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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Alert: Double Creek dredge update. Tuesday, October 24, 2017: South winds to over 35 mph have totally riled the ocean ...

It had been a proud moment for little Mahmud ... until ... "Mommy!" ...

Baby elephant tumbles while chasing birds

Mess with just one lemur and ... 

Lemurs attack duck with duckling

Tuesday, October 24, 2017: South winds to over 35 mph have totally riled the ocean. The surf is pushing eight feet out there … and gnarly. The good surfcasting news: It shouldn’t stay angry for real long, with west winds arriving tomorrow and knocking it down to size within a day or so.  However, even with the west winds the waves have been inclined to get no smaller than 2- 3 feet. Yes, that’s odd as all get-out. Back in the day, the surf was never this sizable on a daily basis, often getting lake-flat.

The ocean remains an unwanted toastiness … in and around 66/67 degrees.

While very little has been caught in the suds, a south-winds stint can sometimes spark a bite this time of year. We sure need some sort of spark … or a grenade.

DOUBLE CREEK DREDGE IS UNDERWAY: I got word that Great Lakes dredging has already begun to suck sand on the west end of Double Creek Channel, over near Waretown.

While this $8.7 million is good news in the long haul, it will demand some careful piloting and avoidance behavior for those mariners still keeping vessels in the water for the fall bass run – or the current fun false albie bite.

Regarding the Double Creek dredging, the NJDEP warns: “The public is advised to be aware of and stay alert to the pipeline, buoys, dredge and other equipment during this time. NJDOT asks that no one approach the pipeline, dredge or any related project equipment under any circumstances, whether or not active dredging operations are observed.

“Pipelines can often be difficult to see on the water, and boaters should proceed through dredging maintenance and construction zones with the utmost caution. No wake speed should be observed in active work zones throughout the project duration.”

Also, “Channel use may be limited where the dredge is in operation and where the pipeline is carrying dredged material to its placement locations. Channel closures are not expected, although this is subject to change.”

I was asked about the possible impact the dredging will have on winter flounder, now moving into the bay. I’m not familiar with the impact this type of dredging has on bottom/benthic life. Does it damage/destroy marene life? I’ll go into my research mode, which might include some clandestine lookabouts.

I do know the progress of a bottom-sucking dredge pipe isn’t all that fast. More mobile creature, like fish and maybe even crabs, should easily be able to outswim the pipe.

As to sedentary crustaceans, there is a filter at the end of the dredge pipe to limit how much marine life gets sucked in. As to what takes the deadly trip through the tubes, that will be most noticeable in the 14-acre Oyster Creek Confined Disposal Facility (CDF), photo below.

While I’ll try to get a look at this facility, via media means, it’s not likely I’ll be able to get a close-up view on the dredge materials, if based only on safety concerns. I might need to do some ninja looks using scopes and such.

This brings us to the interesting and likely far more viewable aspect of the project’s disposal plans: “The pipeline will be used to pump sand to the Barnegat Borough Beach near the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.”

The above is a tad confusing for inquisitive minds, like herein. I’m going with what authorities have told me, i.e. the dredge materials are going to be used to fill in the heavily-eroded areas adjacent to the state park’s concrete deck/walkway, just east of Barney.

Below: Plenty of erosion south of South Jetty. 

Technically speaking, I don’t think that deck area fully fits the description of “the Barnegat Borough Beach.” I though the borough’s beach begins further east and south. Maybe there’s some sort of dual ownership/user-ship of that famed stretch of land.  

Anyway, there won’t be much doubt about the organic content when that  “sand” is being placed thereabouts.

I’m purposely adding a quotation emphasis to the word “sand” since I happen to know what the bottom material is like around, say, the borough’s boat launch and related nearby channels. It’s far from sugar sand. I’m not being critical, mind you. I support the project. For safety reasons, the work must be done. I just wonder if things might not get a little ripe when said “sand” heats up next spring. Remember, Barnegat Light State Park is the most visited park in the state, excluding Liberty State Park, which is more of two-state-owned attraction.  Image result for barnegat light state park nj

By the by, I have no insights on how far east, along the South Jetty, the dredge materials will be placed. In fact, I’ll bet it’s impossible to predict, even for the experts. I’ll call it an open-ended fill.

