Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Closely watched Maine elver season marked by slow start, low prices
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Press-Herald] By Kevin Miller - April 17, 2014 -
Elver fishermen, Tedd Hubbard of South Portland and Jimmy Dean of Cumberland set their nets for the rising tide on the Presumpscot River in Falmouth. The tide will move up the river and cover the nets, capturing elvers that are swimming up river to spawn.
“There’s one,” LaRochelle said, pointing at a squiggle created near the water’s surface by a tiny, translucent immature eel – an elver. LaRochelle kept looking, but nearly a minute passed before he pointed to another squiggle.
His wait summed up the lackluster opening days of what could be Maine’s most scrutinized commercial fishing season in years.
Elver fishermen and dealers reported minuscule catches in the first week and a half of the season. The price for elvers is also dramatically lower, with dealers paying $400 to $650 per pound, down from $1,800 to $2,000 last year.
Veterans of the industry aren’t surprised by the small catch or the low price – even as they hope that both will rebound.
At the end of a long and unusually frigid winter, the water flowing from Maine’s rivers and streams is still too cold to lure the baby eels away from the warmer saltwater into the freshwater where they will live until they mature. And this week, with rivers and streams at flood stage throughout the state, many elver fishermen have pulled their gear from the water.
Meanwhile, large eel harvests in Europe and new or expanded fisheries in other countries – largely a response to astronomic prices for elvers in recent years – are driving down prices in Maine.
“There are other eels on the market,” said Bill Quinby of Rostrata Aquaculture, a South Carolina-based buyer and exporter whose company’s name comes from the American eel’s scientific name, Anguilla rostrata.
Maine and South Carolina are the only states with commercial elver fishing.
Mitch Feigenbaum, one of Maine’s biggest buyers and exporters of elvers, estimated that his company bought 20 times as many after the first day of fishing in 2012 as it has since this season opened April 6.
Feigenbaum’s business, Delaware Valley Fish Co., packaged a small amount of elvers Tuesday for export but wasn’t planning to ship another batch until Saturday. On Wednesday, the company’s Portland facility had only a small amount of elvers.
“So it has been a very, very slow start,” said Feigenbaum. “But people who have been fishing longer than us say they have seen this before.”
ANNUAL VALUE OF CATCH MAY FALL
Elvers are born in the Sargasso Sea, in the middle of the North Atlantic, and can swim thousands of miles before reaching and entering freshwater as glass eels. They grow into adult eels in ponds and lakes before returning to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.
Elvers have been fished commercially in Maine since the 1970s, and have been harvested by the state’s American Indian tribes for thousands of years.
Fishermen in Maine harvested more than 18,000 pounds of elvers last year. With a value of nearly $33 million, elvers were the second-most-valuable commercial fishery in the state, after lobster.
The value may not get that high this year.
With about 2,500 elvers per pound, the value of each immature eel has dropped from nearly $1 to about 25 cents, at least temporarily. A fisherman’s typical daily catch, when elvers are abundant, can range from a half-pound to two pounds.
The elvers are packed into plastic bags pumped with oxygen and then shipped to China, Korea and Japan – among other locations – where they are sold to aquaculture operations. Fattened up with a protein-rich diet, the eels are then sold for consumption largely in Asia, although the U.S. market is growing.
NEW SWIPE CARDS TRACK CATCH
Maine’s 2014 elver season opened under new regulations crafted in response to concerns about the sustainability of the fishery and the long-term health of American eel populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to list the American eel as a threatened or endangered species.
Florida fishery officials may declare open season on abundant lionfish population
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The Tampa Tribune] by Jeff Houck - April 16, 2014
They’re wonderfully delicious, with a light, clean, natural flavor that almost tastes buttery.
That’s the main reason why lionfish will appear occasionally on the menu when the new RumFish Bar & Grill opens in May at the Guy Harvey Outpost resort in St. Pete Beach.
“The filets are beautiful,” Harvey said during a recent construction tour. “The meat is almost transparent with the skin off.”
A more important reason for making them a dinner special: Lionfish also are venomous, and there are way too many of them in tropical waters.
