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Friday, February 26, 2016

Latest NJ Delaware Bay Fish Survey

Since 1991 New Jersey has been surveying the fish in the Delaware Bay in predetermined locations selected for their spawning and nursery habitat. This survey data is used in stock assessments on the state level and also helps in understanding coastwide population trends. In addition to counting fish, the survey measures various water quality parameters like salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen.

Sampling data shows a continued decrease in important forage fish like bay anchovy and Atlantic menhaden, aka bunker. Popular gamefish like striped bass and weakfish have shown modest increases.

One thing I always find interesting about this survey is the different species that have been collected since its inception, especially those usually thought of as more southern like Florida pompano, mutton snapper, and a couple of different jacks.

Check out NJ Fish & Wildlife's 2015 Report  

NYDEC Announces State of Lake Ontario Meetings

Biologists to Update Status of Lake's Fisheries

The public will have the opportunity to learn about the State of Lake Ontario fisheries at public meetings held in Monroe, Niagara, and Oswego counties in March, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. Lake Ontario and its embayments and tributaries support thriving populations of fish, including a variety of trout and salmon, bass, walleye, yellow perch and panfish.

"Lake Ontario and its tributaries provide world-class angling opportunities" Acting Commissioner Seggos said. "Under Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, Lake Ontario's high-quality fisheries and associated economic benefits are thriving. The State of Lake Ontario meetings provide an excellent opportunity for individuals interested in the lake to interact with the scientists who study its fisheries."

New York's Lake Ontario waters comprise more than 2.7 million acres. A 2007 statewide angler survey estimated more than 2.6 million angler days were spent on Lake Ontario and major tributaries. The estimated value of these fisheries exceeded $112 million annually to the local New York economy.
The meeting dates and locations are as follows:
  • Thursday, March 3: 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Building, 4487 Lake Avenue, Lockport, Niagara County. The meeting is co-hosted by Niagara County Cooperative Extension and the Niagara County Sportfishery Development Board.
  • Tuesday, March 8: 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Pulaski High School auditorium, 4624 Salina Street, Pulaski, Oswego County. The meeting is co-hosted by the Eastern Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Association. In the event of heavy lake-effect snow, the meeting will be held at the same time and location on March 9.
  • Monday, March 14: 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) campus (Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science building (76-1125) - Carlson Auditorium), Rochester, Monroe County. The meeting is co-hosted by RIT and the Monroe County Fishery Advisory Board.
Staff from DEC, the United States Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a number of presentations, including updates on the status of trout and salmon fisheries, forage fish, and stocking programs. Staff from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry will also be in attendance. The meetings will provide ample time at the end of the scheduled program for the audience to interact with the presenters.

Information about DEC's Lake Ontario fisheries assessment programs can be found online. For further information contact Steven LaPan, New York Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head at Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station, (315) 654-2147.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

NY DEC Proposes Fishing Regulation Changes for 2017

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wants to make changes to the fishing regulations and is looking for feedback from anglers. These changes are to the current freshwater fishing regulations, and if they go through, these changes would take effect on April 1, 2017.

Many of the changes are meant to safeguard and/or expand fish populations. Other changes are focused on eliminating special regulations that DEC feels didn't work.  That goal would be to simplify New York fishing regulations.

Changes in walleye regulations seem to dominate with some bass and trout regulation changes on specific waters.

To view these proposed changes and to provide input, visit the DEC website. Hard copies of the list of changes being considered, as well as instructions on how to submit feedback by regular mail, can be obtained by contacting Shaun Keeler, at New York State DEC, Bureau of Fisheries, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fish hatcheries cause substantial, rapid genetic changes according to new DNA evidence

A new study on steelhead in Oregon offers genetic evidence that wild and hatchery fish are different at the DNA level, and that they can become different with surprising speed.

In a study conducted at Oregon State University with the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, scientists say the findings essentially close the case on whether or not wild and hatchery fish can be genetically different. The research, published in Nature Communications, found that after just one generation of hatchery culture, the offspring of wild fish and first-generation hatchery fish differed in the activity of more than 700 genes.

A single generation of adaptation to the hatchery resulted in observable changes at the DNA level that were passed on to offspring, scientists reported.

Differences in survival and reproductive success between hatchery and wild fish have long showed evidence of rapid adaptation to the hatchery environment. This new DNA evidence directly measured the activity of all genes in the offspring of hatchery and wild fish. It conclusively demonstrates that the genetic differences between hatchery and wild fish are large in scale and fully heritable.

“A fish hatchery is a very artificial environment that causes strong natural selection pressures,” said Michael Blouin, a professor of integrative biology in the OSU College of Science. “A concrete box with 50,000 other fish all crowded together and fed pellet food is clearly a lot different than an open stream.”

It’s not clear exactly what genetic traits are selected, but the study shows some genetic changes that may explain how fish are respond to the hatchery environment.

