Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Monday, August 18, 2014: Sure is nice out there. That “nice” is inching us toward a summer of memorable coolness, overall. And there sure aren’t any big changes on the horizon. Of course, we still have a month to go and weirdness seems to be in the air in recent years. However, I don’t see the weirdness wearing bikinis to start fall. In fact, look for early autumn to force us into wearing heavy hoodies.
November could be cold pivotal point. I see two polar opposites as possibilities: a slide into deep-freezeness by Thanksgiving, or, a strange jump into unseasonably warmth. I know you’re not seeing that second one being bandied about much but I got connection in the atmosphere … just sayin’.
Fluking remains semi-phenomenal. The number of sheer doormats is quite curious. I must have a dozen reports from people having caught the largest flukes of their lives. “It’s the largest fluke I’ve ever even seen,” said one holder of a solid nine-pounder. Still more than enough shorts to go around, way too many of those catches-and-releases being roughly handled, or, handled with dry towels, which removes the fish’s protective slime and dooms them to death, often via a loss of bodily electrolytes. See a related segment in this week’s SP column.
Bluefish are around in sizes and numbers commensurate with the season, though there could be a greater presence than we have been seeing in Septembers over the past few years. Holgate will tell in a couple weeks.
The upcoming week will remain angling-perfect, though some onshore winds could mess with things later in the week. I’m hoping to turn it up this week, possibly on the north end. I’m also eyeing some nicely exposed jetties in Surf City.
Please keep in mind the kick-ass 60th Annual LBI Surf Fishing Classic. It kicks off on October 6 but many folks have to already begin making plans for the event. Loads of fishing folks schedule entire week(s) to be down here for it.
I’m going a bit out on a limb by suggesting there could be weigh-worthy fish near the onset of the Classic -- far different than last year. No, I’m not just trying to hype the event. All these below-normal night temps are going to put the migratory clock on an early, some might say normal, schedule.
Also remember that $500 will be awarded to the largest bass weighed in on opening day. If no fish is weighed in, the prize will then roll over to the next day … if no fish, on to the next. No, that doesn’t mean the first Classic bass weigh-in will then automatically win the prize money. Other larger bass might also be caught on that same successful stripering day. Classic days end at 6 pm.
Had some surfcasters fishing way too close to bathers in Harvey Cedars over the weekend. Guards finally moved them but not without some sass from the anglers. Not good. Their lines were just outside the flags, meaning drifting swimmers were into them. The thing is there was plenty of nearby, open, non-swimmer space. On a whole, though, no real swimmer/angler conflicts, despite the packed summer.
Minor news about the beach replenishment: It will NOT include Harvey Cedars, Surf City or Brant Beach – unless a pressing need arises between now and the project’s start. Pressing need can arise via cyclones and such. Perish the thought.
Larry and Als' (nice fish) LIMIT , on a beautiful day !!
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SCOM] Aug 18, 2014
The Alaska republican primary will be held tomorrow to decide who will face Senator Mark Begich (D) in this fall. This morning, Politico reported that should Begich lose his seat in November, it could send the Senate back to the drawing board on legislation to reform the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs federal fisheries.
Begich is chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, and has floated a draft bill and is still seeking comments before potentially introducing a measure later this fall.
Most fishing groups in Alaska have solidly lined up in support of Begich re-election.
The candidates in the Republican primary are Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Dan Sullivan, a former state attorney general and natural resources commissioner, and Joe Miller, a Tea Party Candidate who failed to beat Lisa Murkowski in 2012.
I finally got my greedy Osprey shot! This lady managed to grab 2 bunker at once!
I did the 500px thing on this one if you want to V&F...
[New Bedford Standard Times[ By Ariel Wittenburg - August 18, 2014 -
NEW BEDFORD — "Our people know what they're doing at sea."
That's the common refrain of city and state politicians alike as they try to convince industry leaders and the public that New Bedford should be America's offshore wind hub.
