From Maine to Florida, Hearings on Atlantic Menhaden Draft Amendment 3 Are Scheduled

The Atlantic coastal states of Maine through Florida have scheduled their hearings to gather public comment on Draft Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden. The details of those hearings follows:

Maine Dept. of Marine Resources
October 5, 2017; 6 PM
Yarmouth Town Hall
200 Main Street
Yarmouth, ME
Contact: Pat Keliher at 207.624.6553

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
October 3, 2017; 7 PM
Urban Forestry Center
45 Elwyn Road
Portsmouth, NH
Contact: Cheri Patterson at 603.868.1095

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
October 2, 2017; 6 PM
Thayer Public Library, Logan Auditorium
798 Washington Street
Braintree, MA
Contact: Nichola Meserve at 617.626.1531

and

October 5, 2017; 6 PM
Bourne Community Center, Room 2
239 Main Street
Buzzards Bay, MA
Contact: Nichola Meserve at 617.626.1531

Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife
October 4, 2017; 6 PM
University of Rhode Island Bay Campus
Corless Auditorium, South Ferry Road
Narragansett, RI
Contact: Robert Ballou at 401.222.4700 ext: 4420

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
September 11, 2017; 7 PM
CT DEEP Boating Education Center
333 Ferry Road
Old Lyme, CT
Contact: Mark Alexander at 860.447.4322

New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation
September 12, 2017; 6 PM
NYSDEC Division of Marine Resources
205 N. Belle Mead Road
East Setauket, NY
Contact: Jim Gilmore at 631.444.0430

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
September 13, 2017; 6 PM
Manahawkin (Stafford Township) Courtroom
260 East Bay Avenue
Manahawkin, NJ
Contact: Russ Allen at 609.748.2020 

Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
September 14, 2017; 6 PM
DNREC Auditorium
89 Kings Highway
Dover, DE 19901
Contact: John Clark at 302.739.9914

Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources
September 18, 2017; 6 PM
Contact: Lynn Fegley at 410.260.8285
The hearing will be held in Annapolis, MD.
The state is working to identify a location.

Potomac River Fisheries Commission
September 19, 2017; 6 PM
Carpenter Building
222 Taylor Street
Colonial Beach, VA
Contact: Martin Gary at 804.456.6935

Virginia Marine Resources Commission
September 20, 2017; 6 PM
Northumberland High School
201 Academic Lane
Heathsville, VA
Contact: Rob O’Reilly at 757.247.2247

and

September 21, 2017; 6 PM
2600 Washington Avenue, 4th Floor
Newport News, VA
Contact: Rob O’Reilly at 757.247.2247

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
September 27, 2017; 6 PM
Central District Office
5285 US Highway 70 West
Morehead City, NC
Contact: Michelle Duval at 252.808.8013

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
September 26, 2017; 6 PM
Town of Melbourne Beach Community Center
507 Ocean Avenue
Melbourne Beach, FL
Contact: Jim Estes at 850.617.9622


Draft Amendment 3 seeks to manage the menhaden resource in a way that balances menhaden’s ecological role as a prey species with the needs of all user groups. To this end, the Draft Amendment considers the use of ecosystem reference points (ERPs) to manage the resource and changes to the allocation method. In addition, it presents a suite of management options for quota transfers, quota rollovers, incidental catch, the episodic events set aside program, and the Chesapeake Bay reduction fishery cap.

The 2015 Benchmark Stock Assessment Report identified the development of ERPs as a high priority for Atlantic menhaden management. Menhaden serve an important role in the marine ecosystem as prey for a variety of species including larger fish (e.g. weakfish, striped bass), birds (e.g. bald eagles, osprey), and marine mammals (e.g. humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins). As a result, changes in the abundance of menhaden may impact the abundance and diversity of predator populations, particularly if the availability of other prey is limited. ERPs provide a method to assess the status of menhaden within the broad ecosystem context. Draft Amendment 3 provides a variety of reference point options, including the continued development of menhaden-specific ERPs as well as the application of precautionary guidelines for forage fish species.

Draft Amendment 3 also considers changes to the allocation method given concerns that the current approach may not strike an appropriate balance between gear types and jurisdictions. Specifically, under the current allocation method, increases in the total allowable catch (TAC) result in limited benefits to small-scale fisheries, and to several states. Furthermore, the current method may not provide a balance between the present needs of the fishery and future growth opportunities. Draft Amendment 3 considers a range of allocation alternatives, including a dispositional quota (bait vs. reduction), fleet-capacity quota (quota divided by gear type), jurisdictional quota, including a fixed minimum quota for each state, and an allocation method based on the TAC. In addition, the document considers five allocation timeframes including 2009-2011, 2012-2016, 1985-2016, 1985-1995, and a weighted approached which considers both historic and recent landings.

