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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Nice little doggy!!! Monday, December 29, 2014: Vacation has me realizing how tired I had gotten

Monday, December 29, 2014: Vacation has me realizing how tired I had gotten in recent months. I slept in this a.m. until 10:10 a.m. I can’t recall ever sleeping that far in. Of course, I stayed up late last night – humming the words of Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, “Around here we stay up very, very, very, very late.” I watched three episodes of last season's  “Blacklist.”  Quite entertaining in a nasty-ass sorta way. Of course, the blackness of Comcast leaked through, as the shows had the same rapid-fire barrage of commercials as everyday cable TV. No you can’t fast-forward through the commercials. A notation at the beginning of all On-Demand "free" show says that some fast-forward “functionality” is not available. That means you better not even think about screwing around with their beloved commercials.

Below: Trying out that new Christmas toy.

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I didn’t do the beach today, opting instead for some metal detecting at a nearby mainland area. Not a load to be found but I did hit some old (primitive) decoy-making items, including a couple lead counterbalance sheets (left) for hammering to the bottom of decoys and a very heavy lead decoy anchor (right).   

I also dug up an older AAA license plate topper. It is embossed, “United States of America.” This is a bit weird/rarer because of its generalness. I have loads of AAA plate toppers but all of them are site specific, down to the names of a specific town or region, like “North Jersey” AAA and even “Lackawanna, Pa.”  This is the only one I've seen that proudly covers the entire U.S. of A. Also, all my other AAA plate toppers/emblems have inlaid porcelain enameling . This one is all brass. That rusty look is just from some steel it was laying with. It's definitely plated brass. 

Here's a more typical one: 

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Please read on. Below are some serious-ass issues: 

NOAA raising new alarms on effects of climate change on East Coast fisheries

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Standard Times by Steve Urbon - December 29, 2014 - 

NEW BEDFORD — If you're still a climate change denier even at this point, it's probably best if you don't talk to anyone with any knowledge of ocean climate and fisheries management in the Northeast.

That's because these researchers are throwing themselves headlong into the questions of what is going on out there and what, if anything, we can possibly do about it. And they are sounding alarms.

Fisheries reporters get a lot of e-mail from NOAA, bringing new research reports to our attention. And to be honest, a lot of that material may get published in science and industry publications rather than in a general interest newspaper.

But let me tell you about one or two of the more recent ones. The first arrived last month about the early spring-late fall phenomenon that has profound implications for the fish, and the second one last week, which stated unequivocally that climate change has indeed messed with the distribution of fish along the Eastern Seaboard.

These two reports from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole fall broadly in the category of "the more we know, the less we know."

The first of those two declared that monitoring of ocean temperatures at various depths revealed a dramatic warming. This year, the arrival of spring temperatures was among the earliest times recorded in the last 30 years. By 2100, the data point to a consistent three to four week shift in the arrival of the summer season, and the same amount added to the other end. The fall transition that's now in November will shift to December.

These changes are already having side effects. Cold water fish populations such as cod are moving toward the poles and warmer water species are moving north to replace them. And the annual spring phytoplankton bloom, which is essential to feed millions of organisms, has become shorter and less productive.

In other words, there's a looming food shortage in the ocean, and that can't be good.

The second study concluded that both fishing and climate change are responsible for changes in the distribution of fish. The trick is going to be to figure out just what is causing what, and that isn't easy.

I spoke with Russell Brown, deputy director of the science center, and he said flatly, "We're being very careful about drawing conclusions."

NOAA Fisheries Northeast Director John Bullard reminded me that there's yet another major worry: Ocean acidification, a byproduct of global warming, is being watched for the ill effects it will have on shellfish especially, because the dissolved carbon dioxide in the water weakens shells.

Before his retirement from UMass Dartmouth, Dr. Brian Rothschild left fisheries regulators with the sobering thought that maybe this is a problem beyond our current ability to solve. I'm sure he shares with me the wish that these scientists, at NOAA and UMass, will prove him wrong in the new year.

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(Below are two stories about shipping more of America's fresh seafood to Asia. I want the commercial guys to make all they can but I'm pretty sure the nation's seafood stocks are owned by the American people. Just sayin'. j-mann.)