First we were whalers. Then we were fishermen. Next we will be offshore constructing, repairing and maintaining wind turbines.
The refrain was repeated by a city delegation to an offshore wind energy conference in Providence last fall, it was repeated by state legislators as they tried to fight an energy bill that could hurt offshore wind in the spring, and it was repeated by dignitaries as they welcomed the Charles W. Morgan whaleship into port this summer.
But while landlubbers may see offshore wind as simply a promising new industry that could bring new jobs, the fishermen who will have to work along these turbines often see something else.
They see another layer of federal rules and regulations to navigate. In addition to worrying about how many days they can go out to sea, they say they now have to worry about giant steel structures getting in their way and impeding their catch.
"There is a big feeling that this is just another thing encroaching on us," said seafood consultant Jim Kendall. "But we know we'll have to coexist to survive."
DETERMINING THE AREA
Concerns about offshore wind farms encroaching on prime fishing grounds have not been overlooked by the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management that designates which federal areas are eligible for offshore wind energy development.
Currently there are two federal wind areas offshore Massachusetts: A "Massachusetts wind energy area" that will be put out to competitive bid this fall, and another that is shared with Rhode Island and was leased to Providence-based Deepwater Wind last year.
Prior to being put out to bid, both areas were reviewed by BOEM, the state governments and stakeholder groups that include a fisheries working group that was created in 2011 to comment on the geography of the area.
As a result of concerns about fisheries, the boundaries of both wind areas were changed before being finalized.
The Massachusetts wind energy area was decreased by 60 percent because of fisheries concerns, and a corridor near Cox Ledge was also carved out of the shared area.
"Those changes were all made due to concerns raised by the fishing industry and other stakeholder groups," explained Brian Hooker of BOEM.
Unlike Europe, where fishermen are sometimes prohibited from fishing in offshore wind energy areas, Hooker said wind developers must allow fishing to take place amid their turbines. Because of this, turbines are required to have special lighting to make them more visible to boats, and spacing to allow vessels to pass. Additionally, BOEM is recommending that transmission cables for the wind turbines are buried at least six feet under the ocean floor whenever possible in order to keep fishing gear from getting tangled on them.
On the state level, Bill White, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center director of offshore wind, said the state used the "input of fishermen," along with data about fisheries from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's School for Marine Science and Technology to "make sure we would avoid the most productive and important fishing grounds in supporting offshore wind."
THE SCIENCE OF FISHERIES AND WIND
The effect of placing hundreds of turbines on the Atlantic Continental Shelf on the fish that live there is not entirely known. While fisheries studies have been conducted on offshore wind farms in other parts of the world, like Europe, they cannot necessarily be applied to farms offshore the United States because of differences in fish species, current and topography, said SMAST Professor Kevin Stokesbury.
Stokesbury is part of a team commissioned by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center that is currently studying fisheries in offshore wind energy areas. That study is meant to provide a "baseline" so scientists will know the status of fish stocks before wind turbines are built offshore and be able to monitor any effects the structures have on fisheries.
"The idea is if they do put in wind farms then you can use it to compare and see how the habitat is," he said.
Stokesbury said there are some theories that the wind farms could end up creating new habitat for lobster and other mollusks, but there are also worries that the process of drilling the turbines into the ground would scare fish away.
In addition to the direct effect that turbine foundations could have on fish, Stokesbury said he is also concerned about the indirect effect turbines could have on fisheries by changing the current.
"You're putting a series of structures out there and we don't know if those are in a grid or another shape of array and how that might affect the way the wind blows and the way the water flows and other things that already impact fisheries," he said. "It really depends how many you put in, how close they are and if you are breaking up the flow of the current."
One of the biggest unknowns, Stokesbury said, is how the arrays will impact scallop recruitment, in part because not much is known about where new generations of scallops come from.