The Draft Amendment is available at http://www.asmfc.org/files/PublicInput/AtlanticMenhadenDraftAmendment3_PublicComment.pdf or on the Commission website, www.asmfc.org, under Public Input. Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Amendment either by attending state public hearings or providing written comment. Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on October 20, 2017 and should be forwarded to Megan Ware, FMP Coordinator, 1050 N. Highland St, Suite A-N, Arlington, VA 22201; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at comments@asmfc.org (Subject line: Draft Amd. 3). If your organization is planning to release an action alert in response to Draft Amendment 3, please contact Megan Ware at 703.842.0740, so she can work with you to develop a unique subject line to enable us to better organize and summarize incoming comments for Board review.

Final action on the Amendment, as well as specification of the 2018 TAC, is scheduled to occur on November 14th at the BWI Airport Marriott, 1743 West Nursery Road, Linthicum, MD. For more information, please contact Megan Ware, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at mware@asmfc.org or 703.842.0740.

Florida Man Brings Fish Back To Life To Avoid Arrest

A man tried to avoid an arrest in Sebastian by bringing back to life a Snook during its off-season.

A man who brought a snook back to life after being caught fishing in closed season was still arrested anyway.

Fernando Pantoja, 37, was spotted by an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as he was using a castnet in the Indian River off the shoreline of Little Hollywood on Riverview Drive.

The officer asked Pantoja to stop fishing and to return near the shoreline to have his cooler and net inspected.

Instead, Pantoja started throwing fish with both hands out of his cooler.

“I ran to the defendant location and told him to stop throwing the fish as he continued to discard them,” the officer said.

The officer observed at least ten fish on the bottom of the river. But there was one very large Snook floating on the top of the water, sideways.

Pantoja, who told the officer he works as a fisherman, knew that if he was caught with the Snook, he could be arrested. So, he started to bump it so that it would come back to life.

“I told him to stop and put it in the cooler. He did not, instead bumping it allowing it to come to,” according to the report.

While the large Snook woke up and swam away, he gave the officer an undersized Black Drum.

“Defendant took all fish by castnet which is illegal for Snook as well as Snook season being closed,” the report said.

Pantoja was arrested and transported to the Indian River County Jail where he was charged with not allowing an inspection by an officer of the State as well as other pending charges.

DISCLAIMER: Arrests and mugshots were made public by complaint affidavits, arrest affidavits, and police reports. All persons arrested are innocent until proven guilty.


Courtesy of The Sebastian Daily

Delaware Catfish Is One For The Record Books

State record 36-pound, 3.2-ounce catfish caught from the Nanticoke River near Seaford

Jordan Chelton of Harrington with his state-record 36 lb., 3.2 oz blue catfish. Photo from DNREC

SEAFORD – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife has confirmed a new state record in the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament: a 36-pound, 3.2-ounce blue catfish, caught June 20 by Jordan Chelton of Harrington. The fish was 38½ inches long and had a girth of 27½ inches.

Chelton caught the fish in the upper Nanticoke River near Seaford on 12-pound test line with a chunk of Atlantic menhaden (bunker). The catfish took the bait about 9:30 p.m. Chelton landed it almost a half hour later.

The record catch was initially confirmed by Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police-officer AFC Adam Roark, and verified at Taylored Tackle Shop in Seaford. Delaware has one state catfish record, now held by Jordan Chelton, that stands for any catfish species caught here. The previous catfish record holder was Gavin Spicer, who caught a 25-pound, 5.6-ounce catfish, also a blue catfish, from the Nanticoke just two months earlier, on April 21. For all state freshwater fishing records, please visit the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Delaware Fishing Records page.

More information on the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament is found in the 2017 Delaware Fishing Guide. The guide also is available in printed form at DNREC’s Dover licensing desk in the Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE 19901, and from license agents throughout the state.

Poached eels: US strikes at illegal harvests as value grows

Changes in the worldwide fisheries industry have turned live baby American eels into a commodity that can fetch more than $2,000 a pound at the dock, but the big demand and big prices have spawned a black market that wildlife officials say is jeopardizing the species.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP photo
Changes in the worldwide fisheries industry have turned live baby American eels, known as elvers, into a commodity that can fetch more than $2,000 a pound at the dock, but the big demand and big prices have spawned a black market that wildlife officials say is jeopardizing the species.

