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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pennsylvania Changes Striped Bass Regulations

Changes to Striped Bass Regulations Effective March 1
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is alerting anglers to several changes to striped bass regulations in the Delaware River and Delaware Estuary which will take effect March 1 in order to meet requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The changes apply only to the Pennsylvania side of the river and estuary. The Delaware River in Pennsylvania, for the purposes of striped bass management, is divided into two sections known as the Estuary and the Delaware River.
Beginning March 1, the creel limit for striped bass in the Estuary – defined as the Pennsylvania/Delaware state line upstream to the Calhoun Street Bridge – will be reduced to one fish from January 1 through March 31 and from June 1 through December 31. The creel limit is currently set at two. As in the recent past, fish must be at least 28 inches.
For the remaining two months, from April 1 through May 31, the slot length limit will be changed to 21-25 inches. The current slot limit is 20-26 inches. During this two-month period, the creel limit will remain at two fish per day.
In the Delaware River upstream of the Estuary – defined as upstream from the Calhoun Street Bridge – the creel limit for striped bass will be reduced from two fish to one. The river is open year-round with a minimum size of 28 inches.
“This action is being taken to meet the requirements of ASMFC’s management plan for striped bass, which calls for management actions when the coast-wide spawning stock biomass (SSB) or fishing mortality rates reach thresholds set within the plan,” said Leroy Young, PFBC Director of the Bureau of Fisheries.
Young explained that the SSB threshold is 127 million pounds, and the current SSB is just above this at 128 million pounds. At the current fishing mortality rates, there is concern that the SSB will fall below the threshold in the near future. In addition to these concerns, recruitment of young fish has been relatively low in many of the years since 2004.
In response to these concerns, the ASFMC Striped Bass Management Board, which includes the PFBC as a member, has directed all coastal states to reduce fishing mortality rates by 25% beginning in 2015. These revised length and creel limits are designed to meet those requirements.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NOAA Identifies Six Nations Fishing Illegally

2015 Report on Illegal, Unreported, & Unregulated Fishing

In its 2015 biennial report to Congress on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU), NOAA has identified six nations -- Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Portugal -- as engaging in the practice. IUU fishing and seafood fraud undermine international efforts to sustainably manage and rebuild fisheries, and creates unfair market competition for fishermen playing by the rules, like those in the United States.

“Protecting our country’s reputation as a leader in sustainable fishing is at the heart of the President’s efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud around the world,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, and NOAA administrator, during remarks she made at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orleans. “As one of the largest importers of seafood in the world, the United States has a global responsibility and economic duty to ensure that the fish we import is caught sustainably and legally. Tackling this challenge will require sustained collaboration between industry, conservation groups, and government.”

The report also highlights U.S. findings and analyses of foreign IUU fishing activities and of bycatch of protected species and shark catch on the high seas where nations do not have a regulatory program comparable to the United States.

IUU activity of the identified nations included violations such as fishing in restricted areas, tuna discards, misreported catch, and improper handling of turtle entanglement. NOAA Fisheries will work with each of the cited nations to address these activities and improve their fisheries management and enforcement practices. If the nation does not take sufficient action and does not receive a positive certification in the next biennial report, the U.S. may prohibit the import of fisheries products from that nation and deny port privileges to their fishing vessels.

The 2013 report identified ten nations—Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Spain, Tanzania, Venezuela—whose vessels engaged in IUU fishing activities. Over the last two years, the United States worked with these 10 nations and determined that each took appropriate action by adopting new laws and regulations or amending existing ones, sanctioning the offending vessels, improving monitoring and enforcement, or asking for a reexamination of the activities of certain vessels. While all 10 nations took appropriate action to address IUU activity in the 2013 report, three (Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico) have been reidentified in the 2015 report for new IUU activity.

No countries were identified for bycatch of protected living marine resources or for shark catch on the high seas in the 2015 biennial report. However, Mexico was identified in the 2013 report  for a lack of management measures for mitigating bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in the gillnet fishery in Mexico’s Gulf of Ulloa. Mexico has since made meaningful progress in developing a regulatory program to address this issue. NOAA Fisheries will continue to work with Mexico and will delay its certification decision until May 2015.

“The United States is committed to working with all nations to combat illegal fishing, and to ensure the effective management of bycatch of protected species and shark catch on the high seas,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “We are encouraged by the positive steps these nations took to address IUU fishing and will continue to explore all avenues to combat IUU activity on a global scale.”

In addition to undermining international fisheries efforts, IUU fishing can also devastate fish populations and their productive marine habitats, threatening global food security and economic stability. Global losses attributable to IUU fishing have been estimated to be between $10 billion and $23 billion annually, undermining the ability to sustainably manage fisheries as well as economic opportunities for U.S. fishermen.
The report is a requirement of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, as amended by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act and the Shark Conservation Act.