Scallop eggs are too light to rest at the bottom of the ocean, and instead are carried throughout the water column by waves and currents until they are large and heavy enough to sink to the ocean floor. Because of this, Stokesbury said, scientists are unsure of whether major populations of scallops in the Mid-Atlantic are self-sustaining, or if they instead only increase when eggs laid by scallops living on Georges Bank are carried south by the current.
If the two areas are self-sustaining, the presence of multiple wind farms in between them would not be a huge concern, Stokesbury said. If, however, the Georges Bank population feeds the Mid-Atlantic stock, the turbines could interfere with that.
"The short answer is we don't really know what the impact of offshore wind will be," he said. "In some ways creating structure can enhance habitat, and in other ways it could make things worse."
Despite having a fisheries working group, fishermen say they do not feel they have been truly involved in the offshore wind siting process.
Rodney Avila, a former groundfisherman who now teaches safety courses, said he thinks "there is a place" offshore for wind energy development, but that the fishing industry has to be more involved.
"They've done a better job of explaining it to the public than the fishing industry," he said, noting that fishermen can be offshore for days at a time, unable to make public meetings on the issue.
"You don't see fishermen at the public meetings because that way doesn't work for us," he said. "You need to approach the industry in a different way."
Avila said the government and the offshore wind industry should be meeting fishermen where they work, down at the docks, in order to make sure the right information is out there. Or, he suggested, a meeting should be scheduled between Christmas and New Year's, when most fishermen are in port with their families.
"We don't have the information so we just have a lot of information and skepticism that it's going to happen," he said. "There are all sorts of rumors that it isn't going to happen or work, that it's just another way to use up money."
Carlos Rafael, who owns a number of scallopers, said he did not know too much about the wind industry, but is not too concerned about it. He said he would rather have wind turbines offshore in Massachusetts than oil rigs, noting that it is better for the environment.
"Compared to that, I think the windmills is fine," he said. "If fishermen in the gulf can get along with oil with the spills, then we should be able to live catching fish, and they will be able to live catching wind and making energy."
Kendall said he is very worried about how the wind industry will affect fishermen.
"I'm worried we are rushing into this without a good understanding of what is going on out there and how we are going to work together," he said.
He echoed Avila, noting that fishermen, in particular, are not sure how the industry would affect them. One rumor he had heard was that Homeland Security would be able to arrest fishermen if their gear accidentally got caught on offshore wind infrastructure, like cables.
"We have been totally ignored," he said.
"There aren't ongoing discussions with developers for how to work with the industry in New Bedford and how to make this happen the best we can."
In June 2012, CapeWind settled a federal lawsuit that had been brought against it by the Martha's Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen's Association. In the settlement, the association agreed to support Cape Wind in exchange for Cape Wind helping to establish a "permit bank" to enable the association to purchase commercial fishing permits for its members.
At the time, association President Warren Doty called the settlement newfound "common ground" between the industries.
"The establishment of the Martha's Vineyard Permit Bank will help protect the livelihood of local fishermen and help ensure this vibrant fishery remains for future generations."
According to CapeWind Spokesman Mark Rodgers, the settlement shows his company wants to do everything it can to ensure the two industries can coexist.
He said turbines for CapeWind will be wide enough to allow shallow draft boats to continue fishing on Horseshoe Shoals, one of the areas in Nantucket Sound where turbines are planned.
He said the "tension" between the fishing and offshore wind industries "is completely understandable" given the amount of federal regulation that fisheries have been subject to in recent years. Still, he said, he hoped fishermen would realize the contributions offshore wind could make to their industry by producing clean energy.
"In the long run, one of the greatest threats to commercial fishing in New England is going to be climate change, which could change what waters fish like to spend time in," he said. "The only way to mitigate climate change is to shift away from fossil fuels."
Rodgers also said that he envisions fishermen playing a role in helping to maintain Cape Wind's turbines during their 25-year long commercial lives. Maintenance crews will be based in Falmouth Harbor, and though many of the workers needed for that will have technical skills, Rodgers said "there will be positions that former fishermen could take" in piloting boats out to the wind farm.