Florida's spiny lobsters find ideal market in China as demand for live imports upends supply chain

 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [China Daily] by Paul Welitzkin - December 29, 2014

The US lobster trade with China is growing rapidly, especially for a species called the spiny lobster that is harvested in the Florida Keys.

"China has upended the supply chain for lobster," John Sackton, publisher of SeafoodNews.com in Lexington, Massachusetts, told China Daily. "The Chinese prefer the spiny lobster over its better known brethren the North American or Maine lobster. Part of the reason is cultural - the Chinese think of a spiny lobster as similar to a dragon prawn and the dragon is a very powerful symbol in China."

One difference between the spiny lobster and the North American version is the time each species takes to mature.

"The Caribbean spiny lobster (the species caught in Florida) matures in its second year after the larvae settle. The American lobster, also known as the Maine lobster, has a much more variable age at maturity, often over five years. The longer time to maturity is mostly related to the water temperature. The cold-water American lobster matures much more slowly. The average lobster in Florida is harvested at about 18 months old and it weighs about 1 pound," Tom Matthews, an associate research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in an e-mail.

Sackton said Australia used to be the prime supplier of spiny lobster to China. "When the Australians had trouble filling the orders, the Chinese turned to the US, specifically in the Florida Keys," he said.

In 2013, the US exported about $7.3 million of spiny lobster to China, up from about $3.2 million the previous year, according to a report in Miami Today and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The Caribbean spiny lobster is found from Brazil to Bermuda. The major countries that catch this lobster are Brazil, Cuba, the Bahamas, Nicaragua and Honduras. In Florida the commercial fishery is only in south Florida, mostly the Florida Keys. Recreational fishermen catch small numbers of lobsters in all the waters surrounding the state," said Matthews.

He said the Caribbean spiny lobster is a carnivore. It eats any small snailor other crustacean that it can catch and fit into its mouth. Although they will scavenge, there are generally not many dead animals in a healthy ecosystem, so lobsters are not naturally scavengers. In the Caribbean lobsters reproduce in all months. In Florida, because of our semi-tropical climate, lobsters reproduce mostly from April to July.

Sackton said the Chinese made it clear that they prefer a live lobster. "They want a live lobster flown to China and they are willing to pay for it. They got the fleet in the Florida Keys to change some of their tactics to meet this requirement," he added.

Because China is such a huge market, Sackton said regulatory agencies must adopt safeguards to ensure the spiny lobster population thrives.

The FWC must conduct enforcement against poaching," he said. "They also need to look out for traps that are set in protected areas or national parks."

The wholesale price of a lobster tail in the US, which is similar to a spiny lobster, is about $20 a pound, Sackton said. In China, the Australian live spiny lobster costs about $80 to $100 a jin (1.1 pound) and the cost of a North American lobster in China is $20 a jin, he said.

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Direct air route expected to cut time and costs for Alaska's seafood exports to China

 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SCOM] December 29, 2014

Alaska seafood is expected to to reach the Chinese market more directly and at a lower cost with the launch of the first non-stop air route between Anchorage and the Hunan Province.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Dynamic Airways' Boeing 767 took off from the Hunan Province's central city of Changsha on Sunday evening. The direct air route from Changsha to Anchorage takes about nine and a half hours according to Liu Zhiren, the general manager of Hunan Airport Management Group.  After the non-stop flight to Anchorage, the trip continues to Los Angeles. 

Liu said Dynamic will charter the direct flights through the end of March at which point it will launch a regular twice-a week flight.

"The opening of the route will help Alaska's salmon, crabs and beef to enter into the Chinese market with a much lower price," the press release concluded.

Changsha airport also expects to open air routes to Tokyo and Australia in 2015.

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High tech acoustic underwater vehicles being used to find cod spawning areas in Gulf of Maine

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Cape Cod Times] By Doug Fraser - December 29, 2014 - 

PLYMOUTH, MA, Half-submerged in the ocean east of Scituate, the canary-yellow glider with swept-back wings looked like little more than someone’s errant model plane. But appearances can be deceiving, especially in this electronic age where more and more sophisticated technology is being loaded into ever smaller and sleeker packages.