“We observed that a large number of genes were involved in pathways related to wound healing, immunity, and metabolism, and this is consistent with the idea that the earliest stages of domestication may involve adapting to highly crowded conditions,” said Mark Christie, lead author of the study.

Aside from crowding, a common hatchery occurrence, injuries and disease are also more prevalent.

The study found that genetic changes are substantial and quick. It’s evolution at work, but without taking multiple generations or long periods of time.

“We expected hatcheries to have a genetic impact,” Blouin said. “However, the large amount of change we observed at the DNA level was really amazing. This was a surprising result.”

With the question answered of whether hatchery fish are different, Blouin said, it's now possible to determine exactly how they are different, and work to address that problem. Once the genetic changes that occur in a hatchery are better understood, it could be possible to change the way fish are raised in order to produce hatchery fish that are closer to wild fish. This research is a first step in that direction.

This work was performed using steelhead from the Hood River in Oregon. It was supported by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Oregon State University is one of only two universities in the United States that is designated a Land Grant, Sea Grant, Space Grant and Sun Grant institution. OSU is also Oregon’s only university to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top designation for research institutions and its prestigious Community Engagement classification.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Warming Ocean May Bring Major Changes for U.S. Northeast Fishery Species

The study is formally known as the Northeast Climate Vulnerability Assessment and is the first in a series of similar evaluations planned for fishery species in other U.S. regions. Conducting climate change vulnerability assessments of U.S. fisheries is a priority action in the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy. Similar assessments are now underway for the Bering Sea and California Current Ecosystems.

swimming alewife
An alewife, often called river herring

The method tends to categorize species that are “generalists” as less vulnerable to climate change than are those that are “specialists.” For example, Atlantic cod and yellowtail flounder are more generalists, since they can use a variety of prey and habitat, and are ranked as only moderately vulnerable to climate change. The Atlantic sea scallop is more of a specialist, with limited mobility and high sensitivity to the ocean acidification that will be more pronounced as water temperatures warm. Sea scallops have a high vulnerability ranking.

NOAA scientists have released the first multispecies assessment of just how vulnerable U.S. marine fish and invertebrate species are to the effects of climate change. The study examined 82 species that occur off the Northeastern U.S., where ocean warming is occurring rapidly. Researchers found that most species evaluated will be affected, and that some are likely to be more resilient to changing ocean conditions than others. The study appears in PLOS ONE, an online scholarly science journal.

monkfish on deck
Goosefish, also known as monkfish
“Our method identifies specific attributes that influence marine fish and invertebrate resilience to the effects of a warming ocean and characterizes risks posed to individual species,” said Jon Hare, a fisheries oceanographer at NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and lead author of the study. “This work will help us better account for the effects of warming waters on our fishery species in stock assessments and when developing fishery management measures.”

The 82 Northeast species evaluated include all commercially managed marine fish and invertebrate species in the Northeast, a large number of recreational marine fish species, all marine fish species listed or under consideration for listing on the federal Endangered Species Act, and a range of ecologically important marine species.

Researchers from NOAA Fisheries and NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)’s Earth System Research Laboratory, along with colleagues at the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES), worked together on the project. NOAA OAR and CIRES scientists provided climate model predictions of how conditions in the region's marine environment are predicted to change in the 21st century. The method for assessing vulnerability was adapted for marine species from similar work by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to characterize the vulnerability of wildlife species to climate change.

The method also evaluates the potential for shifts in distribution and stock productivity, and estimates whether climate change effects will be more negative or more positive for a particular species.

“Vulnerability assessments provide a framework for evaluating climate impacts over a broad range of species by combining expert opinion with what we know about that species, in terms of the quantity and the quality of data,” Hare said. “This assessment helps us evaluate the relative sensitivity of a species to the effects of climate change. It does not, however, provide a way to estimate the pace, scale or magnitude of change at the species level.”

Researchers used existing information on climate and ocean conditions, species distributions, and life history characteristics to estimate each species’ overall vulnerability to climate-related changes in the region. Vulnerability is defined as the risk of change in abundance or productivity resulting from climate change and variability, with relative rankings based on a combination of a species exposure to climate change and a species’ sensitivity to climate change.

Each species was evaluated and ranked in one of four vulnerability categories: low, moderate, high, and very high. Animals that migrate between fresh and salt water (such as sturgeon and salmon), and those that live on the ocean bottom (such as scallops, lobsters and clams) are the most vulnerable to climate effects in the region. Species that live nearer to the water’s surface (such as herring and mackerel) are the least vulnerable. A majority of species also are likely to change their distribution in response to climate change. Numerous distribution shifts have already been documented, and this study demonstrates that widespread distribution shifts are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

A specific summary of results has been prepared for each species to help put the rankings into context. These narratives discuss what is known about the effects of climate change on the species and provide the foundation for future research.