PLOVER HEAVEN: That South Jetty-adjacent fill should make life utterly grand for the 2018 showing of nesting piping plovers. Those little buggers go gaga over freshly lain sandy materials. I might even guarantee a record-breaking showing of the rare birds if (!) the work gets competed early enough -- which it should, knowing the 7-day-a-week work ethic of speedy Great Lakes folks. “Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, LLC, is now working during daylight hours, seven days a week,” says the NJDOT.

That said, there’s always the looming “weather permitting” factor. West winds can really wrack that west-east Double Creek stretch. Here’s to a mild, light-wind, storm-free winter/spring. (And I wonder why snow people hate me.) 

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Make sure to check out http://thebassbarn.com ... and become a member.

Image result for bass barn nj

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(Below ... This is an effort to assure menhaden sustainability. I'm supportive but also know that massive nearshore bunker stocks can pull striped bass away from the surfline. That's a tough predicament.)

HELP ENSURE OSPREYS HAVE A FUTURE IN NEW JERSEY

 

ACTION ALERT: SUPPORT ECOLOGICAL MANAGEMENT OF THE MOST VALUABLE PUBLIC RESOURCE FOR OUR COASTAL ECOSYSTEM AND ECONOMY

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Menhaden is a common food source for ospreys during their nesting season in New Jersey. Photo by Northside Jim.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is accepting public comment on the establishment of ecological management of Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), which is a keystone species. Basically, a keystone species is one that plays a large role in the ecosystem where it lives. If a keystone species is lost then the ecosystem would dramatically change or cease to function, causing widespread effects to other species that benefit. In New Jersey, ospreys have largely benefited from a healthy menhaden population as we’ve had relatively high reproductive rates (more than double what’s needed to sustain population) over the past decade. From 2006 to 2016, the population has grown by 30% and above the pre-DDT, historic milestone of over 500 nesting pairs. Around 82% of the state population of ospreys nests along the Atlantic Coast and we observe menhaden at a huge number of nests during our mid-summer surveys. If menhaden numbers drop, then we will likely see osprey numbers follow suite, as reproductive rates will decline, as they are in the Chesapeake Bay.

Adult menhaden can filter up to 7 gallons of water a day! Photo by Brian Gratwicke.

Menhaden, or bunker are commonly referred to as “the most important fish in the sea.” A filter feeding fish, they eat primarily phytoplankton and zooplankton. They grow up to 15″ long and are common along the coast of New Jersey during summer months. A huge variety of species prey upon menhaden, including many fish, like striped bass, tuna, bluefish, weakfish, sharks, and flounder; birds such as ospreys, bald eagles, common loons, cormorants, and northern gannets; and marine mammals, like the humpback whale, harbor seals, and dolphins. Lastly, as a filter feeder, they provide the same benefits as other filter feeders, which help to clarify coastal waters by removing algae and nutrients. An adult can filter 7 gallons of water per minute(source)!

Besides being a valuable forage fish in the Atlantic Ocean, menhaden is a valuable fish for the commercial fishing industry, where they help support thousands of jobs (source). It is harvested for “reduction” or use as fertilizer, fish meal, and oil products and for use as bait in the harvest of crab, lobster and other sport fish, where there are over 250,000 (registered) recreational fisherman in New Jersey who contribute millions to our economy (source) in pursuit of menhaden eating game fish.

Menhaden are one of the most valuable public resources along the Atlantic Coast. Photo by Northside Jim.

According to the ASMFC, reduction landings have declined since the mid-2000s; however, bait landings have increased significantly, especially in the mid-Atlantic region, including in New Jersey, where 47% of all bait landings were menhaden in 2016. There has also been more demand for the use of menhaden as bait in more areas with the decline of other, once abundant bait fish, like herring and mac.... In 2016, 97 million pounds of atlantic menhaden were harvested. Ecotourism has grown to be a huge contributor to our shore economy, and a healthy coastal ecosystem is critical to a booming shore economy. Menhaden help feed (literally) this economy as an important food source for species that birders (ospreys and eagles) and whale watchers (humpback and fin whales) flock to. According to a report by USFWS, in 2001, $2.2 billion was spent on wildlife watching, hunting, and sport fishing in New Jersey (source).