Law enforcement authorities have launched a crackdown on unlicensed eel fishermen and illicit sales along the East Coast.

Although not a well-known seafood item like the Maine lobster, wriggling baby eels, or elvers, are a fishery worth many millions of dollars. Elvers often are sold to Asian aquaculture companies to be raised to maturity and sold to the lucrative Japanese restaurant market, where they mainly are served grilled.

But licensed U.S. fishermen complain poaching has become widespread, as prices have climbed in recent years. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies are investigating clandestine harvesting and sales.

Operation Broken Glass, a reference to the eels’ glassy skin, has resulted in 15 guilty pleas for illegal trafficking of about $4 million worth of elvers. Two people are under indictment, and more indictments are expected.

In Maine, more than 400 licensed fishermen make their living fishing for elvers in rivers such as the Penobscot in Brewer and the Passagassawakeag in Belfast every spring. They say law enforcement is vital to protecting the eels and the volatile industry.

Randy Bushey, of Steuben, Maine, has been fishing for elvers since 1993. He said he saw his income balloon from as little as $5,000 per year in the 1990s to more than $350,000 in 2012. He said tighter quotas mean he’s earning less these days, and in the most recent season he made about $57,000.

“I’ve seen the best, and I’ve seen the worst,” Bushey said. “I want to see it preserved. I want to see it straightened out.”

The elvers are legally harvested in the U.S. only in Maine and South Carolina. Massachusetts only has a fishery for older eels, those larger than 9 inches, as do Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.

The American eel fishery was typically worth $1 million to $3 million per year until 2011, when the economics of the industry changed. Asian and European eel stocks dried up, and the value of American eels grew to more than $40 million in 2012 because of demand in China, South Korea and other Asian countries.

Investigators also turned their eyes to poaching in 2011, the Department of Justice told The Associated Press. The investigation of people who catch, sell or export elvers illegally has ranged from Maine to South Carolina; a New York seafood distributor was among those netted.

In one case, federal prosecutors said, three men pleaded guilty in November 2016 to trafficking more than $740,000 worth of elvers harvested illegally from the Cooper River in the Charleston, South Carolina, area. In another, Richard Austin pleaded guilty in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, to trafficking more than $189,000 in illegally harvested elvers from 2013 to 2015.

The federal agencies involved in the poaching investigations say there’s no end date for their probe. The Department of Justice declined to speculate on how many poachers there are and how many arrests are expected. A conviction for violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits illegal wildlife trade, can carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000.

Investigators go undercover to track poachers, posing as people illegally fishing for elvers, also known as glass eels. They also follow eel migrations, hoping to catch illegal fishermen on the spot. Investigators also track catch records, which are required by states, to look for possible illegal fishing and selling along the supply chain.

The legwork is necessary because illegal trade in elvers jeopardizes the species’ long-term sustainability, said Jeffrey H. Wood, acting assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice’s environmental division.

Maine’s fishery for elvers is the biggest on the East Coast, making it the sole reliable source of the eels in the U.S. To prevent overfishing, fishermen are limited to catching them for only a few weeks every spring.

As prices and competition for licenses in Maine have climbed, poachers have come to Massachusetts to catch the elvers and bring them back to Maine to sell. Transporting the elvers across state lines is a federal offense. If caught in Massachusetts, poachers face a fine of $100 per elver and have all equipment, including vehicles, associated with the poaching operation confiscated.

The eels hatch in the ocean waters of the Sargasso Sea, a weedy patch of the Atlantic Ocean between the West Indies and the Azores. They then follow currents back to rivers and streams from Greenland to Brazil, including those on Cape Ann. A population of American eels travel the 2,000 miles to Mill Stream and Mill Pond, staying as much as 30 years in the watershed, said Eric Hutchins, marine habitat restoration specialist in the NOAA Restoration Center in Gloucester.

Mature eels that avoid hazards including fishermen’s nets, predatory fish and the turbines of hydroelectric plants will one day return to spawn in the Sargasso.

The baby eels are tiny at the time of harvest, weighing only a few grams when they are scooped with dip-nets or trapped with larger nets that resemble small soccer goals.

A well-managed eel fishery is critical to the health of the rivers and streams they swim in, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement Ed Grace. Eels are important to the marine ecosystem because they serve as both predator and prey, feeding on fish and mollusks and serving as food for larger fish, seabirds and turtles.

“While the big charismatic animals like bears, big cats and eagles tend to grab all the public attention, it’s often the smaller, more obscure animals that are crucial to regional ecosystems and economies,” Grace said.

