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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 National Saltwater Angler Survey

In 2013, NOAA Fisheries conducted their first national survey of saltwater anglers’ opinions and attitudes. The results provide insights into what motivates anglers and what anglers consider to be a successful fishing trip.

In summarizing the report, the number one reason people go fishing is to enjoy time with friends and family. The least important reason given was to catch their limit.

One of the things that struck me in the survey is that less than 40% of the respondents felt that NOAA and/or other fisheries managers had their best interests first when making management decisions.

On the conservation and habitat side, 95% of the people who took the survey feel that providing quality opportunities for future generations is important.

Take the time to read the survey and then hope fishery managers take the time to read it too.

Check it out here: http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/economics/fisheries/recreational/attitudes-and-preferences-of-anglers/index

Monday, October 21, 2013

Climate Conditions Shift Where Marine Species Are Found

Climate change has resulted in shifts in where and at what depths many marine species are found. These shifts have not been uniform, and sometimes have occurred at different rates and in different ways than expected. The leading explanation for these changes has been biological differences among species, but a new study suggests that the local climatic conditions are more likely causing these shifts.

In a study published September 13 in the journal Science, researchers from the U.S. and Canada suggest that climate velocity – the rate and direction that climate shifts in a particular region or landscape – explains observed shifts in distribution far better than biological or species characteristics.

The team compiled four decades of data from research vessel surveys of fish and invertebrates conducted around the continental shelves of North America by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

The surveys were conducted across nine regions, including the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Alaska and Eastern Bering Sea, and off Canada’s Atlantic coast. Covering approximately 3.3 million square kilometers (just over 2 million square miles), these areas were sampled using research vessel bottom trawl surveys that collected 60,394 samples between 1968 and 2011. The surveys captured 128 million organisms from 580 populations of 360 species or species groups, collectively called taxa.

“This is the first time we’ve combined U.S and Canadian fisheries data from the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coasts of North America at this scale,” said study co-author Michael Fogarty, a fisheries biologist at the Woods Hole Laboratory of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC).  “We also sampled a broad range of ecosystem types, from sub-tropical to sub-Arctic.  The shifts in species distributions were not always intuitive, or what was expected to happen. For example, individual species like American lobster shifted north in the northeast U.S., while big skateshifted south on the West coast, and Pacific cod in Alaska remained essentially the same.”

Many marine and terrestrial species are not shifting in response to climate change as expected. To understand why, study authors measured range shifts, studied regional temperature changes, and considered geographic constraints.  For example, the Gulf of Mexico has an east-west coastline that prevents a northerly or poleward shift of species in response to warming ocean waters,. Species there shifted deeper, into cooler bottom waters.

Previous studies that attempted to explain why the shifts were occurring at different rates and in different directions than expected did not have the data necessary to study changes in detail. By looking at the larger data sets, researchers working on this study could examine individual species and groups of species within a geographic region, the temperature range inhabited by each species or species group, and the impact of temperature changes over time. By determining the preferred temperature for each species, where the preferred temperatures moved, and then where the species had moved, the researchers found that many of the species matched those shifts over time in what they called "the complex mosaic of local climate velocities."

Across all taxa, 74 percent shifted latitude in the same direction as climate velocity, and 70 percent shifted depth in the same direction. Likewise, 73 percent of shifts to lower latitudes and 75 percent of shifts to shallower water were explained by climate velocity.  Local variations in the environment appear to be a much more accurate predictor of species shifts than variations in the species life histories and other factors.

“The world is changing, and that includes the ecology of the oceans,” said Fogarty, who heads the NEFSC’s Ecosystem Assessment Program. “Ocean temperatures are not the same from the surface to the bottom. Study after study show that climate change is affecting global fisheries, and we need to be aware of the changes and begin adapting to them.”

The authors suggest that marine species may shift more rapidly than species on land because there are fewer barriers to dispersal in the marine environment and species can more completely seek out their temperature, or thermal, niches. Rapid range shifts, however, will fundamentally reorganize marine communities, resulting in fisheries conflicts across borders and challenges to traditional management approaches.

“We will continue to see shifts in the range of marine populations, and the shifts will change the ecosystem, those who fish for these species in the ecosystem inbcluding the coasta lcommunities supporting the fisheries, and the management systems regulating the fisheries,” Fogarty said. “We can begin to forecast climate velocities and use these forecasts as a tool in manging fisheries in the future.”

