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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NOAA Looking for Public Comments on the Proposed Revisions to National Standard Guidelines for Federal Fisheries Management

NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposal to revise the guidelines for National Standard 1, 3 and 7 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The National Standard guidelines assist the eight regional fishery management councils and NOAA Fisheries in developing effective fishery management plans.

“The proposed revisions clarify and streamline the National Standard guidelines, address concerns raised by partners and stakeholders during the implementation of annual catch limits and accountability measures, and provide flexibility to address fishery management issues,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The proposed revisions, if implemented, will result in better-managed and more sustainable fisheries.”

The National Standard 1 guidelines provide guidance on preventing overfishing while achieving the optimum yield (the amount of fish which will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities) from each U.S. fishery.  The National Standard 3 guidelines provide guidance on managing a stock as a unit throughout its range, and the National Standard 7 guidelines address minimizing costs and avoid duplication in fisheries management.

The proposed revisions do not establish new requirements or require councils to revise their current fishery management plans. Rather, they offer additional clarity and potential flexibility in meeting current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandates.

The proposed revisions include:

● Increasing flexibility in setting timelines for rebuilding programs;

● Providing flexibility for better managing data-limited stocks;

● Clarifying guidance on which stocks require conservation and management;

● Enhancing current efforts by the councils to apply ecosystem approaches to management;

● Providing for more stable fisheries through guidance on multiyear overfishing determinations, phasing in results of new stock assessments and the carryover of the unused portion of annual catch limits to subsequent years;

● Adding a definition for “depleted stocks” to recognize non-fishing-related impacts to fish stocks, and;

●  Recommending the councils re-evaluate the objectives of fishery management plans, to ensure they reflect the changing needs of the fishery, including allocation of fishery resources.

Public comments on the proposed rule are due June 30, 2015.

To learn more and read the proposed rule as well as to submit comments, visit:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Several States Reduce Non-Resident Fishing License Fees

Last Year New York seemed to get the ball rolling when the DEC announced a reduction of $20 for a nonresident fishing license. Not only was that a sweet move, they also changed the license year renewal and instead made fishing licenses good for 365 days. In other words, no matter what date you buy your fishing license, it's good for 365 days.

Now I just read where Michigan has reduced their nonresident fishing license cost. Their fishing license went from $76 to $68. These states mention increased tourism as their motive for reducing the fees. I'm not so certain that a $20 or less savings is going to alter anyone's fishing vacation plans, but it is a good gesture and if nothing else, it gives these states another reason to highlight their excellent fisheries.

Pennsylvania also announced this past fall that they too are lowering the nonresident fishing license fee. They dropped it a buck. That's right $1. Not even enough to get a dollar coffee when you add in the states six cents tax. I do realize that a dollar is a dollar, I'm not a wealthy man with excess cash to throw around, but there are times when a dollar becomes a joke, as in an insult. $52.70 down to $51.70. What was the Pennsylvania Fish Commission even thinking?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

DEC Reminds Anglers to Put Safety First When Enjoying Ice Fishing

A Minimum of Three to Four Inches of Solid Ice is Usually Safe for Anglers on Foot

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today reminded ice anglers to enjoy the ice responsibly. Three to four inches of solid ice is usually safe for anglers accessing ice on foot. Ice thickness can vary on every body of water or even within the same body of water. Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions.

Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can easily be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.

"Ice fishing is a very popular sport in New York State and interest in the sport is increasing," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Unlike other fishing techniques that may require a boat or special equipment, ice fishing is relatively simple and inexpensive. All one needs is a warm pair of boots, a good ice auger, some tip-ups or a jigging rod and the willingness to walk a bit to have success."

Based on DEC's last statewide angler survey, more than 800,000 days are spent ice fishing New York's waters annually. For more information on ice fishing, visit DEC's website.

The use of fish for bait is very popular when ice fishing and bait fish may be used in most but not all waters that are open to ice fishing. Visit the DEC website for a list of special regulation by county to find out where bait fish can and cannot be used, and for other regulations that apply to baitfish at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/47282.html

Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:
  • Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species (please see: Special Regulations by County).
  • Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught.
  • Do not reuse baitfish in another water-body if you have replaced the water they were purchased in.
  • Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.
Anglers looking for a good place to ice fish should check out DEC's Public Lakes and Ponds map available on DEC's website. This interactive map provides recommendations on waters open to ice fishing provided by DEC staff.