Some eels harvested in Maine eventually return to the U.S. to be sold in Japanese restaurants, usually grilled and served on rice.

Sunny Chung, chef and owner at Yobo in Portland, gets Maine eels from American Unagi, the only American eel farm in the state. He described Maine eels as a top-notch product and “the only eel that we use.”

Going after scofflaw fishermen will help ensure the eels keep filling that commercial role, said state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, a Republican from Dresden who’s adviser to the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association.

“We are committed to ending these problems,” Pierce said. “It behooves us to.”

Material from Times staff writers was used in this report.


Courtesy of the Gloucester Times by Patrick Whittle AP

Fastest Shark in Ocean Threatened By Over Fishing

Shortfin mako shark fishing mortality rate is much higher than previously thought

More bad news for sharks.

A new study using satellite tracking by researchers from Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI), the University of Rhode Island and other colleagues shows that the fishing mortality rate of the shortfin mako in the western North Atlantic is considerably higher than previously estimated from catches reported by fishermen. These data suggest that this major ocean apex predator is experiencing overfishing, raising serious concerns about whether the current levels of fishery catches in the North Atlantic are sustainable.

Mako shark.
Credit: George Schellenger, GHOF

The new study has been published in the Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Traditionally, the data obtained to determine the rate of fishing mortality, a key parameter used to help gauge the health of shark stocks, has depended largely on fishermen self-reporting any mako sharks they may have caught,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., senior author of the study and director of the NSU’s GHRI. “The challenge is that not all fishermen report the same way or some may underreport or even not report their mako shark captures at all, so the these catch data are known to be of questionable reliability.”

Shivji said that near real-time tracking of mako sharks using satellite tags and directly seeing how many were captured allowed researchers to bypass the dependency on self-reporting by fishermen.

“Using satellite tags for makos and possibly other fished species can be a time-efficient way and a fisheries-independent tool for gathering useful fisheries-interaction data, including answering fundamental questions about the levels of fishing survival and mortality,” said Michael Byrne, Ph.D., the paper’s lead author and postdoctoral fellow at NSU’s GHRI when the study was done. “The tracking data also showed these mako sharks entered the management zones of 19 countries, underscoring how critical it is for countries to work together closely to manage and conserve these long-distance oceanic travelers.” When the researchers began to gather, compile, disaggregate and review the data, the results were startling.

An unexpectedly high proportion, 30% of the 40 satellite tagged sharks, were captured in fisheries. After modelling the probability that a mako shark would survive a year without being captured (a 72% chance) and calculating the fishing mortality rates, researchers determined that the rate at which shortfin makos were being killed in fisheries was actually 10 times higher than previously believed.

“From a conservation and protection point of view, this is huge,” said Bradley Wetherbee, Ph.D., a research scientist from the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Biological Sciences and a member of NSU’s GHRI. “It’s vital that we have the most accurate data possible to aid decision-makers in managing marine life populations sustainably. If they have inaccurate information, it’s much more difficult to make the correct decisions for properly managing populations. Everyone wants the populations managed in a sustainable way.”

The tracks of the tagged mako sharks, including the ones captured, can be viewed online on NSU’s GHRI shark tracking website.

Globally, many shark species have seen significant declines in their numbers, with fisheries overexploitation cited as a major cause. This can happen in many ways — some shark species are specifically targeted while others are captured by accident (called bycatch.) No matter how sharks are taken from the world’s oceans, the fact remains that the current levels of removal for many species are unsustainable.

The researchers stress that the work they are doing has the goal of providing the most accurate information possible to those in positions to take action to manage mako and other shark species. They both say that the goal is create successful fisheries management and conservation — to avoid declining populations, and to do that, we must have as much accurate data as possible.

“We have to have sustainable approaches to fishing,” Dr. Shivji said. “Sharks might get a bit of a bad rap in the media, but these apex predators are vital to the overall health of our oceans. You remove them from the equation and, quite honestly, we don’t know how far those ripples will be felt. One thing we do know is it won’t be inconsequential.”


Courtesy of Science Daily
Materials provided by Nova Southeastern University.

State Record Alert: New Jersey Grass Carp Bowfishing

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife has officially certified, and is pleased to announce, the catch of a new state record freshwater fish.

Hunter Whitehead of Frenchtown, NJ, landed the new state record Grass Carp for archery on June 3, 2017. The fish weighed in at 65 pounds, 13 ounces, eclipsing the previous state record by 13 ounces. The fish measured 48″ in length and had a girth of 36″. Hunter was bowfishing in the Delaware River when he got the fish.