Jeffrey Grybowski, owner of Deepwater Wind, said his project in the shared Massachusetts and Rhode Island wind area is still in the planning stages. Though he does not know what roles fishermen stakeholder groups would play in that project, he said that Deepwater Wind has made an effort to reach out to fishermen affected by his smaller project off the coast of Block Island.
"We had multiple meetings with structured dialogue, we hired a liaison to act as a go-between between us and area fishermen to make sure that everyone understood each other," he said. "I do feel you need to have robust dialogue with fishermen in order to understand the needs and concerns of the industry."
BOEM has also created a list of "best practices" for developers like Deepwater Wind leasing federal wind energy areas. The practices include developers hiring both a liaison between them and the fishing industry, as well as the designation of a fisheries spokesperson to relay fishermen's concerns to the developer.
Hooker said the bureau would ensure that all developers include use of best practices in their offshore wind plans before the agency approves it.
CapeWind is not subject to those best practice requirements because it already has its federal permit, but Rodgers said the company would consider hiring a liaison in the future.
New Bedford Wind Energy Center Director Matthew Morrissey said he believes there will be ample opportunity for the fishing industry not only to coexist with the offshore wind industry, but also to support it.
He noted that there are more than 250 shore-side businesses in the city that currently work for the fishing industry, but that would also prosper if more maritime industries come to town.
"Any industry that brings more boats, needs more welding, needs more boat repairs, that is going to be very good for our businesses," he said.
Additionally, Morrissey said, there are many examples of places in Europe where fishermen worked for wind developers while they were not able to fish.
While he said he is not exactly sure what model American wind developers like Cape Wind or Deepwater Wind might use to involve fishermen in the development, he said the community of KilKeel Ireland set a good example.
There, fishermen have banded together to form a non-profit group called Sea Source that connects offshore wind developers in need of boats to fishermen who have used up their quota and can no longer use their boats to fish.
Offshore Services Manager for Sea Source Davey Hill told The Standard-Times this week that his group decided they were more likely to benefit from offshore wind if they worked with developers.
"You can either leave the table or you can be proactive and build relationships," he said. "These farms are going to happen. The government here has never said no to one of them, so it's much better for us to interact with the developers. You can't influence the process if you're not part of it."
Hill said members of his organization have been used as "guards" by British companies to keep boats out of wind areas while turbines are being installed. Recently, his organization also signed a 10 million pound agreement with an Italian offshore wind company to help with laying cables.
"What the developers have come to realize is that if these wind farms are going to be built at our doorstep, there has to be a socioeconomic benefit to my community," he said. "It's easier for them that way, too."
To New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, Hill's message is one of hope that he wants to turn into a reality for the city.
"I am convinced that the offshore wind and fishing industry can succeed side by side," he said.
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Bangor Daily News] By Beth Brogan - August 18, 2014 -
FREEPORT, Maine, As researchers from Casco Bay to Frenchman Bay study the lifestyle and diet of invasive European green crabs in an effort to control the predators, a North Carolina company hopes to find Mainers willing to sell the creeping crustaceans to be processed into cat food.
Bay City Crab purchased two tractor-trailer loads — a total of 22,000 pounds — of crabs earlier this summer from Boothbay Harbor-area harvesters and processed them at their plant based in Aurora, North Carolina. The firm then shipped the crabmeat to a cat food company, plant manager Chrissy Fulcher said Friday.
Fulcher would not disclose the name of the company to which she sold the processed crabs, but she said Bay City Crab — which processes domestic blue crabs “for five-star restaurants in New York and Boston” — has found a market for the green crab that has devoured shoreline habitat and threatened the $16 million softshell clam industry in Maine.
But just as the state of Maine loosened regulations around selling green crabs, the men who were selling to Fulcher said they were done. The 25 cents a pound she was paying “just wasn’t worth it [to them],” Fulcher said. “[One harvester] said he wasn’t catching the numbers [to make it worthwhile].”