Anglers are reminded to make sure that they have a valid fishing license before heading out on the ice. Fishing licenses are now valid for 365 days from the date of purchase.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2015

The 18th annual GBBC will be held Friday, February 13, through Monday, February 16, 2015.

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting, photo by Bob Howdeshell, 2014 GBBC Participant
Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at www.BirdCount.org. The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.

You're invited to participate! Simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, February 13-16, 2015. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world!

If you’re new to the count, first register online then enter your checklist. If you have already participated in another Cornell Lab citizen-science project, you can use your existing login.

On the www.birdcount.org website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during and after the count. All participants are entered in a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, CDs, and many other great products.

Those interested in participating in the GBBC can find more information by visiting www.birdcount.org. For questions and comments, please contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology or the National Audubon Society:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Inside the US: (800) 843-2473
Outside the US: (607) 254-2473)

National Audubon Society

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by generous support from Wild Birds Unlimited.

NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; Biscayne Bay, Florida, targeted for conservation efforts

NOAA has selected two sites in the southeast and Caribbean as Habitat Focus Areas -- places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. These two new areas are Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, and Florida’s Biscayne Bay.

Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.

"NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life, while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, Ph.D., director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center.

 “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources."

Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Popular for recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing, the area also contains habitats that are vital to several threatened and endangered species. The site also supports the economy through marine transportation and tourism.

However, the ecological richness of the area is vulnerable to impacts from development, land-based pollution, fishing, and climate change.

NOAA is already engaged in a variety of coral research to support management efforts. The agency will also reduce threats to the habitats through conservation projects, long-term monitoring and research activities, habitat mapping, and training and education programs in the area.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover, and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources, including protected species such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.

Scientists and resource managers are concerned that water quality issues could result in widespread loss of seagrass cover. NOAA will work to better understand water quality issues.

NOAA scientists will also restore, improve, and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts, and improve shoreline protection.

NOAA’s dedicated the first Habitat Focus Area in California’s Russian River watershed in 2013. Since then, the agency has added Guam’s Manell-Geus watershed, the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, and Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

Next steps for the Puerto Rico and Florida areas include developing implementation plans for each area.

Friday, January 09, 2015

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces over $21 Million in Grants to Conserve Coastal Wetlands

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced over $21 million will be provided to 25 projects in 13 coastal and Great Lakes states to protect, restore or enhance more than 11,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute over $35 million in additional funds to these projects, which include acquiring, restoring or enhancing coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.

“Coastal wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world,” said Director Ashe. “The nation’s coastal resources provide resting, feeding and breeding habitat for 75 percent of waterfowl and other migratory birds, and nearly 45 percent of the nation’s endangered and threatened species are dependent on coastal habitats. Coastal wetlands also provide billions of dollars in ecosystem services through drinking water filtration, buffering against storms and flood control, as well as billions more to support local economies through outdoor recreation-related expenditures and jobs.”

The program, funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters, creates significant benefits for other recreationists and the American public. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and bird watching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.

States and territories receiving funds are Delaware, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Click here for the complete list of projects funded by the 2015 grant program.

Wetlands in coastal watersheds in the U.S. are experiencing a net annual loss of more than 80,000 acres according to a recent report by the Service, highlighting the importance of coastal wetland conservation. Conservation of this habitat will not only benefit coastal wetland-dependent wildlife, but will also enhance flood protection and water quality, and provide economic and recreational benefits to anglers, boaters, hunters and wildlife watchers.

The Service awards grants of up to $1 million to states based on a national competition, which enables states to determine and address their highest conservation priorities in coastal areas. Since 1992, the Service has awarded over $357 million in grants under the program.

“This program provides states with an extraordinary opportunity to address conservation priorities in coastal areas at a time when coastal wetlands are under siege from the combined forces of development and climate change,” said Ashe. “These coastal wetlands grants are more important than ever in helping to ensure the resilience of coastal communities and the preservation of our wildlife heritage.”

