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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday Jan. 8, 2010 -- Seabass fishing might get big boost ; GPS takes over, officially

Friday, January 08, 2010:

Proverbial snow dusting this a.m. is the precursor to more bitter air. We’re less than three weeks into winter and I’ve had my frozen fill. What’s more, I’m unable to shake jury service any longer. Just shoot me now.
Seems to be yet another push for a slot striper. I like it, as I always have. However, I can’t see why there can’t also be a good shot at larger bass at the same time. I have to admit the only way for that to happen seems to be through gamefish-only status for stripers. I’ll be getting more on whether or not our votes matter in this debate. Such decision always seem to have a North Jersey flare to them.
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I spent a chunk of the day listening to (and watching PowerPoint displays from the live proceedings of the MAFMC Joint Scientific Statistical Committee/ Monitoring Committee Meeting on black seabass. Despite never leaving my room, it was quite a trip.
The folks there were seemingly knowledgeable, that’s for sure. But, the new WWW-based meeting method – through a website called www.gotomeeting.com -- made for way too many pregnant pauses, as members had to turn computerized mikes (and their apparently confusing “mute” buttons) on and off to communicate. There were more than a few “Are you there?” probes being bandied about, as the chairman tried to figure if so-and-so was in the system – and if the mikes were working. Many of the main speakers were not overly familiar with the technological side of online meetings. Still, the method is a good bit amazing. It allows you and me to listen in on every word exchanged at such important get-togethers. With many more vitally important fishery meetings soon to come, I sure hope they all use the public-is-invited approach. Yes, there were people actually on-scene for the meeting.
All that said, I’m still not sure what will come out of the fairly lengthy meeting. I do know the MAFMC Joint Scientific Statistical Committee/ Monitoring Committee is going to suggest to NOAA's Regional Administrator, Pat Kurkel, that black seabass quotas revert back to 2008 levels, based on data that was very questionable back then but somehow better science than they used in July of 2009 to suggest leveling the boom on seabass fishing for 2010. If that sounds bizarre, it’s not only because I synopsized it but also because every person sounding off at the meeting was also mighty uncertain of which data was which – and which was worth backing. I suppose it was very reflective of the ongoing plea for better science.
Long and short of it, an effort will be made to rescind measures previously announced for 2010. That, to me, seems to be good news for anglers. I should add, all the folks on the black seabass committee seemed very upbeat about the stocks, based on some insanely good year-classes back around 2002/3. However, there was a discernable apprehension by the MAFMC Joint Scientific Statistical Committee/ Monitoring Committee that its suggestion (which it is, in essence) to go back to the 2008 quota might not pass muster as it works its way up the management line. If it does get through, we’re in like fishing flint for 2010.

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Portland Press Herald] By JOHN RICHARDSON, Staff Writer

Jan 8, 2010 - The federal government has decided to shut down the 53-year-old Loran navigation system used by fishermen and mariners, despite the objections of Gov. John Baldacci and others who wanted to keep it operating.

The Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security will publish the decision today in the Federal Register, and plan to stop broadcasting Loran radio signals on or about Feb. 8. The system will be eliminated by Oct. 1, according to the announcement, posted Wednesday on the Internet.

Because of the availability of the Global Positioning System, Loran is no longer needed for navigation or safety, the agencies said, and it isn't needed as a national backup to GPS despite previous decisions to develop an enhanced version of Loran as a fallback technology.

'It's very disappointing,' said Zachariah Conover, president of CrossRate Technology LLC in Windham.

The company, which develops navigation equipment that combines Loran and GPS technology, is one of a few Maine businesses that employ at least 70 people and now have an uncertain future, he said. Loran is still used in other countries, but the future of those markets is now considered less secure.

While the decision puts jobs at risk, Conover said the much larger issue is the lack of a solid backup system for times when GPS doesn't work or is intentionally disabled, or jammed.

'The serious risk that we are assuming as a country is really significant. As a nation, we need a backup to GPS,' he said.

Loran, short for Long Range Navigation system, was developed during World War II. It uses pulsed radio signals sent from land-based towers to allow crews on boats and aircraft to determine their positions.

GPS uses signals from satellites to determine positions with more accuracy, at least in most situations.

The future of Loran has been up in the air for years, although the government had been developing the more efficient eLoran as a backup to GPS.

The eLoran system, which would use the same towers and transmitting equipment, is not mentioned in the decision notice. However, the announcement does list other technologies that can be used or developed as partial backups.

'If a single, domestic national system to back up GPS is identified as being necessary, the Department of Homeland Security will complete an analysis of potential backups to GPS,' the announcement said.

Requests for further information from the department on Wednesday were referred to a spokesman who did not return calls in time for this story.

The Department of Homeland Security could save $36 million in 2010 and $190 million over five years by eliminating Loran, according to a budget analysis.

Conover said the eLoran system is 70 percent complete and would cost only $10 million to $15 million a year to operate. About $160 million has already been spent developing the system.

The decision to terminate the Loran system before eLoran is launched goes against the advice of experts inside and outside the government, according to Conover. Baldacci wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Dec. 30, urging her to retain the Loran system and citing the Maine fishermen and mariners who have relied on the technology and the Maine companies that support it.

'I am deeply concerned about the potential of losing a time-honored, cost-beneficial and proven navigational system,' he wrote.

Members of Maine's congressional delegation also urged Napolitano to keep Loran operating. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans, are members of the committees overseeing the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, respectively.

In a written statement Wednesday, Collins made it clear that she disagrees with the decision and remains concerned about safety and security issues.

'Given the vulnerabilities and limitations of GPS, Loran must be maintained and enhanced to become a vital backup system to GPS for various critical infrastructure users,' she wrote. Without a backup, 'GPS' loss would detrimentally affect cell phone networks, ship movements, and air traffic Ð to name only a few.'

Collins said she agreed with the independent experts who advised the department that eLoran should be completed as the nation's fallback navigation system.

While the vast majority of mariners now use GPS for navigation, state officials said some Maine fishermen still use Loran receivers to navigate or to keep track of where they set lobster traps. Some also use a combination of the systems.

'Most have switched, but there's still a group' using Loran, said Col. Joseph Fessenden, chief of the Maine Marine Patrol. 'It's basically if something works, then why change it.'

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