As you can tell, the value of menhaden to the overall health of our coastal ecosystem and our economy is essential to our way of life along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. To help account for their value within the ecosystem, ecological management of Atlantic menhaden by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is essential to their long term survival. Maintaining a large menhaden population is a win-win for our coastal ecosystem and our shore economy. The public is urged to voice their support for ASMSC to adopt Ecological Reference Points (ERPs) now by passing Issue 2.6 Option E. The adoption of Amendment 3 is based on science and provides for the needs of predators, including ospreys and striped bass. We believe that this is a common-sense way to manage such a valuable public resource.

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You know your close when you can see the circular sucker scars on a humpback's jaw from eating giant squid in the ocean deep. Imagine the ability of these whales, feeding in 30 feet of water on menhaden off New Jersey, but also being able to dive to thousands of feet chasing giant squid at another location along their migratory path. Simply amazing!

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Stunned by the size and the number of huge fluke we caught today while seabass fishing. — withDouglas ItjenZachary Michot and Paul Haertel.

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Paul Pascale 
What a great two days of fishing and camaraderie with my friends in Cape May! Started Saturday afternoon preparing equipment and bait, followed by dinner at the Lobster House! It was a crabby night! Cream of Crab soup, local caught stone crab claws, and the twin crab cake platter! Saw some football and baseball Saturday night over margaritas! Fished all day Saturday with approximately 300 Sea Bass, keeping about 60 of the bigger fish, mixed in with some bluefish, flounder and triggerfish, sea bass and bluefish in the mix. Couldn't keep any of the flounder. They're out of season. This evening we prepared a dish we just created with some of the fresh Triggerfish we caught. "Trigger Francais"; well that's the name we gave it! Superbly great eating fish. Here's a pic of the fresh trigger and the finished dish along with some great sunrises! The peacock visited me on the roadside on the way down. No idea where he came from! Haha! Great weekend!

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Scientists Fear for Future of Right Whales

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [CBC News] by Emma Davie - October 23, 2017

Scientists at an annual meeting for North Atlantic right whales estimate the species has a little over two decades left to survive unless changes are made immediately.

The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium's annual meeting was held in Halifax on Sunday, and all of the scientists spoke with a sense of urgency about the fate of these whales.

This summer, at least 15 right whales died in Canadian and U.S. waters and scientists at the conference stressed that human activity is the primary cause of death for all right whales.

"The sense of urgency for me is finding out that the population that's with us today, a lot of the breeding females may be gone in two decades. And that's a really short period of time for us to do something about this," said marine ecologist Mark Baumgartner from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The most current research suggests there were just 451 right whales left in 2016.

In 2015 there were 458 but only 105 of those were breeding females. Between 2011 and 2015, the population lost about 20 individuals per year. If loses continue at this rate, all of the breeding females will be gone in about 21 years. No breeding females means no more baby right whales.

"I really do think we only have a few years to make a difference here. The longer we wait, the harder this problem becomes for us to solve," Baumgartner said.

The 2017 population estimate, that would include this year's losses, won't be available until sometime next fall.

High Rates of Entanglement 

Females are also more negatively impacted by entanglement, according to scientist Amy Knowlton.

Knowlton, who works at the New England Aquarium in Boston, Mass., said 85 per cent of all right whales have been entangled — and 50 per cent have been entangled more than once.

She said scientists have documented 1,390 unique right whale entanglements between 1980 and 2015, but that entanglements have been on the rise in the past decade.

"Rope is Really the Culprit Here"

"We're very concerned about this new trend and this increasing severity of these cases," Knowlton said.

"Rope is really the culprit here. When they get entangled in ropes, and they can't break free quickly, they get all wrapped up resulting in very complex entanglements that can ... cause a health decline."

Knowlton said part of the problem is ropes used to catch lobster and crab, as well as for gillnetting, have become stronger and thicker in recent years.

She said one of her biggest concerns is that the young right whales are more vulnerable to getting caught in the stronger rope, and could drown more quickly.

