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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Deadly Oak Wilt Disease Found in Brooklyn and in Suffolk County NY

New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) announced today that the oak tree disease, oak wilt, has been detected in the borough of Brooklyn, Kings County and in the towns of Babylon, Islip, Riverhead, and Southold in Suffolk County. The disease was identified by the Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic after samples from symptomatic oak trees were collected by DEC Forest Health Technicians.

Oak wilt had previously been found in Scotia, Schenectady County, until it was identified in Canandaigua, Ontario County, and Central Islip, Long Island earlier this year. Since then, reports of symptomatic oak trees from concerned tree care professionals, as well as the public, have led to the additional detections. The confirmation of the disease in Brooklyn marks the fourth county where oak wilt has been confirmed in New York.

There is no known treatment to contain and kill the oak wilt fungus other than to remove the infected trees, as well as any surrounding host oak trees. At this time, DEC will remove and destroy oaks that have tested positive for the fungus. Testing for oak wilt must be done during the growing season when the fungus is active, so intensive sampling will take place across Kings, Nassau, and Suffolk counties starting next spring to determine the extent of the disease. Aerial surveys will be conducted beginning in July when signs of oak wilt will be most apparent.

DEC is in the process of issuing emergency orders to establish protective zones encompassing the entirety of Suffolk County and the borough of Brooklyn. The emergency orders will prohibit the removal of any living, dead, standing, cut, or fallen oak trees or any portion thereof, including branches, logs, stumps, or roots, and green oak lumber and firewood (of any species) out of the protective zones unless it has been chipped to less than one inch in two dimensions.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Oak wilt is a fast-moving disease that can kill a large amount of trees quickly. It is important to follow these emergency orders closely to prevent the disease from spreading and protect our trees."

Oak wilt is a serious tree disease in the eastern United States, killing thousands of oaks each year in forests, woodlots, and home landscapes. It is caused by a fungus, Ceratocystis fagacearum. The fungus grows in the water conducting vessels of host trees plugging up these vessels and preventing water transport. As water movement within the tree is slowed, the leaves wilt and drop off, and the tree dies rapidly.

DEC asks the public to be on the lookout next summer for oak trees that suddenly lose leaves during the months of July and August and to report these occurrences to the Forest Health Information Line toll-free at 1-866-640-0652.

For more information about oak wilt or the emergency order, please visit DEC's website.

Friday, December 23, 2016

U.S. Acts on Seafood Imports to Curb Illegal Fishing & Fraud

The U.S. has established additional protections for the national economy, global food security, and the sustainability of our shared ocean resources. NOAA Fisheries will administer the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to further curb Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices and to identify misrepresented seafood imports before they enter the U.S. market.

The program requires that importers report information and maintain records about the harvest, landing and chain of custody of imported fish and fish products for certain priority species identified as especially vulnerable to IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The program will eventually expand to include all species.

“As a global leader in sustainable fisheries management and seafood consumption, the U.S. has a responsibility to combat illegal practices that undermine the sustainability of our shared ocean resources,” said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Administrator. “We designed this program to further ensure that imported seafood is legally harvested and truthfully represented, with minimal burden to our partners.”

 “This rule is a critical step forward in combating IUU and seafood fraud. It sends an important message to the international seafood community that if you are open and transparent about the seafood you catch and sell across the supply chain, then the U.S. markets are open for your business,” said Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment at the U.S. Department of State. “The rule will build on similar global efforts and will provide confidence to our consumers in the seafood they eat while also leveling the playing field for honest fishers across the globe who play by the rules.”

The U.S. will use the existing International Trade Data System to collect seafood catch and landing documentation for the priority seafood species. This data system is the U.S. government’s data portal for all imports and exports. Information collected through this program is confidential and will not be available to consumers. Similar information for domestically harvested seafood is already reported under numerous existing state and federal regulatory requirements.

 January 1, 2018, is the mandatory compliance date for most priority species listed in the rule. Due to gaps in availability of information regarding U.S. farmed shrimp and abalone, implementation for these species will be effective at a later date. NOAA and Food and Drug Administration have committed to working together to identify potential pathways to close these data gaps through FDA's food safety authorities. This process will include data gathering and a stakeholder engagement process.

The Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State, called for the formation of this program. NOAA sought public comment for the proposed design of this program, and the final rule reflects feedback from international partners, the fishing and seafood industries, trade and consumer sectors and conservation community. For more information about this program, visit http://www.iuufishing.noaa.gov/.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Will Nearshore Wind Farms Impact NY & NJ Fisheries?

