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Monday, December 28, 2015

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Releases 2015 List of Candidates for Endangered Species Act Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) released the Candidate Notice of Review, a yearly status appraisal of plants and animals that are candidates for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection. Two species were removed from the list, and two changed in priority from the last review, conducted in December 2014. There are now 60 species recognized by the Service as candidates for ESA protection.

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 first addresses species with the highest listing priority. Today’s notice announces changes in priority for two species.

The priority for Hirst Brothers’ panic grass was increased based on a re-evaluation of the imminence of the threat due to an increase in regional precipitation patterns that are causing long-term flooding in the species’ coastal plain pond habitat. The priority for whitebark pine was lowered based on the reduced magnitude of the threat from mountain pine beetle; the beetle epidemic appears to be subsiding, and the Service no longer considers this threat to be having the high level of impact that was seen in recent years.

The removal of two species announced today – both anchialine pool shrimp originally thought to be endemic to Hawaii – is based on new information showing they occur on other islands, largely exist in protected areas where known to occur and may use broader habitats than originally reported.

The Service is soliciting additional information on the candidate species and others that may warrant ESA protection to assist in preparing listing documents and future revisions or supplements to the Candidate Notice of Review.

Candidate species are plants and animals for which the Service has enough information on the status and threats to propose them 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 most to be conserved, allowing them to address threats and work to preclude ESA listing.

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 that help stabilize or restore the species and can preclude ESA listing.

For more information, visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/cnor.html.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

NY DEC Arrests Two Men for Poaching Trout & Salmon

Two men are charged with poaching trout and salmon from the Saranac River in the City of Plattsburgh, Clinton County, New York.

 Environmental Conservation Police Officers arrested 38-year-old Joshua Todd and 34-year-old Christopher J. Dumas, both of Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Tuesday, December 15, 2015. The two men allegedly were snagging fish. They're charged with taking fish by means other than angling and Mr. Dumas is also charged with fishing without a license.

Rich Redman, President of the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited said, "This is great news for every law-abiding angler in the North Country. It's great to see the salmon back, and DEC protecting them.”

A primary indicator of strengthening salmon populations is annual spawning runs. DEC staff observed good fall runs in the Ausable River, Boquet River and especially the Saranac River. It’s a great sign for these fish populations, the health of Lake Champlain, anglers, and the economic health of local communities that see the benefit from improved fishing opportunities.

Todd and Dumas are scheduled to appear in the City of Plattsburgh Local Criminal Court on Tuesday, January 5, 2016. They both face fines.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

US Coast Guard Busts Striped Bass Violators

The Coast Guard issued violations last week on two separate occasions off Cape May, NJ due to the possession of Atlantic striped bass within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Coast Guard law enforcement crews conduct boardings on a routine basis throughout the Mid-Atlantic and place an emphasis on the protection of the Atlantic striped bass against commercial and recreational fishing within the EEZ.

A boat crew from Coast Guard Station Cape May discovered three Atlantic striped bass while boarding a pleasure craft approximately eight miles off Cape May.

A boarding team from the Virginia-based Coast Guard Cutter Dependable found five Atlantic striped bass while boarding a pleasure craft approximately three and a half nautical miles off Cape May within the EEZ.

More stringent regulations adopted in the 1980s were lifted in the mid-90s as stocks replenished; however, the prohibition of catching, fishing for or possessing Atlantic Striped Bass in the EEZ continues to be a federal offense.

“It is illegal to possess or target the Atlantic striped bass in federal waters, which begin three miles from shore,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patricia Bennett, the deputy enforcement chief for the Fifth Coast Guard District in Portsmouth, Virginia. “In state waters – waters less than three miles from the coast – each state has its own laws designed to protect stripers. Even though the Coast Guard does not enforce those state laws, if we find a violation at the state level, we may notify state authorities.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pennsylvania Launches “Save Our Susquehanna” Online Fundraising Site

Today the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced it has partnered with the non-profit Ralph Abele Conservation Scholarship Fund to launch an online FirstGiving fundraising site for the Susquehanna River, broadening the agency’s efforts to save the ailing river.
The fundraising site can be found here. Individuals can donate by selecting the green “Donate” button in the lower right corner.
"Direct fundraising is an unusual step for a state government agency, but we thought that there are many people who care about the river and would want to be able to contribute to our ‘S.O.S. – Save Our Susquehanna’ campaign,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “The connection to the Ralph Abele Conservation Scholarship Fund was the perfect step in expanding the reach of the campaign since Mr. Abele was a leader in conservation and loved the river. The fund was set up to provide for tax deductible contributions to the campaign with the funding being used by the Commission for projects to improve the water quality of the Susquehanna and its tributaries."
“This is an opportunity to carry on Mr. Abele’s legacy by further raising awareness of the issues plaguing the Susquehanna River,” he added. “At the same time, the online site will help deliver a conservation message to a far greater audience and provide a mechanism for others to contribute to a fund to help the river.”
The PFBC launched its S.O.S. campaign to save the river on June 2 by announcing that a portion of license sales and proceeds from a $10 S.O.S. button would be dedicated to funding water and soil conservation projects along the Susquehanna River, whose young smallmouth bass population has been plagued over the last decade by illness and elevated mortality rates.
To kick off the campaign, the PFBC pledged $50,000 in matching funds.
So far, more than $29,000 has been raised for the S.O.S. campaign, including a $1,000 donation from the Enola Sportsmen’s Association in Cumberland County and a $5,000 donation from the Fishing Creek Sportsmen’s Association in Columbia County.
Today’s announcement coincides with a report released Monday by the PFBC and state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which concluded that herbicides and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) are likely causes contributing to the smallmouth bass population decline. The report also identified parasites and pathogens as likely causes.
“The report released this week confirms what we’ve said all along, that the Susquehanna River is sick and needs our help before it’s too late,” Arway added. “The next step is to identify the sources of the herbicides and EDCs and to develop plans to reduce them in the river.”
“The ‘Save Our Susquehanna’ message is resonating with anglers, with sportsmen’s clubs and with others who care about the river,” he added. “I’m optimistic that with the new FirstGiving site, we will raise and exceed the $50,000 from anglers, other conservationists, and anyone who cares about our natural resources and supports our efforts to do everything in our power to protect and conserve them. Once we raise $50,000, the S.O.S. - Save Our Susquehanna! campaign will have its first $100,000 to begin working on projects to fix the river.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