"The ropes are too strong for the whales to successfully live among those ropes," she said. "So we're trying to change the rope that's out there or eliminate it altogether."

Working with Fishermen to Test Alternative Methods

Knowlton said researchers have been working with fishermen to test lighter whale-release rope as well as rope-less fishing that would use other types of technology to retrieve gear off the ocean floor.

​"We're trying to get an understanding of what the fishermen need to effectively fish and we now have a better understanding of what the whales need," she said.

"I think if nothing changes, and soon, we could see the extinction of this species within several decades. I think we can reverse this trend but it's going to take a lot of collaboration."

Many Vessels Already Slowing Down

Along with researchers, Sunday's conference was attended by people from government, the cruise ship industry and fishermen who expressed a willingness to work together.

In August, a 10-knot speed limit was put in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to prevent further right whales deaths and several ships have been fined for going over that speed limit.

But Julie van der Hoop, who's been studying speed reductions in vessels in relation to the right whale, said most of the ships have been compliant.

"People are following the rule, and that's what we want to see," said van der Hoop, who is a post-doctoral researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark.

She said one of the most effective strategies going forward is to move vessels around the whales, as speed reductions increase the time it takes for a ship to get through an area.

Change Has to Happen Now

Scientists on Sunday also addressed the challenges researchers faced responding to right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this summer, which included issues with communication and logistics responding to these whales, as well as a lack of funding.

Baumgartner said the decline of right whales is happening faster than anyone expected, and perhaps even too fast for scientists to keep up.

He and many others stressed that whatever the solution is, it needs to be an international team effort.

"I am hopeful that if we take action, we can actually do something to help this species, " he said. "But it has to be soon."

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Eight-Year Study Finds Ocean Acidification is Deadly Threat to Marine Life

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Guardian] by Fiona Harvey - October 24, 2017

Plastic pollution, overfishing, global warming and increased acidification from burning fossil fuels means oceans are increasingly hostile to marine life

If the outlook for marine life was already looking bleak – torrents of plastic that can suffocate and starve fish, overfishing, diverse forms of human pollution that create dead zones, the effects of global warming which is bleaching coral reefs and threatening coldwater species – another threat is quietly adding to the toxic soup.

Ocean acidification is progressing rapidly around the world, new research has found, and its combination with the other threats to marine life is proving deadly. Many organisms that could withstand a certain amount of acidification are at risk of losing this adaptive ability owing to pollution from plastics, and the extra stress from global warming.

The conclusions come from an eight-year study into the effects of ocean acidification which found our increasingly acid seas – a byproduct of burning fossil fuels – are becoming more hostile to vital marine life.

“Since ocean acidification happens extremely fast compared to natural processes, only organisms with short generation times, such as micro-organisms, are able to keep up,” the authors of the study Exploring Ocean Change: Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification found.

Marine life such as crustaceans and organisms that create calcified shelters for themselves in the oceans were thought to be most at risk, because acid seas would hinder them forming shells. However, the research shows that while these are in danger, perhaps surprisingly, some – such as barnacles – are often unaffected, while the damage from acidification is also felt much higher up the food chain, into big food fish species.

Ocean acidification can reduce the survival prospects of some species early in their lives, with knock-on effects. For instance, the scientists found that by the end of the century, the size of Atlantic cod in the Baltic and Barents Sea might be reduced to only a quarter of the size they are today, because of acidification.

Peter Thomson, UN ambassador for the oceans and a diplomat from Fiji, which is hosting this year’s UN climate change conference in Bonn, urged people to think of the oceans in the same terms as they do the climate. “We are all aware of climate change, but we need to talk more about ocean change, and the effects of acidification, warming, plastic pollution, dead zones and so on,” he said. “The world must know that we have a plan to save the ocean. What is required over the next three years is concerted action.”

The eight-year study was carried out by the Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification group (known as Bioacid), a German network of researchers, with the support of the German government, and involved more than 250 scientists investigating how marine life is responding to acidification, and examining research from around the world. The study was initiated well before governmentssigned a global agreement on climate change at Paris in 2015, and highlights how the Paris agreement to hold warming to no more than 2C may not be enough to prevent further acidification of the world’s seas.