In addition to Fogarty, other authors of the study include lead author Malin Pinksy, Jorge Sarmiento and Simon Levin of Princeton University, and Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Pinsky, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton, recently joined the faculty at Rutgers University.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

New Zealand Mudsnails Launch Invasion into Pennsylvania

New Zealand mudsnails are small, measuring less than one-quarter inch, with a long, narrow, coiled shell with deep grooves. Like other aquatic invasive species, they disrupt ecosystems by rapidly multiplying and competing with native species for space and food.  New Zealand mudsnails

The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission confirm that New Zealand Mud Snails are in Spring Creek, Centre County, PA. Biologist with the PA Department of Environmental Protection took samples from the stretch between the state fish hatchery and Bellefonte, PA. Snail experts from South Carolina’s College of Charleston and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum confirmed the findings.

“Based on studies conducted in western U.S. streams, if the population grows quickly, they could become the dominant organisms in the benthic – or bottom dwelling – community, upon which many others species depend for food,” said Bob Morgan, the PFBC’s ecologist who studies aquatic invasive species. “Because this is the first known occurrence of the New Zealand mudsnail on the Atlantic slope of the eastern U.S, the effects of the snail on higher organisms, such as fish, are not certain at this time.”

 The mudsnail has spread to Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. They were discovered in the Snake River in Idaho and Wyoming in 1987; in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 1991; and in Lake Erie about 4 miles north of Presque Isle Bay in 2007. Additional populations were found in a small stream near the Niagara River in New York in 2008 and in another Lake Ontario tributary in 2011.

“Spring Creek is one of the most heavily fished streams in the state, with anglers travelling to it from all over the world,” added Morgan. “Given the presence of the mudsnail in other areas of the country, it’s not surprising they have been found here. As with many aquatic invasive species, they are nearly impossible to eradicate once established. This is even more difficult with the mudsnail because it usually takes only one small snail to be able to produce offspring. But we must do our best to slow its spread to other waters.”

Anglers and boaters are urged to “Clean Your Gear!” before leaving a water and entering another one.

New Zealand mudsnails require some specialized disinfection measures. Gear should be visually inspected and any clinging matter should be removed and disposed of in the trash. To kill mudsnails, three methods are effective. Gear can be frozen for a minimum of six hours, or it can be soaked in hot water - 120°F to 140°F - for five minutes. This last method is not recommended for Gortex.

Also, a 2005 study by the California Department of Fish and Game showed that mudsnails can be killed by soaking gear for five minutes in a one-to-one solution of Formula 409® Cleaner Degreaser Disinfectant and water. After soaking gear for five minutes, thoroughly rinse it with plain water. Simply spraying gear with the disinfectant or the mixture does not work. Also, general cleaners have not been shown to be effective against the mudsnail.

If you suspect that you have found New Zealand mudsnail (or any other AIS) in another waterway, please report your information at: http://fishandboat.com/ais-reporting.htm. When reporting an AIS sighting it is very important to include as much information as possible including close-up photos of the organism, the exact location (GPS coordinates work best), a description of what you found, and your contact information.

For more information about New Zealand mudsnail, visit http://www.paseagrant.org/fact_sheet_group/invasive-species/ and scroll down to Fact Sheets – Invertebrates and the mudsnail photo/link.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New York to Decrease Sporting License Fees

Beginning February 1, 2014 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is decreasing sporting license fees.  This price reduction could increase participation and tourism bringing additional revenue to many of the states rural areas where most of these activities take place.

Another change is that New York will no longer issue licenses on a "season year". The new licensing system will issue individual licenses for 365 days from the date of issue.  For example, if a fisherman buys their license on April 1 to fish in the spring that license will be effective until the following April 1. Under current regulations, that same angler would have had to purchase another license in October to fish in the fall as the current "season system" goes from Oct 1 to Sept 30.

Individuals will have to pay closer attention to their own license expiration dates in order to remain in compliance since there will no longer be one common start and end date to the license year. The new system will also make online license purchases easier on the DEC website.

The current license process is confusing due to the number, type and potential combinations of hunting and fishing licenses. In addition, fees are presently higher in New York than in many neighboring and comparable states. The proposal would:

  • Reduce by 11 the number of licenses available while maintaining all current hunting and fishing privileges and opportunities
  • Reduce the price of a hunting license by 24 percent from $29 to $22
  • Reduce the price of a fishing license by nearly 14 percent from $29 to $25
  • Make fishing licenses valid for one year from the date of purchase
  • Create a non-resident license structure which is the same as the resident license structure
  • Fold trapping privileges into the hunting license for no additional fee for certified trappers
  • Maintain Junior Trapper and Trapper Mentor opportunities
  • Reduce fees for non-resident hunting and fishing licenses to attract more out-of-state participants
  • Retain discounted licenses for youth, seniors, military disabled and Native Americans.