Examples of projects receiving grants today are:

Beltz Farm Acquisition Project, Oregon
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is awarded $970,500 to acquire, permanently protect and manage as a state natural area, 244 acres of coastal estuarine habitat within the Sand Lake estuary in Tillamook County. The Beltz Farm parcels include coastal estuary and freshwater wetlands, coastal dune habitat, ocean shore and forest and upland scrub habitats. Two creeks on the property provide spawning and rearing habitat and connect to additional habitat upstream. Conservation of Beltz Farm has long been a priority of the local community, conservationists and state agencies due to the diversity of coastal habitats, the pristine condition of the estuary and its importance to listed and sensitive species including more than 100 bird species, amphibians and fish. Beltz Farm has been under significant development pressure in recent decades, with proposals for resorts, golf courses and condominiums all pursued.

Altama Plantation Acquisition – Phase 2, Georgia
Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) is awarded $1 million to acquire and protect approximately 2,370 acres of the Altama Plantation. The area is made up of tidal wetlands, inland maritime forests and adjacent uplands in the Lower Altamaha River watershed. The lower Altamaha River watershed is designated as one of the “Last Great Places” by The Nature Conservancy, and is a top State Wildlife Action Plan priority. It boasts the highest documented number of rare plants, animals, and natural community occurrences in Georgia and is one of the most ecologically diverse habitats in the southeast. This project is part of a larger initiative by the GA DNR, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Forest Service to conserve 4,038 acres of priority habitat in the lower Altamaha River system. The Altamaha watershed provides critical habitat for nesting, breeding and feeding neotropical migratory birds and colonial waterbirds.

Point Abbaye and Huron Bay Coastal Wetlands Acquisition, Michigan
Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Keweenaw Land Trust are awarded $1 million to acquire four privately owned parcels of high quality, intact coastal wetlands and near-shore aquatic habitats on the Abbaye Peninsula and Huron Bay of Lake Superior in Baraga County. The parcels total 1,374 acres and include nearly a mile of Lake Superior shoreline. The Lake Superior basin in northern Michigan has some of the most diverse, intact and ecologically significant habitats remaining in the Great Lakes region. The Keweenaw and Abbaye Peninsulas are major migratory bird corridors, especially notable for raptors and waterfowl. The project area’s large, forested wetland and riparian habitats support wide ranging mammals such as gray wolves, black bear and bobcat in addition to a large diversity of bird species. This project will protect and enhance coastal wetlands in a relatively pristine portion of Michigan that is increasingly being threatened by development.

Tidmarsh Farms Restoration Project, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game was awarded $790,290 to restore 250 acres of recently retired cranberry bogs and supporting upland grassland and forest in the southeastern part of the state. The project will restore wetland communities by removing dams and water control structures and thousands of tons of sediment, and installing a culvert to reconnect the hydrology in the Beaver Dam Brook watershed. The project will be the largest freshwater wetlands restoration effort to date in Massachusetts, and includes a cutting edge, long-term monitoring component led by the landowners and involving Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Audubon and several other organizations. The same restoration strategy was used at the Eel River Headwaters Restoration Project in Plymouth Massachusetts, which was supported by a 2008 grant. Although the project site is privately owned, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service holds a conservation easement on 192 acres and Massachusetts Audubon is acquiring the site as a wildlife sanctuary.

The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the Service and funded under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Funding is provided by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

NY DEC Studying Ongoing Salmon River Steelhead Disorder

Nutritional Deficiency Strongly Implicated in Increased Steelhead Mortality in Lake Ontario Tributaries

DEC Taking Steps to Meet Egg Quotas to Ensure Robust Steelhead Population


Adult steelhead (a strain of rainbow trout) returning from Lake Ontario to the Salmon River in Oswego County are exhibiting signs of stress and elevated mortality rates due to an apparent thiamine (vitamin B) deficiency, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. 


DEC scientists enlisted the help of fish health experts in other agencies and academia to determine the cause of this disorder. DEC staff submitted moribund Salmon River steelhead to the Cornell University Aquatic Animal Health Program for testing. Results indicate that fish pathogens are not responsible for the abnormal behavior and mortality. DEC also sent steelhead samples to the U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory for further lab testing. Results strongly indicate a severe thiamine (vitamin B) deficiency, which means it is likely contributing to the steelhead mortality.

