermen who play by the rules."

Mr. Frank Genovas, 53, of Babylon was cited for four misdemeanor level commercialization charges including:
  • Possessing untagged striped bass;
  • Taking striped bass without a commercial striped bass permit;
  • Failing to have a food fish license; and
  • Possessing striped bass fillets in a retail establishment without maintaining the associated fish carcass.
Each charge carries a penalty of up to $5,000 and/or up to one year in jail.

Mr. Genovas is scheduled to appear at the 1st District Court in Islip on Dec. 11, 2013.

All persons taking striped bass commercially are required to possess a commercial fishing license. Licensees are issued a limited number of tags and are required to file harvest reports for each fishing trip. This system allows DEC to account for the number of fish taken commercially and properly manage the species which has been threatened by low population numbers in the past.

Individuals spotting illegal activities are encouraged to call DEC's Environmental Conservation Police at (631) 444-0250  during business hours, and 1-877-457-5680  or 1-800-TIPP-DEC at all other times to report suspected illegal activities.