License Current New
NYS Residents
Annual Fishing License $29 $25
Annual Hunting License $29 $22
Annual Bow Hunting Privilege $21 $20
Annual Muzzleloading $21 $11
Out-of-State Residents
Annual Fishing License $70 $50
Annual Hunting License $140 $100
Annual Bow Hunting Privilege $140 $40
Annual Muzzleloading $140 $30
Annual Turkey $50 $20
One-day Fishing $15 $10

Fishermen Face Felony Charges for Spearing Striped Bass

A group of four fishermen are facing felony charges after they were caught by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Officers with 74 striped bass that they had allegedly illegally speared in waters off Valiant Rock in Block Island Sound, Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.

In late August, the Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) were on a routine patrol from Shinnecock to Fishers Island when they observed three divers with spear guns in hand boarding the fishing vessel Sea Spearit at Valiant Rock in a shallow area East of Gull Island. Upon boarding the vessel, operated by Christopher R. Miller of Montauk, the ECOs found both tagged striped bass and untagged striped bass in coolers. Some of the tagged fish bore the tags belonging to Mr. Miller; others were tagged with tags belonging to Mr. Miller's sister, Tanya J. Miller, who was not present on the ship.

All the fish had spear wounds evident in their gill areas. New York State Environmental Conservation Law forbids the taking of striped bass for commercial purposes by spear due to the fact there is a slot size limit that is hard to determine until the fish are actually in hand, and that this is considered a much easier way to secure a fish whose populations have to be managed in order to ensure the continued viability of the fishing stock.

"Fishing limits were established to maintain a healthy, sustainable striped bass population and violators of this law will be subject to arrest and prosecution," Commissioner Martens said. "When individuals use inappropriate methods to harvest a critical resource like striped bass, they are depleting the fishing stock and penalizing commercial fisherman who play by the rules and harvest fish using appropriate methods."

After ordering the boat back to Montauk, ECOs took possession of the fish and brought them to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office for weighing, which determined that the total unlawfully harvested striped bass weighed 926.5 pounds, valued at $4,632. Felony charges can be filed in instances where the value of harvested fish exceeds $1,500.

Miller and two of the other divers surrendered on October 4 at State Police Headquarters in Riverside. Their arraignment date is set for Nov. 4 in Southold Town Court.

A warrant was also issued for Peter J. Correale of New Canaan, CT, who is presently out of the country and will be charged at a later date.

All three of the individuals who surrendered were charged with a Class E Felony of taking striped bass for commercial purpose with prohibited spears in excess of $1,500 in value. They were also charged with two violations for taking fish out of slot sized and possessing untagged striped bass.

The individuals facing these charges are:
  • Ship captain Christopher R. Miller of, Montauk;
  • Erik A. Oberg of Montauk;
  • Mica Marder of East Hampton.
Mr. Miller was also charged with a violation for unlawful possession of striped bass tags and failing to display a dive flag as required by the NYS Navigation Law.

On October 2, ECOs also caught Miller off of Montauk Point with three speared striped bass hidden in a compartment on his boat. The total weight of the fish was approximately 100 pounds with a value well over the $250 threshold, making this a misdemeanor under the ECL with a minimum penalty of $5,000.

His court date for this misdemeanor charge is December 4 in East Hampton Town Court.

Individuals spotting illegal activities are encouraged to call DEC's Environmental Conservation Officers 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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Supports Measure to Strengthen the NFHP

The 10-year mark of the National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP) and Action Plan, was commemorated with a resolution passed at the business meeting of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in September 2013.

With this resolution, state fish and wildlife agencies recognize NFHP as a state-led effort and will work towards increasing support for implementing the Action Plan, distinguishing its value in furthering the conservation of fish, wetland and wildlife habitats and enhancing fishing opportunities for the public.

“This resolution affirms AFWA’s commitment through the states in supporting the increasing scope of the National Fish Habitat Partnership. State support of the both the National and individual partnership efforts is essential for the continuing success of the initiative and maintaining the National Fish Habitat Partnership as a state-led effort” said Kelly Hepler, Chair of the National Fish Habitat Board and Assistant Commissioner, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.

The NFHP is working through 18 regionally-based partnerships in 47 states. Many of these partnerships work hand-in-hand with state agencies and have been instrumental in the success of the work of the partnerships in conducting on-the-ground conservation activities.