Governments will meet in Bonn in November to discuss the next steps on the road to fulfilling the requirements of the Paris agreement, and the researchers are hoping to persuade attendees to take action on ocean acidification as well.

Ocean acidification is another effect of pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as the gas dissolves in seawater to produce weak carbonic acid. Since the industrial revolution, the average pH of the ocean has been found to have fallen from 8.2 to 8.1, which may seem small but corresponds to an increase in acidity of about 26%. Measures to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere can help to slow down this process, but only measures that actively remove carbon already in the atmosphere will halt it, because of the huge stock of carbon already in the air from the burning of fossil fuels.

Worse still, the effects of acidification can intensify the effects of global warming, in a dangerous feedback loop. The researchers pointed to a form of planktonic alga known as Emiliania huxleyi, which in laboratory experiments was able to adapt to some extent to counter the negative effects acidification had upon it. But in a field experiment, the results were quite different as the extra stresses present at sea meant it was not able to form the extensive blooms it naturally develops. As these blooms help to transport carbon dioxide from the surface to the deep ocean, and produce the gas dimethyl sulfide that can help suppress global warming, a downturn in this species “will therefore severely feed back on the climate system”.

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University of New England Receives Grant To Develop Seaweed Technologies

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Portland Press Herald] by J. Craig Anderson - October 23, 2017

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the University of New England a three-year, $1.3 million research grant to develop new technologies for seaweed production.

The grant is part of a new DOE program called Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources, or MARINER, that aims to develop the tools to enable the U.S. to become a leading producer of macroalgae, or seaweed, to help improve U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness, the Biddeford-based university said in a news release.

Seaweed can be used as a raw material for transportation fuels, chemicals, foods and other commercial products without competing with food crops for land and water, it said.

“This award will support UNE’s network of eager, young scientists and entrepreneurs in all of our marine programs,” UNE President James Herbert said in the release. “With the help of this funding from the Department of Energy, our students will be part of a movement to pioneer the next generation of marine products.”

The university said its team will develop a fine-tuned 3D modeling tool to simulate hydrodynamic-induced mechanical stresses that seaweed farms face in the open ocean. The team will use its modeling expertise to determine the structural performance of new and existing farm designs in the Gulf of Maine.

Its model will be capable of simulating hectare-sized farms, which would speed up the engineering, testing and permitting process for new, large-scale seaweed farming systems, UNE said.

The team will expand UNE’s experimental seaweed farm from its current small size off Wood Island to 4 acres in Saco Bay, it said.

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Events:           3rd Annual Striped Bass Boat Tournament & Family Fish Fry
Location:        Manahawkin Elks Lodge #2340 520 Hilliard Blvd
Date:               Saturday, November 4
 
The Maximilian Foundation is hosting its Annual Striped Bass Boat Tournament & Family Fish Fry to raise funds for our organization. Tournament and Family Fish Fry events will be hosted by Manahawkin Elks Lodge #2340. This is a one day event consisting of two parts – the boat tournament and the Family Fish Fry. All events open to anyone that would like to come, have fun and support the foundation.
 
Boat Tournament
1st Place $2,000 • 2nd Place $1,000 •
3rd Place $500*

• Open tournament for boats only. Entry limited to 25 boats.
• Captain's dinner/meeting begins 6PM Friday, Nov. 3
• Fishing begins 12AM, Saturday, Nov. 4
• Fishing ends 2PM, Saturday, Nov. 4
• Early Entry deadline is Oct 21.
• To register boats for the tournament: themaximilianfoundation.org/2017fishfry
Family Fish Fry 2PM – 6PM - Open to the public!
• Fun begins at 2PM. Food served 2 -6PM.
• Adults $25 in advance / $30 at the door
• Children 12 & under $8
• Ticket includes meal & entertainment
• Cash Bar
• Family Fun activities for all ages! Volleyball • Horseshoes & MORE!
• Plus, Live Entertainment by FaceDown (John Plumbley) • Silent Auction • 50/50
• To buy advance Fish Fry tickets fishfry2017.eventbrite.com

 

 
100% of the donations raised will benefit the Maximilian Foundation and will be utilized to fund local prevention programs such as Southern Regional School District (SRSD) STYLE (Student Team Building Youth Leadership & Experience) program for the 2017/18 school year. The Foundation is also planning ‘Steered Straight’ assemblies for the elementary school that send to Pinelands. Steered Straight shares a message of reality about life-choices and the importance of consequential thinking so that kids understand that there are consequences to their actions.
 
