[Washington Post] By Darryl Fears - February 2, 2011 - Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police officers stumbled upon a poacher's net bulging with more than three tons of rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay, the largest haul seized by a single patrol in at least 25 years, police said.
Officers retrieved about 6,000 pounds of rockfish Tuesday near the Bloody Point Lighthouse, between Queen Anne's and Talbot counties. Sgt. Art Windemuth, a DNR Police spokesman, said the 900-yard gill net was probably in freezing waters for several days.
A pair of officers on patrol spotted the net about 2 p.m. Monday and returned to their base for a third officer. The three staked out the net overnight in freezing rain, waiting for someone to retrieve it, but no one came. They started to pull the net early Tuesday but had to call for help when they feared the weight would sink their boat.
"This is the largest seizure of rockfish that a patrol officer has made in the last 25 years," Windemuth said. The largest single illegal catch in 2010 was 1,700 pounds.
An investigation is pending, but the unsuccessful stakeout makes it unlikely that the poacher will be caught. "These criminal acts are conducted in remote, isolated areas," Windemuth said.
The state had placed a temporary moratorium on commercial rockfish fishing when the monthly 327,000 pound quota was reached Jan. 12, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The gill net was illegal because it was fixed and did not flow with the tide and because it was not monitored by someone who could release fish over the quota.
Rockfish, also known as striped bass, is Maryland's state fish . It sells for about $2.50 per pound. Maryland watches commercial catches closely and enforces the regulations of the Potomac River Fisheries Commission that protect the tasty species from being overfished, with closed seasons, quotas, and size and tagging requirements.
In 1985, Maryland placed a five-year moratorium on striped bass fishing when the population fell.
When surveys determined that the population was again healthy, the moratorium was lifted, but with restrictions. The state currently has 1,231 permits issued to catch rockfish.
Last year, the state enforced a 2.1 million pound quota on catches. This year's quota is 1.9 million pounds, said Harry Hornick, the striped bass program leader at the DNR. Tuesday's large illegal haul will be subtracted from the quota.
The fish will be separated by size and sold or given to charities, Windemuth said.
This week's poaching pales compared with more organized fishing crimes in Washington-area waters.
In 2009, a ring that trafficked in illegally caught rockfish from the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River handled 600,000 pounds of the fish over four years, with a retail value of $3 million to $7 million, federal officials said.
At least nine people were charged after a four-year undercover operation.
Police say poaching tends to increase in lean economic times.
In Maryland, the maximum penalty for illegal possession of striped bass is $1,500 per fish.
Tuesday's illegal haul was more than 20 times the amount that a licensed fisherman can legally catch in a day, Windemuth said.
"It's hurting not only the resource, but it affects the lives of the majority of commercial fishermen who fish legally," Windemuth said.(((((((((((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))))))))
[Standard-Times] By Don Cuddy - February 2, 2011 - NEW BEDFORD, Calling offshore wind turbines "the new frontier for renewable energy," Daniel Cohen, head of an offshore wind company owned by fishermen, spoke to a small but lively crowd at the New Bedford Whaling Museum Monday.
Cohen is president of Fishermen's Energy, made up of principals in several other New Jersey-based fishing companies who want a stake in how and where wind turbines are sited, he said.
"Offshore wind is happening," said Cohen, who is also CEO of Atlantic Capes Fisheries, a New Jersey company that operates more than 20 fishing vessels.
Eight companies are currently proposing projects off Maryland, he said, and his company is one of the eight. "If we didn't exist, seven of them would still be there," he said.
But some of the fishermen in attendance Monday predicted further ruin for the industry if such projects become a reality.
"This is another flank we're being attacked on," Rhode Island fisherman Dick Grachek said. "We have been kept out of those areas because it's a sensitive yellowtail spawning ground."
Last December, the Obama administration announced its intention to encourage the development of wind energy in federal waters off the Massachusetts coast by offering leases to interested parties, with proposals due by Feb. 28.
"The import of this is that it will facilitate a faster time line for permitting in areas they consider appropriate for development," Cohen said. The area proposed locally covers a 3,000-square-mile expanse of federal waters and includes sensitive fish habitat area and lucrative fishing grounds.
Turbines would be located a half-mile apart and, to prevent scouring by ocean currents, the base would be surrounded by a circle of large stones, 200 feet in diameter. In addition, a network of ground cables transmitting electricity would further hamper fishing operations, opponents maintain.
"The government is looking at marine spatial planning as a cash cow — nothing more, nothing less," fisherman Joel Hovanesian of Rhode Island said. Apart from taxes, leases granted by the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service) have become the principal revenue stream for the federal government, he said.
"I'm opposed to this because it won't work," said Ed Barrett, president of the Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership. "Not one shore-side facility will come offline from any of these projects."
Asked whether he knew of any areas of the world where offshore turbines and commercial fishermen have successfully coexistedg, Cohen said he could not say. "The data from Europe is not very good," he said.
seafoodnews.com] Feb 2, 2011- Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts has introduced a bill that would require an annual outside assessment of the economic impact of NOAA's fishing regulations on fishing communities. The bill, called the FISH act (Fishing Impact Statement Honesty Act) would direct that the economic study be done independently of NOAA.
It would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to require that economic impact statements on the affect of fishing regulations on communities be produced independently of NOAA and updated on an annual basis.
According to Senator Brown, fishing communities throughout Massachusetts are facing economic hardship because NOAA and the Commerce Department refuse to acknowledge that their catch share regulations are strangling the fishing industry.
The Commerce Department must be forced to produce an annual independent fisheries impact statement, so that officials at NOAA and the Commerce Department cannot ignore the situation or tailor the results of the statement to their own purposes. Senator Brown's bill would require that the analysis be done by an outside neutral third party who would be chosen by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), not by NOAA or the Administration.
If an independent auditor finds that NOAA regulations are hurting fishing communities, NOAA should be forced to make changes. Under the bill, the Secretary of Commerce is required to publish and implement a plan to address negative economic or social effects on fishing communities identified by the independent economic impact statement.