From his perch over the deck, Bob Wallace, captain of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary research vessel Auk, swung the stern around so crew member Dave Slocum and Eric Matzen of the National Marine Fisheries Service could grapple the sophisticated torpedo that researchers hoped would provide valuable clues to the future of cod, the most iconic fish in New England.

In the Gulf of Maine, as many as 80 percent of legal-size cod die each year from fishing and natural causes and the size of the spawning stock is considered to be just 3 percent of what constitutes a healthy population. NMFS is considering reducing the annual catch to a level so low that it could shut down all fishing well before the limits on other, more plentiful species are caught.

Everyone agrees that finding cod spawning grounds is critical to rebuilding the species. Although significant anecdotal and research data exist on where and when cod spawning occurs, the areas and timing are so broad that shutting them down could result in significant closures and potentially cause fishermen unnecessary pain and economic losses.

“It’s all been very carefully tracked by the (state) Division of Marine Fisheries and others,” said Leila Hatch, a marine ecologist at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and acoustic study collaborator with Sofie Van Parijs, a passive acoustics scientist at the service's Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.

But scientists believe that cod spawning areas may be so small that they are going largely undetected and unprotected. Because cod group tightly together when they are spawning, fishermen often target these aggregations, if regulations haven’t closed the area. Five years ago, fishermen discovered a true honey hole, three miles off Gloucester where as many as 30,000 large cod gathered each year to spawn. The state ultimately closed it down after fishermen and others voiced concern about the high catch rates. Regulators and scientists worry about other important spawning groups that may have gone unnoticed or have shifted their location due to fishing pressure or environmental factors.

When the state closed the area, the DMF set up what was essentially an underwater lab with a gridwork of acoustic buoys to listen to the signals from tagged cod that identified individual fish, and used video and ultrasound to observe movements within the school night and day. Cod mate mainly in inshore state waters, in densely packed cone-shaped schools researchers call haystacks. Males emit grunting sounds to attract females and warn off competitors.

In 2011, Van Parijs and Hatch partnered with the DMF, UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology and local fishermen to deploy and retrieve acoustic receivers and analyze data. They added a second set of buoys capable of recording vocalizations from marine mammals and fish like cod.

The group was able to save money by piggybacking their research onto existing whale vocalization studies being conducted by the Stellwagen sanctuary and NMFS. But unlike right whales, which can throw their voice eight miles across the breadth of Massachusetts Bay, cod grunts travel for only about a football field.

“It was a needle in a haystack operation, and these are tight haystacks,” Hatch said. This year, the study added The Nature Conservancy and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and broadened its reach by including the two Slocum gliders from WHOI. The glider uses batteries to power an interchangeable array of instruments and sensors and to empty and refill ballast tanks. Changes in buoyancy cause the torpedo-shaped vessel to descend, gliding forward thanks to its swept wings, then rise as ballast tanks empty. in a saw-tooth pattern that can be repeated for hundreds of miles for up to six weeks. The crew of the Auk deployed the two gliders on Dec. 1, delaying the release of the second torpedo 12 hours so that both night and daytime spawning was monitored. The two gliders followed a pre-programmed route that zig-zagged through the state’s field of acoustic buoys, but also explored far beyond those limits to see if spawning was also occurring elsewhere.

“The biggest struggle is that there are so few cod left to find,” Van Parijs said. “We are hoping the gliders will find the areas we don’t know about.”

Along its route, the glider surfaced every two hours, the antenna in its tail held up above the waves by the ballast bag in the stern, to transmit data to a satellite, which relayed it to researchers. A black tube strapped to the top of the gliders listened for signals from tagged fish. while a bulky amber bulb projecting off its nose recorded noise and vocalizations. While it is capable of distinguishing the calls of various whale species, scientists will have to download the recordings when the gliders are returned to WHOI and they run them through an instrument built to detect cod grunts.

The location and environmental information like temperature and depth accompany each vocalization, and hopefully will give clues as to why spawning occurs in specific spots and not in others.

“None of these technologies is a silver bullet,” said Hatch. “But we are throwing a lot of technology at the problem because it is a critical problem.”