For more information on the Record Fish Program, visit www.njfishandwildlife.com/recfish.htm


Courtesy of New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife

New Washington State Record For Pacific Sanddab

OLYMPIA – A King County angler– and recently retired regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)– has set a new record for the biggest Pacific sanddab caught in state waters, fishery managers confirmed today.

Bob Everitt of Kirkland didn’t waste any time making a name for himself in the fishing world after his retirement. Retired for one day after a 37-year career at WDFW, Everitt caught one of the biggest, little fish around on July 1 at Jefferson head in Puget Sound.

“We were mooching deep, looking for salmon, and two sanddabs hit the two hooks on my line,” said Everitt, who was the director of regional operations in northern Puget Sound.  “These are small fish, and I thought about shaking them off,” he added.

But, Danny Garrett, Everitt’s fishing partner and a WDFW biologist, took a second look and noted that one of the fish might be a record, which was later confirmed at a certified scale in Bothell.

Everitt’s sanddab weighed in at 1.22 lb. and measured 14 inches.

Juan Valero of Seattle set the previous record of 1 lb. and 12.5 inches on May 25 while fishing near Possession Point in Puget Sound.

“I had a fun day and a fun career, and if I had any advice for anglers, it would be to get out there and fish often,” said Everitt. “You never know what you might catch.”

A Pacific sanddab is a small, left-eyed, flatfish that prefers sand or mud bottoms. Most weigh less than a third of a pound.

354 Pound Bull Shark Sets New Mississippi State Record

Brett Rutledge of Mobile, Alabama was fishing in the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on July 3 when he landed the new Mississippi state record for bull shark species (354.25 pounds). Not only did he shatter the old record by 151 pounds (previous record 203 pounds) but once he passes the polygraph test that he was the only one to fight the fish while bringing it in, he will be awarded a $20,000 check in prize money for the record fish.

Can Male Fish Lay Eggs?

Common sense should dictate that by definition, Arnold Schwarzenegger and male fish have at least one thing in common – they can’t reproduce. But just as Arnie gave birth in the film Junior, male fish in rivers all across England are defying logic and convention by laying eggs.

The bizarre discovery was made by scientists the University of Exeter, who carried out investigations at 50 different test sites throughout the country. Though the exact reasons behind the phenomenon are not certain, it’s thought that excessive levels of oestrogen and progesterone – probably caused by the use of contraceptive pills – in the water is to blame.

A gender-bending study

Though it’s not the first study to highlight the sex-changing effects of oestrogen on marine life, it is the first one to take place in the UK. The University of Exeter study took samples of freshwater fish from 50 sites across England, including species such as roach, and found that one in five of them were exhibiting “feminised” traits and even laying eggs.

Most commonly, this behaviour manifested itself in less aggressive attitudes and reduced competitivity, which is thought likely to affect the fish’s ability to find a mate and procreate. Even more concerning, it’s believed that the offspring of the affected fish will be even more susceptible to having their behaviour and physiology affected by the chemicals, potentially resulting in a snowballing effect.

“We are showing that some of these chemicals can have much wider health effects on fish that we expected. Using specially created transgenic fish that allow us to see responses to these chemicals in the bodies of fish in real time, for example, we have shown that oestrogens found in some plastics affect the valves in the heart,” explained Professor Charles Tyler, keynote speaker on the subject.

“Other research has shown that many other chemicals that are discharged through sewage treatment works can affect fish including antidepressant drugs, which reduce the natural shyness of some fish species, including the way they react to predators.”

Chemicals to blame

An influx of oestrogen into rivers, streams and other bodies of water is the most likely culprit behind the transgender fish. Where that oestrogen comes from, however, is a more complicated matter.

One school of thought believes that abundant use of contraceptives among the female population in the UK is affecting the urine composition of those who take them, which in turn is being flushed out into the sewage system and finding its way into these fish. Others are suggesting that pills are being flushed themselves, though it seems more likely that the urine is the principal cause.

However, a recent study concluded that our waters are even more polluted than we thought and there are over 200 household products including cosmetics, plastic items and cleaning agents which are known to contain oestrogen in some capacity. Therefore, there are a whole variety of possible sources from whence the offending chemical could have come.

Professor Tyler presented his work at the 50th Anniversary Symposium of the British Fisheries Society, which took place earlier this month. It was the opening lecture among dozens of others about the various threats which fish face from humans and climate change.


Courtesy of Environmental Technology

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