At the State Department’s Our Ocean conference in June 2014, the White House announced a Presidential Task Force on IUU fishing, co-chaired by the departments of state and commerce and made up of a broad range of other federal agencies. The Task Force, which was was directed to report to the President within six months with “recommendations for the implementation of a comprehensive framework of integrated programs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud that emphasizes areas of greatest need,” made 15 recommendations in December which, if implemented, would combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud, strengthen enforcement, Create and expand partnerships with industry and state and local governments, and track seafood from harvest to entry into the United States.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Asian Carp eDNA in Sections of Ohio River

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has confirmed that environmental DNA (eDNA) from the invasive Asian Silver Carp and Bighead Carp has been found in six water samples collected from the Ohio River last year. Sampling has been performed in Pennsylvania in response to the documented spread of Asian carp in the middle and lower Ohio River.
As part of a cooperative effort, biologists from the PFBC, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collected 595 water samples from the Ohio River basin in July 2014. The tests found one positive result for Silver Carp eDNA in each of the Montgomery and New Cumberland pools of the Ohio River’s locks and dams systems. Each pool also showed two positive results for Bighead Carp eDNA. A total of 92 water samples were taken from each pool.
Researchers use eDNA analysis as a tool for the early detection of Asian 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. No Asian carp, alive or dead, have been reported from Pennsylvania’s portion of the Ohio River.
“Unfortunately, the 2014 test results provide a little more 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.”
None of the 175 water samples from the Ohio River’s Dashfields and Emsworth pools, Beaver River, Little Beaver Creek, Raccoon Creek, Chartiers Creek, Monongahela River and Allegheny River tested positive for Silver or Bighead carp eDNA.
This marks the second year that eDNA was found. In 2013, the USFWS tested 184 water samples collected from the upper Ohio River between Wheeling, W.V., and Pittsburgh and found eDNA in one sample from the Montgomery Pool near Aliquippa, Beaver County, and one sample from the backchannel of Babbs Island near East Liverpool, OH. More information about the testing is available on the USFWS website at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/fisheries/eDNA/Results-ohioriver.html.
More information about the effort by the Ohio River Basin states to try to stop the spread of Asian carp is available at: http://fishandboat.com/ais/ORFMT_Asian_Carp_Strategy.pdf
Asian carp are an invasive species which pose a serious threat 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 and disrupting the aquatic ecosystem. 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 if they suspect the presence of Asian carp. Information can be easily submitted through the PFBC website at: http://fishandboat.com/ais-reporting.htm.
Additional information is available on the national Asian carp website at: http://asiancarp.us/.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Pew Unveils Pioneering Technology to Help End Illegal Fishing

Live satellite system will monitor waters of Chile and Palau 

 The Pew Charitable Trusts launched groundbreaking technology today that will help authorities monitor, detect, and respond to illicit fishing activity across the world’s oceans. The development of Project Eyes on the Seas, as the system is known, furthers a long-term effort by Pew to dramatically reduce illegal or “pirate” fishing.

The system is being developed in partnership with Satellite Applications Catapult, a British company established through a U.K. government initiative. The technology analyzes multiple sources of live satellite tracking data and then links to information about a ship’s ownership history and country of registration, providing a dossier of up-to-the-minute data that can alert officials to suspicious vessel movements.

Experts estimate that up to $23.5 billion worth of fish enter the world market each year from illegal fishing, which averages to approximately 1 in 5 fish caught in the wild. In some regions, as much as 40 percent of the catch is thought to have been caught unlawfully. This theft persists largely because industrial-scale pirate fishers know that nobody is watching them. Project Eyes on the Seas aims to solve that problem by offering authorities for the first time a real-time comprehensive monitoring and analysis system of activity on the water.

“Project Eyes on the Seas is designed to transform the current very expensive and patchy system of information gathering and enforcement into a global system for identifying and tracking illegal fishing vessels that is far more cost effective. This system will enable authorities to share information on those vessels operating outside of the law, build a comprehensive case against them, track them into port or within reach of enforcement vessels, and take action against them,” said Joshua Reichert, executive vice president of The Pew Charitable Trusts, who leads Pew’s environment work.

Project Eyes on the Seas will launch initially with a “Virtual Watch Room” monitoring the waters surrounding Easter Island, a Chilean territory, and the Pacific island nation of Palau. Pew and its partners are working with each nation and island community to establish large, fully protected marine reserves in these waters.

“With Pew’s assistance, we’ve already identified suspicious vessels in our marine zone,” said Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. “Now, the Virtual Watch Room’s enhanced features will help ensure that once the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is established, the marine life within our waters will be protected from illegal fishing.”

The Virtual Watch Room is intended to pay immediate dividends in remote ocean areas where governments are considering establishing marine reserves to safeguard some of the planet’s last remaining near-pristine marine habitats. Over the next three years, the plan is for Project Eyes on the Seas to grow in capability and scope as more countries, regional fisheries management organizations, and seafood retail groups commit to using it to guarantee that only legally caught seafood is taken from the ocean and reaches consumers’ plates.

“Satellite data are playing a key role in helping to put an end to illegal fishing,” said Stuart Martin, CEO of Satellite Applications Catapult. “Through the tenacity of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the technological advancements developed by Catapult and industry players, protecting our seas and the livelihood of many villages can now become a reality rather than an idealistic goal. Catapult is delighted to be able to play a part in this.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org.
Satellite Applications Catapult is an innovation and technology company established through a U.K. government initiative to foster economic growth through the exploitation of space.