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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday Dec. 28, 2007 -- Nice conditions; Important bunker story

Friday, December 28, 2007: Waves: Flat. Water clarity: Fair but cleaning up. Plugging/jigging potential: Moderate.

I have gotten no more reports of bass along the beach. I did pick up some radio chatter about small bass and a couple keepers. By the sounds of the transmissions it was likely up off IBSP. The conditions today were ideal.

Another seal came ashore today. I think it was in Spray Beach. If you come across one of these feisty marine mammals, do not approach. Call the local PD and they’ll contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Center if necessary. Sometimes the seals are simply out on the beach taking a rest. If they are sick, approaching them will force them back into the water which could very well prove fatal. It is actually against federal law to harass a seal – or any marine mammal for that matter. At night, seals will even become territorial on he beach, as I found out down in Holgate when I was plugging along the west peninsula in the dark and didn’t sea the planet’s largest seal hunkered down on the higher up sand. The thing bellowed and came at me. I didn’t even have time to get that scared. I bolted back toward my truck with that sucker baying at my heels. It did the same thing to a coupe other anglers the next night.

Below are a couple stories emailed out by Bill K., part of his regular Fishy News to BHM&TC members. The Bunker story is oft told but this version brings the frustration factor to light for the folks to our south. I have long said that bunker are our make-or-break species. While we put such impressive rallying effort into fluke and artificial reef issues, we should totally deploy all troops for the war to save bunker.

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The most important fish in the sea

By Jim Brewer

December 28, 2007

The most important fish in the sea? That’s a tough one. Maybe the whale? No, that’s a mammal. How about the blue marlin or the bluefin tuna? No? Then how about the striped bass, swordfish, mackerel, dolphin, grouper, cod, snapper or flounder? Nope, none of those according to author H. Bruce Franklin. In his book, “The Most Important Fish in the Sea,” Franklin gives two reasons for the importance of menhaden, the small, oily baitfish.

First, the menhaden is a filter-feeder that lives exclusively on phytoplankton algae. The recent proliferation of these algae represents one of the single greatest threats to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Menhaden are also highly prized as a food fish within the Bay, by trout, bluefish, striped bass and many other species.

James B. Murray, former House of Delegates Member and former Chairman of the Conservation Committee, agrees wholeheartedly with Franklin’s premise and warns that if measures aren’t soon taken, Virginia may very well lose “the most important fish in the sea.”

“It is an outrage that this important fish continues to be ‘mined’ from the Bay at the alarming rate of about 100,000 metric tons a year by the Omega Protein Corporation, which has a virtual monopoly on this fishery,” Murray said. “We could excuse this if the menhaden harvest were critical to our economy, but their catch eventually ends up in linoleum, paint, animal feed, cosmetics and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which can be supplied at competitive prices from agricultural and other sources that have no damaging effects on the Bay.”

Of the 15 Atlantic states, 13 have already recognized the danger posed to their saltwater resources by harvesting menhaden. Only in Virginia and North Carolina are the nets from menhaden boats allowed to enter their waters.

As Murray and others point out, the menhaden is the only species of fish or animal to be managed exclusively by the General Assembly. All other species are managed by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission or by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Murray finds this to be reprehensible.

“It is shocking to me that of all saltwater fisheries, menhaden is the only one regulated by the General Assembly and not by the Commission,” he said. “It is not surprising that it was Omega’s Protein lobbyists who succeeded in placing regulation where its campaign contributions have the most favorable influence.”

How strong is the menhaden lobby?

About six years ago, Virginia conservationists proposed that some of the money from the Saltwater License Fee Fund be set aside to study the impact on sport fish within the Bay by the harvesting of menhaden. Mind you, this money belonged to Virginia’s sportsmen - not the state - and one of the main purposes of the fund was for research. The Omega people had enough clout to block the spending of what was not even their money because they didn’t want people to know what their industry was doing to the resources.

For at least the past four years, conservation-minded Virginians have pleaded with the General Assembly to take menhaden management away from the Assembly and turn it over to those who know and understand marine biology and relationships. So far, the clout from Omega Protein has blocked this legislation.

Meanwhile, Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrest has introduced federal legislation that would ban menhaden fishing in both federal and state waters for five years while studies are completed to determine the actual impact on “mining” menhaden.

Murray suggests further action on our part.

“The least we can do would be to urge the Governor and the General Assembly to return menhaden regulation to the VMRC where experts rather than politicians would determine its fate,” he said.

Amen to that. As a sportsman and one genuinely interested in the health of the Chesapeake Bay, I can see no higher priority for our government’s consideration come January. Maybe 2008 will be the year our politicians finally recognize the value of the most important fish in the ocean.

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PEW not pleased

Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007

Statement of Lee Crockett, Director, Federal Fisheries Policy Reform Project, the Pew Environment Group, on the Final 2008 Summer Flounder Catch Limit

Pew Environment Group

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 — On December 31, 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will publish its final 2008 catch limit for summer flounder (fluke). The 15.77 million pounds quota exceeds science-based recommendations to rebuild this popular Mid-Atlantic food and sportfish.

"Despite the unprecedented outpouring of public support for a lower catch limit, NMFS chose to rubber stamp the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council's recommendation which, based on the history of this fishery, will likely fail to rebuild the summer flounder population.

"Instead of creating more problems with higher catch limits, we should be looking for ways to help fish and fishermen alike. Fishermen could help scientists collect data on the number of fish caught for better management decisions -- and supplement their incomes until fluke populations are fully rebuilt.

"Last year, Congress reauthorized the nation's primary fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and mandated an end to overfishing on all marine fish populations through the use of science-based catch limits. Moreover, President Bush announced that overfishing is harmful and that it needs to end now. But instead of abiding by the Magnuson-Stevens Act and implementing the president's call to action, NMFS has decided to roll the dice and continue the failed practices of the past which have perpetuated overfishing on summer flounder.

"If President Bush really wants to create a lasting ocean legacy, he should direct NMFS to faithfully implement the law. Doing otherwise could set a dangerous precedent for the future of fisheries management up and down our coasts."

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