Normally, the voracious human appetite for seafood would take care of the exploding population of spiny-finned reef monsters. But the invasive species native to the Indian and Pacific oceans are difficult to catch amid the craggy protection of underwater reefs. Lobster fishermen occasionally snare one in a lobster pot — lionfish love to eat lobster eggs — but most must be speared individually by divers.
Once caught, the prickly menaces are tricky for humans to handle without coming in contact with 18 needle-like dorsal fins that act as a defense against predators. Each female lionfish swimming throughout the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys and in the Gulf Stream produces 30,000 eggs every four or five days.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials in Tallahassee will discuss Wednesday three regulation changes so that Florida can declare open season on the underwater pests.
Proposed rule revisions would allow divers using rebreathing scuba gear to harvest lionfish. Second, the FWC’s executive director would be given power to approve lionfish-harvesting tournaments in areas where spearfishing is prohibited. And a new rule would prohibit lionfish from being imported into Florida.
Marine biologists say they believe the lionfish infestation began after someone in Miami released one into the wild from a home aquarium in the early 1980s. The first Florida sighting came in 1985 in Dania Beach, near Fort Lauderdale. The lionfish population quickly spread to the Bahamas and the rest of the Caribbean during the 2000s. Their range now extends north to Bermuda and south to the northern coast of South America.
Eradication efforts range from organized annual lionfish derbies to the publication of “The Lionfish Cookbook” years ago by author Tricia Ferguson and Lad Akins of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. (Lionfish Nachos, anyone?)
In 2013, the FWC hosted a Lionfish Summit in Cocoa Beach to develop a framework for scientists and wildlife managers to collaborate on strategies for lionfish control, and identify research gaps. The FWC and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida also hosted a lionfish tasting to develop a food market and encourage participants to view lionfish as a food fish by offering recipe ideas.
State officials now are concerned the infestation is depleting valuable grouper, snapper and lobster fisheries that generate revenue in Florida.
Complete eradication is unlikely, FWC officials say. Even if all shallow-water lionfish were depleted, those living in water too deep for divers can repopulate an area quickly.
Red lionfish and their cousins, the flamboyantly named devil firefish, prey upon native fish and invertebrates, and therefore represent a significant threat to native species and ecosystems. A lionfish often will deploy its feathery pectoral fins to herd small fish into a small space where it can more easily swallow them.
The fish show up routinely in lobster traps, said Sean Morton, superintendent of NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
“They’ll eat juvenile fish,” Morton said. “They’ll go after lobster eggs. We find juvenile snappers, groupers, parrot fish, wrasses, just about anything in their stomachs.”
Even worse, juvenile reef fish natural to the environment don’t recognize lionfish as a threat, so they don’t try to evade this oncoming, strange-looking object and get out of the way, Harvey said.
“They go, ‘Wow!’ and then, boom, they’re gone,” he said.
Starting in May, customers at Harvey’s RumFish Bar & Grill in St. Pete Beach will come face to face with live lionfish swimming in a 1,000-gallon tank in the dining room. They will be a side attraction, though. Along the back wall, the restaurant’s showpiece will be a 33,500-gallon aquarium built by Wayde King and Brett Raymer of Animal Planet’s hit series “Tanked.”
Along with ahi tacos, Caribbean ceviche and pan-seared Gulf-caught grouper picatta, RumFish chef Aaron Schwietzer is expected to include lionfish whenever it becomes available.
Making it a menu fixture year-round is difficult, because restaurants never know when they will be getting a supply.
Lobster fishermen sell lionfish as a bycatch. As lobsters begin showing up, lionfish can be bought at certain fish houses for about $6 per pound in the Upper and Lower Keys.
In Grand Cayman, where he lives, Harvey is promoting the idea of divers spearing the red lionfish and devil firefish instead of grouper or snapper.
“Taking lionfish instead would take the pressure off those other populations,” Harvey said. “We need to do something about it.”
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton April 15, 2014
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The State] by Erin Moody - April 15, 2014
A group that wants to process cannonball jellyfish in Beaufort County has brought in its first catch, but that might get it in hot water with state officials.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating whether Millenarian Trading Co. and Carolina Jelly Balls operated and disposed of wastewater without permits.