Fulcher acknowledged the “very small price” but said other costs associated with the business — packaging the crabs in Maine, transporting them to North Carolina, manpower and transporting them to the cat food processing plant — made it impossible to pay more.
“We took the trailer up there and dropped it off in his yard,” Fulcher said. “We provided the vats and the pallets and everything. All he really had to do was go and dump them in the vat.”
In June, Fulcher and her husband traveled along Maine’s coastline, handing out business cards. Bay City Crab also has advertised in publications, including the Boothbay Register, hoping to find others interested in selling green crabs to them. She said many have contacted her since, but there have been no takers so far.
“I think the price probably plays into it,” she said. “I told a lot of them I’m hoping that if they would bear with us this year, we could make the market strong. And next year we might be able to raise [the price] a little bit.”
Still, Fulcher said harvesters from Massachusetts contacted the company last week, and there’s talk of buying them from that state.
Selling green crabs became easier this week, when the state of Maine relaxed regulations pertaining to the harvesting of green crabs, essentially streamlining the process and, among other things, eliminated the need for a license, according to Kohl Kanwit, director of public health at the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
“If you’re catching them while you’re out lobstering, you can go ahead and sell them,” Kanwit said.
The new regulations remove the restrictions on how many traps a fisherman can have on a string. The change also allows municipalities to get a Department of Marine Resources permit to harvest the crabs as part of a predator control program.
“We want to try to make it as easy as possible for people to try to get rid of them so they don’t impact the shellfish industry, which, including oysters, mussels and other species, brings in about $25 million annually,” Kanwit said.
But as options for catching and possibly profiting from the green crabs increase, the crabs themselves, it seems, are here in fewer numbers.
In Freeport, the annual catch is down from this time last year, though it is up over the past 13 weeks, according to Brian Beal, a researcher from the University of Maine at Machias and nonprofit Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education. Beal is leading six studies about the crabs in the Harraseeket River.
The crabs they are catching in Freeport, however, are concentrated in the intertidal zone — the valuable clam flats.
“I think they’re headed for the small clams [there],” Beal said.
Because data has only recently been collected on the predator, Beal said it’s still too early to see any pattern or to predict what might be in store for harvesters next summer.
“Was last year an anomaly, or is this year?” he said. “We really don’t know what we’re looking at.”
With the new regulations allowing municipalities to apply for a permit to sell the green crabs, Brunswick Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereaux said the town might consider selling them to offset the cost of trapping them. But this year, at least, they’re not catching many.
“Twenty-five cents a pound doesn’t even pay for the gas to go out and fish them,” he cautioned.
Photo Credit: Sea Grant University of Maine
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [New York Times] By Felicity Barringeraug - August 18, 2014 -
ASTORIA, Ore. — The salmon here in the Columbia River, nearly driven to extinction by hydroelectric dams a quarter century ago, have been increasing in number — a fact not lost on the birds that like to eat them. These now flock by the thousands each spring to the river’s mouth, where the salmon have their young, and gorge at leisure.
As a result, those charged with nursing the salmon back to robust health have a new plan to protect them: shoot the birds.
Joyce Casey, chief of the environmental resources branch at the Army Corps of Engineers office in Portland, said that for young salmon headed seaward, the hungry horde of about 30,000 double-crested cormorants on East Sand Island has posed a risk no less serious than that posed by some of the dams her agency built.
Butch Smith, a fisherman, said that killing thousands of the birds “is the one thing out of anything else we can do to recover salmon fastest.”
But Stan Senner of the National Audubon Society argues that to kill off some of the cormorant colony here, which makes up one-quarter of the birds’ western population, “is an extreme measure, totally inappropriate.”
He said it was possible to shoo them away, noting: “They came from somewhere else. They can go back to somewhere else.”
But efforts to encourage the birds to move have been, at best, inconclusive; the cormorants often return to East Sand Island.
This is not the first time the government has decided to kill a predator or a competitor to protect an endangered species.