The Department of the Interior announced the nation’s sixth competitive lease sale for wind farms in federal waters. Yesterday's lease sale offered 79,350 acres offshore New York for potential wind energy development.
The provisional winner of today’s lease sale is Statoil Wind US LLC, which bid $42,469,725 for lease area OCS-A 0512.

Statoil will now have the opportunity to explore the potential development of an offshore wind farm to provide New York City and Long Island with an additional source of electricity.

“We are excited to have submitted the most competitive bid in a highly attractive project, Statoil’s first offshore wind lease in the United States. We now look forward to working with New York’s state agencies and contribute to New York meeting its future energy needs by applying our offshore experience and engineering expertise,” says Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil´s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions.

The New York Wind Energy Area spans 79,350 acres, and covers water depths between 65 and 131
feet. It starts approximately 11.5 nautical miles from Jones Beach, NY. From its western edge, the area extends approximately 24 nm southeast at its longest portion. The lease area consists of five full Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 143 sub-blocks. A map of the lease area can be found here.

 Statoil will conduct studies to understand the seabed conditions, the grid connection options and wind resources involved in the lease site.

“We will work closely with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) on these studies and throughout the permitting process, and in connection with power offtake options,” says Rummelhoff.

Statoil is a Norwegian company primarily focused on upstream oil and gas operations. From a daily production of approximately 1.8 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), more than 270,000 BOE stem from the company’s onshore and offshore oil and gas fields in the U.S. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 signed by President Obama

Bill confirms outdoor recreation industry is a significant economic drive

 The bill, known as the Outdoor REC Act, passed the House of Representatives and the Senate in November

This new piece of legislation requires the Department of Commerce, in collaboration with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, to assess and analyze the contributions of the outdoor recreation industry, including recreational fishing, to the United States economy. The legislation will help to ensure that sportfishing industry jobs and recreational fishing’s economic impact are accounted for as part of the gross domestic product (GDP).

In a significant step forward for the outdoor recreation industry and the sportfishing community, yesterday, President Obama signed into law the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016.

“At a time when jobs and economic opportunity are high on everyone’s list, the Outdoor REC bill’s passage gives the outdoor recreation industry its own metric by which to quantify its impact on the nation’s economic activity,” said American Sportfishing Association (ASA) President and CEO Mike Nussman. “We have advocated for years that recreational fishing and boating were significant economic drivers. It’s gratifying that the House and the Senate, in a bi-partisan effort, passed this bill which the President has now signed it into law.”

Nussman continued, “It’s important to note that in many rural areas, where jobs are at a premium, it’s fishing, boating and other outdoor activities that provide steady employment for many people.”

The passage of the Outdoor REC Act was needed to make sure that the outdoor economy—and it’s estimated six million jobs and $646 billion in economic activity—receives official government recognition for years to come.

“ASA applauds Congress and the President for enacting this legislation, bringing the outdoor recreation industry’s importance to jobs and the economy into the national spotlight,” said ASA Government Affairs Vice President Scott Gudes. “We appreciate that outdoor recreation is now formally being recognized by the federal government for its impact on jobs, business and the economy.”

Gudes further said, “The Outdoor REC Act will also ensure that the outdoor industry's economic statistics will be measured in the same comprehensive way as other business sectors, such as the automotive and apparel industries. This is important because industry economic impact estimates also include data that show the non-direct impact that the activity has on the economy. For example, it would also include sportfishing’s contributions to travel and tourism, not just the purchase of tackle.”

ASA is an active part of a team representing a wide-range of outdoor industries that will work with the Department of Commerce to shape how outdoor recreation is defined and ensure our reach and impact are recognized.

In his post-campaign remarks, President-elect Trump has voiced his support for maintaining fishing and hunting on our nation’s public lands.

Friday, December 02, 2016

NY Conservation Officers Have a Busy First Half of November

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2015, the 268 ECOs across the state responded to 25,000 calls and issued 22,000 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Exotic Bird Seizure - New York County
On Nov. 10, ECO Adam Johnson received information from Region 2 investigators regarding the sale of a White Cockatoo taxidermy mount from a store in Lower Manhattan. The White Cockatoo is a threatened species, therefore making it illegal to possess or sell any part of the bird. Officers Johnson, Spencer Noyes, and Wes Leubner went to the store where the White Cockatoo was on display along with numerous exotic animal mounts. After confirming the store had no permit to possess or sell the White Cockatoo mount, the bird was seized and the owner of the store received two summonses for illegal commercialization of wildlife and the possession/sale of threatened or endangered species or parts.