DHEC spokesman said the company has been "internally referred" to the agency's enforcement program after an inspector discovered during a site visit that it had conducted a test run.
Attempts last week to reach company representative Steven Giese were unsuccessful.
Giese had told DHEC officials that jellyfish had been unloaded from boats, rinsed and shucked March 29 in a "test run of their offloading procedure." The test took place at space the company is leasing at Golden Dock on St. Helena Island, according to a report of DHEC's site visit.
An April 4 letter from DHEC to Giese says the company might have needed a permit for the test run.
The company's request for a wastewater permit, received Dec. 2, has not yet been approved by DHEC, agency spokesman Jim Beasley said. However, the site is zoned for seafood offloading and has been used for that purpose for years.
Millenarian Trading Co. and Carolina Jelly Balls have been attempting to set up shop in Beaufort County for more than a year. However, town of Port Royal officials cooled on the idea of letting Millenarian use its docks last June after learning a company owned by Giese went bankrupt in 2007 and that some Florida shrimpers said another company with which Giese was involved failed to pay them for their catch.
The group is now working to open a permanent processing plant at the former ArrMaz Custom Chemical site at 23 John Meeks Way in Lobeco. There, the jellyfish would be dehydrated with a solution of salt and alum -- which increases the potency of the salt -- then shipped to markets mainly in Asia, Giese has said.
That plan, however, hinges on DHEC approval for discharging wastewater at the Lobeco and St. Helena sites, according to agency documents. Giese and other company representatives spent early 2014 searching for a warehouse to temporarily process the jellyfish until it secures those permits.
Meanwhile, Carolina Jelly Balls will use a facility at Williams Farm in the Islandton community in Colleton County for about three months to process the jellyfish, according to DHEC documents and permit applications. The company is requesting permission to truck wastewater to Walterboro and Charleston for disposal in the public water treatment systems.
According to a copy of the request provided by DHEC, the processing facility would generate 23,000 gallons of water per week. Walterboro has agreed to accept 3,000 gallons and Charleston has agreed to take 20,000 gallons, according to letters from the utilities.
The wastewater would include organic material, suspended solids and salt, according to the request. It does not list alum.
CERTIFICATIONS AND APPLICATIONS
About 10 permit or certificate applications have been submitted to DHEC to cover operations at the three sites -- the dock, the permanent processing location and the temporary processing location.
Two applications -- for "no-exposure" certificates for the Colleton County and Golden Dock sites -- have been denied. Those certificates are used when an industrial stormwater permit is not needed because runoff from a site poses no danger of contaminating rainwater.
A March 28 letter from DHEC outlined several potential stormwater runoff problems and suggests Giese fix those problems or apply for the industrial wastewater permit.
The other eight requests remain under review, according to Beasley.
Giese has applied for wastewater permits for Golden Dock and the Lobeco site, the March 28 letter states, but permits won't be decided until after DHEC has given the public a chance to comment.
Meanwhile, DHEC continues to investigate the company's test run at the St. Helena dock, according to agency documents.
In the April 4 letter, Water Pollution Control Division director Glenn Trofatter informed Giese that shucking -- separating the jellyfish cap from the stem -- and rinsing performed at Golden Dock would require an industrial wastewater discharge permit.
The letter was sent after a March 31 visit by DHEC to both the Golden Dock and Colleton County sites. The visits were scheduled after the department received anonymous complaints.
At the Golden Dock site, Giese took the DHEC official on a tour and said the company did a test run of the offloading procedure, bringing in a haul of 14,000 pounds of jellyfish March 29, according to a report of the visit.
About half was washed and packed into containers to be sent to the Colleton County site, Giese told the inspector. The other half was rinsed and shucked before being packed. Rinsing water was pulled from and disposed into Jenkins Creek.
"The heading or shucking activity results in a wastewater discharge with the potential for toxicity," DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said in an email. DHEC is continuing to gather information.
The jellyfish season runs until roughly the end of June, Giese said in a request to DHEC, and "the company needs to begin operation as soon as possible."
The memo is part of a report to DHEC's enforcement program. DHEC asked Giese for more information about "potential toxicity concerns and any other relevant pollutants" in its April 4 letter. Giese was given until April 15 to respond.