Last year the Fish and Wildlife Service began to kill up to 3,900 invasive barred owls, which outcompete endangered spotted owls. Since 2008, about 60 salmon-eating sea lions have been killed near the Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River.
In the Great Lakes, the authorities have shot dead thousands of double-crested cormorants over the last several years.
The wisdom of using lethal means to tinker with the new natural order of things created by human activities provokes sharp debate.
This debate is different from ones about killing wolves, coyotes or prairie dogs to protect livestock. Here, both species, the one to be killed and the one to be protected, belong in the wild.
“This is a fascinating issue of how we as a society make choices about how we’re going to use our resources for the benefit of one interest in society to the detriment of another,” Ms. Casey said.
This was true when the Columbia and Snake River dams were built to bring cheap hydropower to the region; it was to the benefit of growing communities, but drastically to the detriment of salmon, whose way to spawning grounds was often impeded by the structures and who were sometimes killed by the dams’ spinning turbines. Thirteen of 19 salmon populations in the Columbia River have been listed either as threatened or endangered.
Ritchie Graves, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that the slow improvement in the abundance of endangered salmon on the Columbia River had helped create the current predicament.
He added that the salmon were responding to the agency’s efforts, and the birds around the region were responding to the improved salmon numbers: “If you’re a predator in California or southern Oregon and you don’t have anything to eat, how many years before you move somewhere else?”
For cormorants around the western United States, “somewhere else” often turned out to be East Sand Island, on the Washington State side of the river and close to the spot where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
The cormorants were not the first fish-eating birds on East Sand Island to get salmon defenders’ attention. The island, which was significantly reinforced by dredging activity years ago, also houses thousands of Caspian terns.
They moved there 15 years ago — prompted by wildlife officials — from islands farther up the Columbia River, where salmon were more of their diet.
Biologists then reduced the terns’ prime nesting area by two-thirds, to 1.6 acres after federal officials decided that the terns’ potential to eat endangered salmon was still too great. Meanwhile, cormorant numbers go up, even though scientists experimentally reduced the available nesting area they could use to four acres from 16.
Most biologists agree that the birds find it hard to beat the ready food available at the mouth of the river. Last year the total of nesting pairs of double-crested cormorants rose to nearly 15,000, up from about 6,500 in 1999. Each pair, on average, raises two chicks.
By 2011, scientists at Oregon State University found, the cormorants each year ate about 20 million juvenile salmon as they headed to sea.
Federal fisheries officials are focused on 2018, the year that represents the end of the current, much-litigated federal plan, called a “biological opinion.” It details the status of endangered salmon stocks, the specifics of how the government plans to restore them over time, and the metrics that will determine if they have succeeded.
As part of the effort to revise this proposal and ensure it passes judicial muster, scientists have recommended that the corps help the salmon by cutting the cormorant population by nearly two-thirds, to a maximum of 5,939 nesting pairs. To do this, the proposed shooting would begin 2015 and end in 2018, leaving 4,000 dead birds a year.
Blaine Parker, a fisheries biologist for the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, likes the plan.
“To continue to allow cormorants to grow unchecked is a serious barrier to salmon recovery,” he said. The tribes, which have treaty rights to the fish, in 2008 signed 10-year accords with the corps and two other federal agencies to help salmon restoration.
Mr. Parker argues that the government and rate payers who buy hydroelectricity “have spent hundreds of millions annually to make the ecosystem more fish-friendly” and do not want to see the fish eaten by birds.
But Mr. Senner of the National Audubon Society said some of the scientific analysis in the corps’ proposal was insufficient. “We’re not persuaded they have fully explored ways of improving habitats elsewhere or other means of dispersing” the cormorants, he said.
Bob Heess, a retired marine biologist, came late last month to an open house in Astoria during which the corps had conversations with the public and took comments on their plan to shoot birds.
His view: “I’ve seen people try to mess with Mother Nature before, and it never works. It goes toward creating more problems.”
Fluke were chewing today.