*Prize amounts based on 25 boats entering. If less, prizes will be adjusted accordingly.
 
Contact: Don Myers, Board Member, 609.709.3763
 
The Maximilian Foundation is dedicated and committed to supporting bona fide programs that work with Children and Adolescents’ insecurities through Counseling, Substance Abuse Awareness and Education. The Foundation’s focus, efforts and mission are to help support those programs designed to strengthen individuals, build character and confidence, thus allowing Children and Adolescents to better cope with life’s challenges, develop strong life skills, and learn to believe in themselves.

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By Makenzie Holland StarNews Staff

Keeping shallow-draft inlets from shoaling up is a costly venture for local communities

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. -- Keeping shallow-draft inlets along the N.C. coast open and navigable is a costly venture -- one that is increasingly falling on the shoulders of local communities.

In Brunswick County, residents spent months asking local and county governments to offer up the funds to dredge Lockwood Folly Inlet, which hadn’t been dredged in more than a year and had become impassable for most boats. The inlet had a recorded depth of 2 feet at times and provides a vital outlet to the ocean between Holden Beach and Oak Island.

Lockwood Folly isn’t the only inlet struggling to stay open. Carolina Beach Inlet in New Hanover County has to be dredged at least three or four times a year to stay navigable, and Mike Britt, president of the Carolina Beach Inlet Association, said the length of dredging events that typically occur in the inlet aren’t long enough to fully open the inlet.

All shallow draft inlets in New Hanover County -- Mason, Masonboro and Carolina Beach inlets -- are funded and maintained, while other shallow draft inlets in the Cape Fear region -- Tubbs and Shallotte inlets in Brunswick County and Rich and New Topsail inlets in Pender County -- are not maintained.

Cost-sharing models

Gregory Rudolph, shoreline protection director for Carteret County, has spent the last 16 years figuring out how to maintain the county’s shallow-draft Bogue Inlet under the changing funding models.

Before 2005, the federal government provided funds for dredging of shallow-draft inlets. In 2005, federal funding cut off completely, which prompted the cost-sharing model that’s been in place for the Bogue Inlet ever since.

Carteret County, Onslow County, Emerald Isle, Swansboro, Cedar Point and Cape Carteret all share the burden of keeping Bogue Inlet open. This year, Rudolph asked for a combined total of $300,000 to maintain the inlet, with a state contribution of $200,000. About two years ago, the state created a fund that grants a two-thirds match to funds local communities come up with for dredging.

Rudolph said over the years, he’s learned that the key to maintaining the inlet is getting started early collecting money from involved entities and getting on the corps’ dredging schedule. Yet Rudolph still faces challenges.

“You can have an election in one of these towns, brand new commissioners who aren’t familiar with this cost-sharing, and they’re like ‘OK, why are we paying this and they’re paying that and why can’t the state provide 90 percent,’ basic honest questions,” Rudolph said. “Some years are kind of worse in that regard. Each year has a little wrinkle on this kind of plan we have.”

Carolina Beach Inlet has a similar cost-sharing model set up, but the cost of maintaining the inlet is a lot higher than Bogue Inlet and is shared among fewer partners -- the state, New Hanover County, Kure Beach and Carolina Beach.

Brunswick County has begun tinkering with the idea of a cost-sharing model for Lockwood Folly Inlet, but so far not all parties near the inlet are completely on board.

Addressing future dredging needs

Locally, Britt said having the money to dredge Carolina Beach Inlet has been an “ongoing battle” for a long time and the county is “not putting up enough money” to provide for proper dredging of the inlet.

“The inlet itself, when they finish, should be 150 feet wide, 8-10 feet deep throughout,” Britt said. “The dredging we’re getting, because they don’t have enough time to do the whole job, we are lucky if it’s 100 feet wide, and most of the time it’s maybe 6-8 feet deep. Never get a whole job.”