Lake Ontario Tributaries Popular for Illegal Fishing - Monroe County
On the night of Nov. 11, Lt. William Powell, ECOs Brian Wade, John Lutz, John Stansfield, Todd Smith, Eoin Snowdon, and Joshua Wolgast conducted a saturation patrol in response to complaints of subjects sneaking into Lake Ontario tributaries to spear and net spawning trout. It was a busy night and by 4 a.m. the following morning, ECOs apprehended seven individuals from Rochester, New York City, and New Jersey, seized 16 illegal fish, and wrote a total of 18 tickets for taking over the limit of brown trout, taking fish by means other than angling (spearing), fishing during closed hours, failing to comply with the lawful order of a Conservation Officer, and trespassing. Three coolers full of fish were seized as evidence and all subjects were issued tickets returnable to the Town of Webster Court.
ECO's with illegally caught trout

Striped Bass Seizure - Kings County
On Nov. 16, ECOs Mary Grose, John Walraven, Chris Macropoulos, Jeff Krueger, and Brad Buffa were patrolling Gerritsen Creek in Kings County on a DEC Police patrol boat when they encountered a boat returning to port. The captain of the boat stated he had two striped bass on board and quickly showed the fish to the officers. However, further inspection of the vessel located 12 additional striped bass in a mesh bag that also contained a weighted PVC pipe. Grose interviewed the captain and determined that he was a commercial fisherman, although he did not have the necessary carcass tags and other paperwork. The ECOs issued the captain summonses for possession of untagged striped bass, possession of striped bass out of the slot limit, failure to have a VTR, and failure to provide his food fish permit.

Hunting Deer with Bait ... Again! - Sullivan County
On Nov. 19, just before dusk, ECOs Bob Hodor, Matt Burdick, Melissa Burgess, Lt. Mike Bello, and a New York State Police Trooper concluded an investigation involving a hunting camp in the town of Fallsburg. Members of the family camp had been ticketed in 2013 after an investigation revealed that all of the ground blinds and tree stands associated with the camp were heavily baited for the purpose of attracting deer. Earlier this fall, ECOs Hodor, Burgess, and Lt. Bello revisited the camp and found that the hunters were still using bait. This year's investigation resulted in the ticketing of five hunters, all for the violation of hunting deer with the aid of pre-established bait.

Trespasser With Too Many Tags - Putnam County
On Nov. 19, ECOs Craig Tompkins and Tony Drahms followed up on a trespassing complaint reported the day before in the town of Southeast. ECO Tompkins responded and confirmed that the land was legally posted, but also located a tree stand on the property. Returning to the location the following day, the ECOs observed a subject walking from the tree stand on the posted property. As it turned out, the man was tracking a deer he shot while trespassing. During the interview with the subject, ECOs determined the man was in possession of his brother's DMP tags and bow/muzzleloader tag as well as his own. The hunter was issued tickets for trespassing on posted property, illegal taking of protected wildlife (deer), and possessing the license of another person. A small buck and the brother's tags were seized as evidence and the tickets are returnable to the Southeast Town Court.

Trespassing to Hunt - Broome County
On Nov. 19, ECO Andy McCormick responded to a complaint in the town of Union regarding a group of hunters trespassing on private property. The complainant stated that he had confronted the men and the discussion nearly became violent. The group did not have permission to be on the property. Officer McCormick checked the area and attempted to locate the responsible parties, but found no signs of them. On Nov. 20, the complainant contacted ECO McCormick again, advising him that two of the hunters had returned to hunt the same property. Both ECOs McCormick and Anthony Rigoli responded, tracked the two on the property, and found them hunting again. Both subjects were ticketed for trespassing and were advised not to return.

Lots of Tags But Too Early to Shoot - Saratoga County
On the morning of Nov. 20 at 7 a.m., the opening weekend of the Southern Zone regular season for deer hunting, ECOs Rob Higgins and Steve Shaw responded to a call from a complainant who had witnessed a man shoot at a group of deer in the dark approximately 30 minutes before the start of legal hunting hours. The complainant confronted the hunter and his father about the legality and danger of the incident, but the two men scoffed at the subject. The ECOs found the deer that the hunter had shot - a nine-point buck field dressed at 210 pounds. The hunter and his father were interviewed and ECOs verified that the taking was illegal. The man who shot the deer was issued tickets for hunting deer during closed hours and killing a wild deer except as permitted by the Conservation Law. The deer was seized as evidence and donated to the Saratoga County Venison Donation Program. All charges are pending in the Town of Ballston Court.

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).