"Lake Ontario steelhead are an important component of Lake Ontario's sport fishery and DEC is deeply concerned about reports of steelhead stress and mortality in the Salmon River and other Lake Ontario tributaries," Commissioner Martens said. "Steelhead provide high-quality sport fisheries in the open lake and are especially sought after by anglers who fish in tributaries from fall through spring. DEC staff will continue to work closely with federal agencies, Cornell University and other stakeholders to identify the cause of the current situation and strategies to ensure a robust steelhead population."

In mid-November, DEC fisheries staff began to receive reports of steelhead swimming erratically in the Salmon River and higher mortality of the species. More recent reports indicate similar behavior in steelhead in other Lake Ontario tributaries.

Steelhead are an important component of Lake Ontario's sport fishery, which a Cornell University study valued at over $112 million in angler expenditures in New York annually.

Great Lakes fish predators (including salmon and steelhead) that feed primarily on alewife are prone to thiamine deficiency. Alewife, an invasive bait fish in the Great Lakes, are known to contain thiaminase, an enzyme that degrades thiamine. A thiamine deficiency can impact egg quality and the survival of eggs and newly hatched fish, and, in severe cases, can cause the death of adult fish.

DEC is taking steps to meet its spring 2015 steelhead egg-take targets at Salmon River Hatchery, and will work with Great Lakes agency partners to provide assistance in meeting egg take quotas, if needed. Staff from DEC's Rome Fish Disease Control Unit and Salmon River Hatchery are preemptively injecting adult steelhead returning to the hatchery with thiamine. Thiamine-injected fish will be held in outdoor raceways at the hatchery and fed a diet fortified with vitamin B to improve the likelihood of successful steelhead egg collections in 2015.

However, little can be done to alleviate the mortality of adult steelhead that are unable to ascend the river and reach the hatchery's holding facilities. Although moderate thiamine deficiencies are not uncommon in top predator fish such as salmon, lake trout and steelhead in Lake Ontario and other waters, this year's acute deficiency is atypical in its severity. DEC staff will continue to collaborate with experts to further understand the circumstances leading to this year's mortality.

For more information, contact DEC's Bureau of Fisheries (Cape Vincent Fisheries Station) at (315) 654-2147.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Two Charged in NY for Overfishing Summer Flounder (fluke)

A father and son fishing team are facing misdemeanor illegal commercialization charges after New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) caught them violating summer flounder trip limits when their boat returned to port in Southampton late last month, the agency announced today.

Two ECOs boarded the FV Mary Elizabeth, a 60-foot Stern trawler, when it returned to port on December 22 at the Southampton town dock in Shinnecock Inlet. During their inspection, officers examined the Fishing Vessel Trip Report (FVTR) which reported 210 pounds of summer flounder, the current legal limit.

However, further inspection and weighing of catch on the deck and in the hold found six hundred pounds of summer flounder, approximately 398 pounds over the legal limit.

"New York State's proud commercial fishing tradition goes back hundreds of years," DEC Regional Director Peter A. Scully said. "It is regrettable when a few bad actors tarnish the reputation of a sound and admirable profession. We are very fortunate to have a police force which works tirelessly to prevent these individuals from taking advantage of our natural resources."

Facing charges are John Berglin, 56 of Hampton Bays, the vessel's owner and operator, and his son, Scott, 25, also of Hampton Bays. Both men were released on a field appearance ticket with an arraignment date of February 11 in Southampton Town Justice Court. The misdemeanor commercialization charge carries a potential maximum penalty of $5,000 and a year in jail.

After charging the men, ECOs took possession of the 398 pound sushi grade quality summer flounder and donated it to the Lighthouse Mission in Bellport.

Individuals who observe illegal environmental activities on Long Island are encouraged to call DEC's Division of Law Enforcement at (631) 444-0250 on weekdays during business hours, and the Environmental Conservation Officers Hotline 1-844-DEC-ECOS at all other times to report those activities.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A New Spin on Things

It was quite a trip. All in all, we traveled roughly 584 million miles cruising at 67,000 mph. It took 365.256 days, and here we are, kind of right back where we started. No rest after that journey. Staying right on course for the next trip. There's a good reason why sometimes it feels like we run around in circles. Anyway, hope to see you all at the turnaround. In the meantime, enjoy the trip, safe travels too. If you're like me, you'll be traveling First Class. That's the section with the fly rods.