Likely Causes for Smallmouth Bass Decline in the Susquehanna River

 Endocrine Disruptors and Pathogens and Parasites Appear as Culprits

Based on a multi-agency, multi-year study of one of the most complex river systems in Pennsylvania, the two most likely causes for the population decline of smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides; and pathogens and parasites.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), along with nearly 50 participants and 6 partner agencies, released the findings today that narrow the likely causes from an initial field of 14 candidate causes to those two. More research into these causes is needed, but evidence collected during the study points to these likely sources more than any other candidate causes.

Following a smallmouth bass population crash in 2005, and additional observed maladies, such as tumors and lesions on smallmouth bass, the team used ground-breaking monitoring strategies to collect more than 30,000 water quality records annually, along with review of existing research to isolate the possible causes keeping young-of-the-year (YOY) smallmouth bass from growing to adulthood.

The panel of experts was challenged by the fact that the Susquehanna River is a complex system in which the tributaries at times don’t mix for more than 40 miles. “What looks like just one body of water acts like five unique rivers, all with different characteristics,” said John Quigley, DEP Secretary. The Juniata, West Branch, and main stem each tend to run in their own isolated lanes in the riverbed, with the smaller tributaries hugging both shorelines.

Collaborating scientists began the study in 2014, using a scientific protocol known as CADDIS (Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System). Of the 14 initial candidate causes identified by the workgroup, only two were determined to be likely causes of the poor recruitment: Endocrine disrupting compounds/herbicides, and pathogens and parasites.

“We appreciate the assistance of the U.S. EPA, DEP and our other partners in the evaluation of many possible stressors to the smallmouth bass population using the CADDIS process’” said Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission John Arway. “The health of the smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River continues to be compromised and this analysis rules out certain causes, prioritizes other uncertain causes for further study and most importantly identifies likely causes which can be targeted for action.”

The original potential causes included high flows, pH and dissolved oxygen (deemed unlikely as a result of this study), as well as invasive species, habitat, and algal blooms (deemed uncertain).

The next step is to focus on identifying the sources of the endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, and what is causing the increased prevalence and lethality of the pathogens and parasites in smallmouth bass, including monitoring in the tributaries of the Susquehanna.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed CADDIS to help agencies conduct causal assessments in aquatic systems. This scientific panel represents DEP, PFBC, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies and nearly 50 staff from federal and state agencies and partner organizations.

“This study does not identify a single smoking gun,” said Quigley “But it does point the way toward likely causes, which we will continue to pursue. On top of that, through this study, DEP staff developed new approaches to monitoring this complex system, dramatically increasing our water quality monitoring capacity in the Susquehanna River, and providing tools that we can use to ensure fishable, drinkable water statewide.”

“The Susquehanna River's smallmouth bass fishery once attracted anglers from all over the world,” said Arway. “I am confident that the results from the CADDIS study along with the continued commitment by DEP to identify the causes and reduce the sources will provide for the recovery and return of that once world class recreational fishery.”

Details of the study, a webinar to present the findings of the study, and the full report can be found here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Webinar on Smallmouth Bass Populations in the Susquehanna River

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will be holding a webinar to discuss the findings of a multi-year study investigating the causes of population decline among smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River.

The Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS) process was used to identify and eliminate candidate causes behind a smallmouth bass population crash that began in 2005, as well as a host of other maladies affecting smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River basin. DEP and PFBC staff will outline the need for the study and the analysis of candidate causes in an online presentation.

Registration for the webinar is required; to register, click here. Questions will be accepted from credentialed media at the conclusion of the presentation.

WHAT: Webinar discussing the CADDIS study on Susquehanna River smallmouth bass.
WHEN: Monday December 14, 2015 at 1 p.m.
TO REGISTER: Click here to register

**If you are having technical difficulties with the above hyperlink, use the following link:

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

NJ Introduces Half Price Fishing Buddy License

Resident or non-resident, save some money when you buy your fishing license and introduce or reintroduce someone who hasn't had an annual NJ fishing license since 2010. This could be a way to get your out of state fishing buddy a NJ non-resident license at half price while saving half on your license too. Or if you're a non-resident who buys a NJ fishing license, bring a buddy and you each pay less than a regular resident license costs.

Of course were talking about fishing here so there are a few hooks to deal with:

  • Discount price is applied to both the current and “Buddy” license buyers.
  • The Buddy fishing license is available ONLY at license agents; cannot be purchased online.
  • BOTH anglers must be present at the time of purchase.
  • Applies to both resident and non-resident anglers.
  • Certified disabled veterans, National Guard personnel, senior license buyers (65 years of age and older) and residents over 70 (license not required) are not eligible for the “Fishing Buddy” program as they already receive special pricing through existing discount programs. 
For more info and clarity visit the NJ Fish & Wildlife webpage: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/fishbuddy.htm