Layton Bedsole, New Hanover County’s shoreline protection manager, said the county is trying to improve the operation by making use of an in-shore dredge material management site that he hopes will increase dredging time and reduce travel time for the corps’ disposal of sand.

While Brunswick County and Holden Beach have both committed funds to maintaining Lockwood Folly Inlet in 2017-2018, Oak Island, which contributed funds to the latest dredging event, hasn’t committed to long-term inlet maintenance. Jim Medlock, the corps’ shallow draft navigation program project manager, said he’s working with the county to schedule another dredging event for the inlet within the next three months.

The state recently asked the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to look into possibly acquiring its own dredge, which both Bedsole and Rudolph said might not solve the problem locally due to one dredge not being able to serve all inlets, since some inlets need to be dredged with different types of dredges, among other reasons.

A study conducted in 2014 by Christopher Dumas, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, revealed inlets can have significant economic impacts on local communities.

The study focused on Carolina Beach Inlet and determined that if the inlet closed, New Hanover County would lose $18 million in revenue, $800,000 in state and local taxes, and employment would drop by 140.

“It is a big concern and it’s always going to be a concern, especially when we’re not getting proper dredgings,” Britt said.

Reporter Makenzie Holland can be reached at 910-343-2371 or Makenzie.Holland@StarNewsOnline.com.

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Lawsuit Documents Show Pattern of Collusion Between Commerce and Rec Fishery

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] by Peggy Parker - October 18, 2017

Three additional documents have emerged as part of the lawsuit filed against the U.S. Commerce Department that show an intent to end-run normal channels of public comment and regulated processes for regional council activities, only to serve the needs of the sports fishing industry.

The lawsuit, filed by Ocean Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund last July, focused on mismanagement of the Gulf Red Snapper fishery, but documents released last week show the recreational industry expects a level of allowance that flies in the face of the legal requirements of the Magnuson Stevens Act, and the processes for managing fisheries that is contained within it.

The documents are part of a 70-page package submitted by the government in response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit. They show clear intent to receive special treatment when it comes to taking more of the annual catch, and broader influence on choosing who sits on the regional management councils, a process specified by the Magnuson-Stevens Act which is poised for reauthorization in 2018.

Moreover, employees of both the Department of Commerce and a state fish and wildlife agency, after briefing sports industry stakeholders on the requirements of MSA, go on to suggest various legislative -- not regulatory -- "fixes" for breaking the rules with the red snapper action.

Indeed, the documents point to a blurred state of authorities and influence-wielding between the Commerce Department and the U.S. Congress. Whether it is a beleaguered agency's attempts to protect its standing among Gulf States or an intentional violation of the law remains unclear, but no one is disputing that the regulations within MSA are clear, and have, in the case of red snapper, been ignored.

A letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from Ben Speciale, president of Yamaha Marine Group, was sent on April 3, less than a week after Ross met with Speciale, Mike Nussman, Scott Deal and Pat Murray to discuss the need for a NOAA Fisheries Administrator who had experience with the recreational sector. (Chris Oliver was hired as head of NOAA Fisheries two and a half months later.) Nussman is the president of the American Sportfishing Association, Deal is from Maverick Boats and Murray is from the Coastal Conservation Association.

Ross posed questions to the group and asked them to respond later. One topic that may have been brought up -- Ross certainly raised it frequently during his confirmation hearing and in separate interviews following his confirmation -- was ways to reverse the seafood imbalance of trade.

It was a topic Speciale responded to in his April 3 letter to Ross.

“We support imposing assessments on imported seafood based on the country of origin’s management program,” wrote Speciale. “We believe this will help level the playing field and allow our domestic commercial fishermen to increase revenue without increasing their landings. We also support efforts to promote aquaculture....and we must not forget that all recreational landed fish are consumed in the U.S.,” Speciale pointed out. 

“Promoting recreational fishing is a conservation-minded way of increasing the consumption of U.S. caught fish,” he wrote.

Speciale did not elaborate on the ramifications of increased per capita consumption coming from sports landings and the impact on sustainably managed populations of fish.

