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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pennsylvania has a new, tougher fish poaching law

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed into law tougher anti-poaching legislation which increases the maximum fine for illegally harvesting fish from $200 to $5,000 and extends the period the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) can revoke fishing and boating privileges from two to five years.

“This new law will have an immediate impact on our ability to deter large-scale poachers from illegally taking fish,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “These are the individuals who deliberately come in after dark and take large amounts of game fish, often by using illegal methods such as netting or spearing in the streams. In the past, poaching was subject to a $200 maximum fine. Now we can hit violators with up to $5,000 in fines, as well as the cost of replacing the fish they illegally harvest.”

The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Corbett last night and took effect immediately.

“Weak laws made our waterways extremely vulnerable to poaching, with highly sought-after trophy species of fish repeatedly stolen from our waterways and sold on the black market,” said Rep. Michael Peifer (R-Greentown), who sponsored the legislation as House Bill 2293. “This is a serious problem that has a detrimental impact on our regional economy. Under this law, we finally have a punishment that fits the crime."

The law creates a new section in the Fish and Boat code for “serious unlawful take,” which increases the penalty for harvesting more than the legal daily limit of fish from a summary offense of the first degree to a misdemeanor of the second degree. It also allows the PFBC to collect from violators the costs to replace the poached fish, and it increases the amount of time a violator can be sentenced to prison from a maximum of 90 days to two years.

The law will be particularly beneficial in the Erie watershed, where the annual steelhead season is just beginning. Annually, PFBC waterways conservation officers (WCOs) apprehend and cite 5-6 individuals for large cases of poaching. These individuals typically have in their possession dozens of fish over the legal creel limit.

“We’ve had violators in the past who have simply handed the WCO cash to pay the small fine,” added PFBC Commissioner Glade Squires, who represents the agency’s southeast region and chairs the Law Enforcement Committee. “Now our WCOs have the tools to hit them hard in the pocketbook and to send them to jail for a longer time. And if a poacher has a current license, we can suspend that license for up to five years.”

The law also substantially increases the penalties for individuals who fish while their license is suspended. Previously, that violation was a summary offense of the first degree, subject to a $200 fine. The penalty is now a third degree misdemeanor, subject to a fine up to $5,000.

Also last night, Gov. Corbett signed into law House Bill 1417, another piece of legislation sought by the PFBC to better protect and equip its WCOs for the challenges they face in the field. The new law adds waterways conservation officer and deputy waterways conservation officer to the list of individuals who are protected under the aggravated assault provisions of the Pennsylvania Crimes and Offenses code. It takes effect in 60 days

Monday, October 22, 2012

2013 Atlantic Coast Summer Flounder, Scup, Black Sea Bass & Bluefish Regulations

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council have established commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits for summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, and bluefish for the 2013 fishing season and beyond.

The Commission’s actions are final and apply to state waters (0-3 miles from shore). The Council will forward its recommendations to NOAA's Northeast Regional Administrator for final approval.

For summer flounder, the Commission approved and Council recommended a commercial quota of 11.44 million pounds for the 2013 fishing year, a decrease from 2012 levels. This decrease is in part due to the drop in the spawning stock biomass estimate in the most recent assessment.

For the 2013 scup fishery, the Commission approved and Council recommended a commercial quota of 23.53 million pounds, a decrease of 3.97 million pounds, compared to 2012 levels.

For black sea bass, the Commission approved and Council recommended a commercial quota of 1.78 million pounds.

Finally for the bluefish fishery, the Commission approved and the Council recommended a commercial quota of 9.08 million pounds for 2013 and 2014. The levels represent a decrease from 2012 levels due in part to the poor year classes observed in the most recent stock assessment update. 

The Commission and Council maintained the 2012 commercial management measures for all four species and approved a Research Set-Aside (RSA) quota of up to three percent for each fishery.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ice Thickness and Safety

Though the lakes aren't yet covered in ice in this part of the country, it's a good idea to become familiar with safe ice thickness prior to the winter season.

Here is a chart that shows how thick ice needs to be to support specific activities.  This is only a suggestion provided courtesy of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.  Remember that varying factors can require thicker ice to be safe.  Also, certain locations, like areas near shore, near "stickups" like brush, trees, logs, rocks and the like are inherently more dangerous. Pressure cracks should also be avoided.

For more information on ice safety you should consult the Fish & Game Department of the state in which the frozen body of water is located.