The DHEC official who visited the Colleton County processing site found about 13 containers of undisclosed size filled with jellyfish. None of the DHEC reports or documents indicate a violation occurred. The jellyfish had not been processed.
DHEC is investigating the incidents and has requested additional information "to determine if further action is appropriate," Beasley said.
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The Daily Times] by Charlene Sharpe - April 14, 2014
The mention of Ocean City brings to mind, for many, a tourist-filled beach alongside an iconic Boardwalk teeming with carnival games, the smell of caramel popcorn and the squawks of seagulls.
No one disputes the importance of tourism to the Ocean City of today. But what about the industry that has existed in Ocean City since its inception?
While fishing might not be the booming business it was years ago, it remains an important part of the local economy. Ocean City's commercial harbor is proof of that.
"We're good for the state," says Mike Coppa, captain of the commercial stern trawler Instigator. "We produce a lot of fish."
50,000 pounds of scup
Although many of the thousands of visitors streaming across the Harry W. Kelley Memorial Bridge aren't aware of it, Ocean City's commercial fishing harbor is tucked quietly along Harbor Road in West Ocean City, providing a picturesque view for diners at the handful of surrounding restaurants.
Amid a backdrop of waterfront eateries and bait shops sit a variety of boats. A father and son's gillnetters are tied alongside each other, as sister ships Instigator and Starbrite unload at Southern Connections Seafood and Martin Fish Co.
Lobster boats line the other side of the harbor.
"We're trying to keep the harbor robust," says Merrill Campbell of Southern Connections Seafood.
Campbell, a 30-year veteran of the seafood industry, buys and sells seafood for Southern Connections, a company based in Crisfield. Just what sort of seafood?
"I buy anything that comes out of the ocean."
He says there are about 16 boats that sell him everything from black sea bass to horseshoe crabs. What he buys depends on the time of year, as the boats are required to harvest certain fish at certain times. Last week, Campbell and a crew of about 10 men unloaded 50,000 pounds of scup, also known as porgy, from the Instigator.
Coppa says it took himself and the boat's three-man crew two days on the Atlantic to catch the boat's 50,000-pound scup limit. Once the boat was on the fish, it didn't take long for its nets, with their 130-foot sweep, to collect enough scup.
Once the fish are in the hold, the Instigator heads into the harbor. At the Southern Connections dock, the boat's crew attaches each basket of fish to a hook and hoists them one by one onto the dock, where the fish are sorted by size and packed by Campbell and his men into boxes of ice.
"We have to lay our hands on every one," Campbell says.
Life on the water
From Ocean City, the scup are shipped up and down the East Coast, from New York to Georgia.
Coppa, whose boat was filled with fuel as soon as it was unloaded, prepared to head right back out to sea.
"When the fish are here you work hard," he says, adding that he'll be bringing in scup probably through the end of April.
Coppa explains that his boat, which follows the fish up the coast, will probably spend some time fishing in New Jersey before heading to Massachusetts for scallops. After fishing through the fall, he and the crew typically take a month-long break in December.
Like most fishermen these days, Coppa makes a living by bringing in whatever he can, as the Instigator has permits for scup, black sea bass and scallops, among other fish.
Fellow fisherman Sonny Gwin does the same.
Gwin, who operates the Skilligallee out of the Ocean City commercial harbor, fishes for bunker, rockfish, sea bass, lobster and stone crabs. He says the sale of lobster and sea bass make up most of his income, adding, "It takes a combination of everything."
Gwin says fishing regulations, particularly in the last 15 years or so, have made it hard to make a living on the water. The necessary permits, quotas, seasons and the like make it difficultto get into.
"It's really confusing," he says.
"You can't just go out and become a fisherman," he says. "You've got to have the boat, the crew, the know-how, the permit, the money, the time, the expertise."
Gwin, an avid surfer who loves being able to have a career on the water, has managed to obtain enough permits to keep him in business. Others have not been so lucky. Gwin recalls the days when the harbor was teeming with boats.
"There's only a few left," he says.