Speciale’s first request, not surprisingly, was about more red snapper for Gulf anglers. “...we must return to a recreational red snapper season of no less [than] the 60 days for the 2017 and 2018 seasons,” he wrote.

“I understand that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries in the Southeast Region will present obstacles to this initiative, but they must be overcome so that we may restore a sense of fairness for recreational anglers.”

Speciale continued, “Excessive precaution and fear of frivolous litigation from the environmental industry has created a massive bureaucrat roadblock that has been unfair to anglers and stifled our industry. 

“We ask that you overcome these obstacles at the regional fishery management councils and Regional Administrators’ Offices.”

Speciale’s second request was to appoint a person within the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning (currently headed up by Earl Comstock) to have direct oversight on all regional fishery management council appointments. Further, that every appointment should be made only after coordinated consulting with the recreational industry.

Finally, Speciale asked for NOAA Fisheries to adopt a long-term strategy to increase public access to state and federal waters and “eliminate any management effort or technique that attempts to privatize federal fisheries, which are and should remain a public resource.”

Almost two months later, as the red snapper season caught its quota in a matter of days, Dr. Shannon Cass-Calay, Chief of the Gulf and Caribbean Branch of the Sustainable Fisheries Division at the NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center ran the numbers on what the impact a 45-day extension would have on the red snapper stock in the Gulf. 

She sent a summary of the research to five of her colleagues, asking them to consider it, emphasizing the uncertainties in the data, and warning that an extended season “...will very likely cause catches to exceed OFL (Over Fishing Limit) and delay recovery by 4-6 years. Each additional overage will degrade the condition of the stock further.” 

The final dissemination of that memo is not known, but it must have reached Earl Comstock, because he referenced it in one of two memos to Secretary Ross in early June. 

After consulting with all five Gulf state fisheries managers, Comstock asked Ross if he could move ahead on crafting an extension to the red snapper season. At the bottom of his first memo to Ross, dated June 1, Comstock hand wrote “Secretary said go with two days plus holidays. OK to proceed.”

On June 7, Comstock sent a memo to Ross preparing him for a hearing on appropriations where Senator Shelby (R-AL) may ask Ross about the Gulf Snapper issue. He also presented two options for the extension and asked Ross to pick one.

“As discussed, under either option the increased angler catch will result in the overall catch limit for this year being exceeded by 30% and 50%," Comstock explained to Ross. "Either option would mean that, absent Congressional action to modify the Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements for the Gulf, the recreational season next year would be significantly reduced.  All the State fishery managers know this, but agree the coordinated action has the greater long-term benefit,” Comstock wrote.

He acknowledged that either option will be opposed by commercial fishermen and charter operators, and “it will almost certainly draw a lawsuit.”

Comstock noted that any plaintiffs in a suit “cannot get a temporary restraining order because the Magnuson-Stevens Act prohibits them. However, they might be able to get an injunction based on the argument we are violating a recent court order that stopped a 2% reallocation from commercial to recreational that the Gulf Council had adopted,” he wrote.

A third new document is a disturbing example of a Louisiana fisheries administrator suggesting work arounds for an action that would be in direct violation of MSA. It’s a memo from Harry Blanchet, Biologist Administrator of the Fisheries Division, Louisiana Department of Wildlife, to John Searle, the Congressional staffer to Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise. Searle had been in discussions with the state fisheries department regarding the red snapper situation.

Blanchet, who also sits on the Gulf Council’s Science and Statistical panel, warned Scalise that “recreational red snapper harvest for 2017 may well overrun the recreational allocation by a substantial amount, and as a result, overall harvest may overrun the Total Allowable Catch." 

Blanchet, like those before him, warned Searle that “Historically, and required by Magnuson, those over-runs would have to be paid back in following years, resulting in even lower recreational quota and thus Federal seasons,” Blanchet told Seale.

Blanchet’s solution was a waiver.

“My thought was that a simple waiver of those Magnuson requirements in another bill in the current Congress could help a lot in terms of allowing there to be a Federal waters recreational red snapper season in 2018. I understand that you may want to do a lot more, but just want to be sure that those payback provisions to not come back to bite next year,” he wrote.

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