Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report



Above: Seaside Heights ride lands in Beach Haven (see below). 

Monday, February 11, 2013: Sure, it’s a fully shot day, sky-wise, but it’s just what the street cleanup doctor ordered. The unhealthy dose of street salt that was laid down to cover our flirting with winter storm Nemo’s frozen side has been adroitly washed away. Admittedly, all that demelting material does end up in the bay, however, this time of year it is not nearly as damaging, especially in the face of the frequent bay stirs we’ve been getting via storms.

 Of course, one does have to wonder about the well-being of winter flounder, which are currently mudded under. It’s pretty likely that the road salt runoff stays higher in the water column, though the ongoing and potentially catastrophic shallowing of the bay means there’s less water column to act as protection for overwintering bottom species.  

When you’re dealing with ecosystems, it’s never a simple read. Making this year’s  read akin to an in-depth thesis on Quantum Physics is the inescapable and insidious Sandy factor lurking somewhere in the shadowiest recesses of our waterways.

I’ve had a slew of science people echoing the fear of what canned toxins were washed into the bay during flood time. They’re talking paint cans, acetone and turpentine cans, gas cans, insecticide and herbicide cans, you name it. They had been stored under/beside homes and were nowhere to be found when the flood waters receded. Sure seems they are sleeping with the fishes. It’s only a short matter of time before the cans undergo an in-water decay.

I got emailed some photos of  Seaside Heights amusement ride car that washed ashore in Beach Haven on Saturday.

I first got a call about it at my Surf City office but by the time I got on-scene the fancifully-colored rocket ship-shaped kiddie ride wagon had fallen into the grubby little hands of some opportunistic beachcomber. Hell, I wanted it to fall into my grubby little beachcombing hands. The ride piece is not just a cool piece of amusement park art but a Superstorm Sandy memento of the highest order.

Hey, if you happened to be the one who picked it up, let me know. I’ll get over my jealousy. Some more photos of it would be cool.

If I wasn’t so damned energy drained, I could see me penning a lovable kid’s book about the bright little rocket ship’s greatest ride – launched by a Superstorm and sliding along underwater, meeting sharks and Nemo and such. I’m guessin’ I wouldn’t be able to use cuss words or crass political rhetoric , right? Ah, screw it. You can write it.  



NMFS shark data questioned at hearing on increased minimum length proposal

Below: Browns wasted (top) and released (bottom).

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The Dispatch] By Travis Brown - February 11, 2013 - 

OCEAN CITY, MD, Better identification and more accurate statistics would be a better alternative to protecting the dusky shark population than an umbrella catch size limit increase for all species of sharks caught off the coast of Ocean City,, MD according to many area anglers.

That was the opinion and common theme of several other suggestions to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) representatives Wednesday at a public hearing in Ocean Pines over the service's controversial “Amendment 5” to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan.

Commercial and recreational fishers turned out in strong numbers Wednesday to protest the amendment, which would set a new 96-inch, or eight-foot, minimum keeper size limit for all sharks caught off the coast. The current limit for sharks that are landed near Ocean City like the mako, thresher, hammerhead, and blue shark is 54 inches.

The goal of the limit, along with other measures NMFS is considering, is to protect dusky sharks, which continue to see an alleged population drop despite being a prohibited species. According to NMFS data, dusky sharks are at a critical population level. However, anglers weren't subtle when it came to voicing their opinion on the data.

“It's all guesses and supposes,” said Merrill Campbell of Southern Connections Seafood.

Campbell and several other recreational and commercials fishers loudly questioned the numbers used by NMFS, which were mostly estimates. NMFS Highly Migratory Species management Division Branch Chief Karyl Brewster-Geisz defended the data, pointing out that the service has to use extrapolated numbers because dusky sharks can't legally be caught and almost never turn up at the dock.
Instead, NMFS relies on a combination of observer reports and commercial fishing boat log books to track dusky shark interactions and to make an estimate on how many are being harvested.

“They're only questioning the dusky sharks because they don't like the fact that it's showing a two-thirds reduction needed in fishing mortality,” she said.

Several anglers argued that the problem might not entirely be with the formula but is at least in part due to fishing boats misidentifying catches in their logbooks as dusky sharks when the actual fish was probably some other species.
“Obviously, shark identification is a huge issue,” said Mark Sampson of Fish Finder Adventures. “It always has been from the very beginning.”

Sampson compared good data to a “well-tuned radar.” Without the right statistics, he said, NMFS is just blind-firing with a universal shark catch size increase and a drastic one at that.

Campbell agreed, saying, “The 96 inches size seems ridiculous to me … you use the science when you want to use the science.”
Arguments over the formulas used weren't providing solutions to the problem, responded Brewster-Geisz.

“You think the science is flawed? Fine, you think the science is flawed,” she said. “There's nothing I can do about that. Tell me that you can change how you fish and it will make a good difference.”

NMFS isn't looking to ruin the commercial fishing industry or assault recreational fishers, added Brewster-Geisz. But their numbers suggest that the dusky shark is in trouble and something has to be done.

“We don't like this. We know we're affecting people livelihoods. We want ideas,” she said.

Sampson suggested a ban on all ridgeback sharks, a family which encompasses the dusky shark.

“If it's a ridgeback, it's got to go back,” he said.

Otherwise, the current proposal on the table will cripple recreational shark tourneys.

“It's going to have a huge impact on shark tournaments … It'll put an end to the most part to recreational shark tournaments,” he said.

However, despite Brewster-Geisz defending the data, anglers repeatedly suggested that the real problem is misidentifying all brown sharks as dusky sharks in log books and that the first step is improved education.

“You use the argument that we have to work with the best available science so don't talk to you about numbers because this is the best we've got,” said Sampson. “That's fine, that'll shut us up. But the resource is hurting because of it.”
Being able to identify shark species should be incorporated into the fishing permit process in some way, advised Sampson. Many anglers agreed and also pushed for identification charts to be mandatory on boats.

“I really think there needs to be education there on the boat,” said John Martin of Martin Fish Company.

Whether the suggestions made by anglers will deter NMFS should be evident soon. The period for public comments closes Feb. 12. There will be one more Webinar conference call discussion and one more public hearing in Houston on Feb.5 and Feb. 7, respectively. More information is available at www.nmfs.noaa.gov

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