Regaining industry interest
Nevertheless, those that are there keep at it. They continue to do what they've always done, but now also work to increase interest in the industry. Gwin and Campbell both extolled the success of the Harbor Day at the Docks held at the commercial harbor for a few years. The festival celebrating Ocean City's maritime culture was last held in 2012.
"We hope to get that back," Campbell says. "They did not have it at all last year, which was terrible. We try to educate people."
Lisa Challenger, Worcester County's director of tourism, says Harbor Day at the Docks had been well-attended but was an expensive venture for the county to put on.
"Everybody would love to see it keep going," she says, "but we can't do it on our own. Funding is a big part of it."
She says the event is not likely to take place in 2014, but that county officials will continue to look for partners so the event could return in the future.
In the meantime, Campbell and the rest of the fishermen in the harbor do what they can.
"I try to encourage people to buy local seafood," Campbell says, adding that 92 percent of seafood in the United States is imported. "When you go to a restaurant, ask where it came from.
"Buy real. Buy wild, local fish."
Double Creek Inlet Channel Closed Because of Navigation Hazards in Barnegat Bay, Ocean County
Boaters directed to use Oyster Creek Channel to access Barnegat Bay
(Trenton) – The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) today announced that navigational buoys in the Double Creek Inlet Channel in Barnegat Bay, Ocean County, have been removed due to severe post-Superstorm Sandy shoaling in the channel that has created a severe navigation hazard and an unsafe channel condition.
All boaters should use the Federal Oyster Creek Channel (buoy markers #35 to #40) as the primary entrance into Barnegat Bay, although extreme shifting sediment is affecting the entirety of the Bay. Boaters also may reference U.S. Coast Pilot #3 for additional information on the shifting sediments in the area. The Double Creek Inlet Channel remains marked from the inlet side to the fishing grounds (old buoy set 15 and 16) to allow boaters to fish the area.
In March, NJDOT announced the start of a multi-year, multi-million dollar State Cha... that will begin to return New Jersey’s waterways affected by Superstorm Sandy to a state of good repair.
As part of the planning and engineering for the expected dredging of the Double Creek Channel later this year, the NJDOT Office of Maritime Resources (OMR) found extreme siltation and shifting sediments were severely affecting management efforts in the inlet area.
To address the critical situation, the Department is working with the State Police Marine Services Bureau, Island Beach State Park officials and State and Federal agencies to determine what priority dredging can and should take place as soon as possible. Dredge material placement in the area is restricted to protect important bird nesting habitats. The priority dredging work is expected to be done in phases.
To address post-Sandy dredging needs, NJDOT is working with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Engineer Research and Development Center to coordinate inlet management and determine a best channel and dredged material management strategy. NJDOT has enlisted the assistance of the Richard Stockton College Coastal Research Center to provide expert guidance and monitoring of sand shifting in the inlet area.
Chicken of the Sea picks name for its mermaid after 60 years of anonymity
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [SCOM] - April 17, 2014 -
After seafood fans submitted more than 49,000 entries in a nationwide contest to christen the Chicken of the Sea mermaid — and earn a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize — one perfect name floated to the top: Catalina.
Chicken of the Sea, which turned 100 years old in 2014, challenged seafood (and mermaid) fans to name its famous blonde icon as part of its year-long Centennial celebration. The contest ran through Feb. 14 with the winning entry submitted by a contestant in Urbana, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.
Inspired by the brand’s 100 Years of Good initiative, which is awarding 100 community-minded individuals and nonprofits $10,000 each in 2014 to empower them to continue their charitable ways, Peggy L., will receive her own $10,000 Great American Gratitude Award and be encouraged to also pay it forward. Ten first prize winners will be awarded Chicken of the Sea seafood for one year and 20 runners-up will receive a Chicken of the Sea-branded prize.
“The name Catalina encompasses everything we feel represents our brand,” Chicken of the Sea Senior VP of Marketing Christie Fleming said of the name, which also is the name of a historic island 22 miles off the West Coast mainland and close to Chicken of the Sea’s headquarters in San Diego. “Along with it being a naturally beautiful name suitable for our mermaid, it connects to our rich local history, as well as the adventurous spirit and lifestyle indicative of both our brand and our Southern California home.”