The NFHP is a priority of AFWA’s Fisheries and Water Resources Policy Committee, and it has received nearly $3 Million in Sportfish Restoration funding since 2008 through the Multistate Conservation Grant Program. This funding is used for implementation of Partnership priorities and to restore aquatic habitat across the country.

AFWA’s NFHP resolution is complementary to a Memorandum of Understanding recently signed by the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce underscoring their commitment to the NFHP and implementing the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and, reporting their activities annually to each Department’s Secretary.


About the National Fish Habitat Partnership:
The National Fish Habitat Partnership works to conserve fish habitat nationwide, leveraging federal, state, and private funding sources to achieve the greatest impact on fish populations through priority conservation projects. The national partnership implements the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and supports 18 regional grassroots partner organizations. For more information visit, http://fishhabitat.org/ , http://www.facebook.com/NFHAP , https://twitter.com/FishHabitat , http://www.scoop.it/t/fish-habitat

Importance of Waters and Wetlands Documented in New EPA Report

Scientists from sportsmen’s organizations favorably review report that will guide development of
a new rule clarifying the Clean Water Act’s role in safeguarding ‘waters of the United States’

A recently released report by the Environmental Protection Agency fairly and accurately documents the connectivity of wetlands and streams to downstream waters, according to a panel of prominent aquatic scientists who discussed the report’s findings in a conference call today. These wetlands and streams support a range of fish and wildlife species as well as sportsmen’s ability to access high-quality hunting and fishing opportunities.

Titled “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters,” the EPA report will guide development of a soon-to-be-release rule clarifying the federal Clean Water Act’s role in safeguarding the so-called “waters of the United States.” According to the EPA, the report represents the state of the science on the connectivity of waters in the United States. According to sportsmen, the report and related rulemaking play a key role in conserving the streams and wetlands important to all Americans, especially hunters and anglers.

“The report is a very good synthesis of the science that riparian and floodplain wetlands are, as a category, physically, chemically and biologically connected with rivers,” said Scott Yaich, director of conservation programs with Ducks Unlimited and a participant in today’s call.

“However, with respect to what the EPA calls ‘unidirectional wetlands,’ which includes wetlands as diverse as the prairie potholes of the Dakotas, the Carolina bays of the East Coast and the playa lakes of Texas and the southern Great Plains, their scientists were – not surprisingly – unable to draw a broadly applicable conclusion,” Yaich continued. “Nevertheless, the science that was compiled demonstrates that a great many of these wetlands are connected to and have significant impacts on downstream waters.” 

With the September release of this report and the rulemaking, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers opened a new chapter – and in the view of sportsmen a welcome chapter – on the issue of wetlands and streams management. This includes the opportunity to resolve inconsistencies resulting from conflicting Supreme Court decisions concerning what constitutes the “waters of the United States” – and therefore which wetlands and streams the federal government has jurisdiction to regulate – and subsequent agency guidance.

“Overall I was pleased with the depth and breadth of the report in its review of the physical, chemical, and biological connections between headwater streams and downstream water bodies,” said Helen Neville, Ph.D., a research scientist for Trout Unlimited who spoke during the teleconference. “Working primarily in the arid West, I can’t over-emphasize the importance of small, connected and healthy headwater streams for a unique, iconic Western native trout species like the Lahontan cutthroat trout, and I commend the report authors for thorough science review of stream connectivity.”

“The report is correct in saying that the effects of small water bodies in a watershed need to be considered in aggregate,” said Joy Zedler, Aldo Leopold professor of restoration ecology, Botany Department and Arboretum, University of Wisconsin-Madison, who also participated in the scientist forum. “Wetlands are essential to the physical, chemical and biological integrity of watersheds precisely because they work together to cleanse the water, abate the floods, recharge water supplies and store carbon. And we should not forget the ways in which aggregated wetlands serve biodiversity. This is especially true throughout the Prairie Pothole Region.”

Ducks Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited convened the forum to illustrate the importance of the new report in the Clean Water Act’s ability to maintain and restore the integrity of the nation’s waters and wetlands.

“Simply put, the Clean Water Act cannot work well if there is confusion about which waters are protected by its provisions and which are not,” said moderator Steve Moyer, vice president for government affairs at Trout Unlimited. “Key to answering this central water policy question is the science documenting the roles played by headwater streams and wetlands – resources that are central to fish, wildlife and our nation’s invaluable sporting traditions – in the health of rivers, lakes and bays downstream.”