The cod project is one of a suite of acoustic studies undertaken by the Fisheries Science Center and its partners that is funded for the next three years. Van Parijs and Hatch hope the acoustic studies will result in meaningful regulations that get the highest benefit with the least pain from closing spawning areas.

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As Newfoundland's cod comes back, industry sees peril and opportunity

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [The Telegram] by  Ashley Fitzpatrick Dec 24, 2014

 
There are clear indications of recovery in the province’s once-devastated cod stocks. And it has industry players looking at what comes next.
 
Northern cod fell under moratorium in 1992 and it is not back yet, according to DFO scientist John Brattey, regardless of now-common anecdotes.
 
“You hear a few fishermen saying, ‘Oh, there’s more now than there was in John Cabot’s day, ’ and all this rhetoric, ” Brattey said. “The information we’ve got, when you look at the big picture, it just doesn’t substantiate that. ”
 
But things are improving.
 
In the early days of the moratorium, northern cod was at about two per cent of its 1980s estimates. It now stands at a little over 15 per cent of 1980s levels.
 
“It’s looking better. It’s coming up, but we’ve still an awful, awful long way to go, ” he said.
 
Results from DFO’s latest offshore survey, to show if king cod’s recovery is continuing unabated, is expected in March.
 
Meanwhile, the positive trend of the last decade is enough to have provincial processors talking, researching and looking to a future of “regime change, ” where cod once again become a large part of landings, as shellfish suffers declines.
 
Several processors told The Telegram they expect to see expanding commercial cod quotas within three to five years.
 
They also say that would be trouble.
 
“We’re the only plant with the people and the knowledge, but we’re not ready. This industry is not ready for that to happen. We don’t have the harvesting capacity. We definitely do not have the processing capacity, ” said Alberto Wareham, president of Icewater Seafoods.
 
The Icewater plant in Arnold’s Cove currently employs about 180 people, with an average age of 52, with 25 to 30 full weeks of employment each year.
 
Icewater is a rarity, with its year-round focus on Atlantic cod and competing in world markets, based on the limited quantities now being landed from bycatch and management areas where the moratorium does not apply, including 3PS, the area off the province’s south coast.
 
Cod provides about $9 million in landed value to the local industry, compared to about $465 million for shellfish (roughly 80 per cent of the total landed value).
 
But Wareham says there is demand for cod. There are markets. Supplying those markets, meeting the specific demands for quality fish and fish fillets, will be the challenge as more catch becomes available.
 
“I guess I’m concerned. I’m in the business. I want to have a strong fishery of the future. I believe we can do it, but we’ve got to start talking about it and we’ve got to start making some serious plans, ” he said.
 
“The majority of cod that’s landed in Iceland and Norway, it’s not landed in a 10-foot or a 15-foot speedboat. It’s landed in boats that are a lot larger, they go to sea for five or seven days with 10 or 15 men and they’re landing 100,000 or 200,000 pounds of cod after five days and they’re able to fish year-round, ” he said, noting harvesters here are already stretched, making any talk of new boats a challenge.
 
A $400-million fund for the future might have helped, but it sits in the air, under provincial-federal dispute.
 
For now, Wareham’s plant remains 98 per cent dependent on fish from the scattered, inshore fleet. And to keep the operation running, even at its current 40 per cent of capacity, the company buys fish from up to 3,000 fishermen all over the island.
 
On the processing side, it is not about plant buildings, but what is inside them. The Telegram was told tooling up for cod would require from $5 million to $7 million.
 
In a rare interview, Robin Quinlan of Quinlan Brothers said his company has long been looking at preparing for cod.
 
“We need time to retool, to put Newfoundland fish back into the market, to develop a brand and develop a quality surrounding that brand. That doesn’t happen over­night, ” he said.
 
Quinlan Brothers is one of the province’s largest employers, with about 150 people at its plant in Old Perlican and 600 in Bay de Verde, the latter including about 20 foreign workers from Thailand.
 
If growing labour needs require the availability of more year-round employment, the answer might lie in the return of cod, Quinlan suggested.
 
“We have a pool of fish in 3PS (on the south coast) today that we can use as a test case.  We can use it to develop our markets. We can use it to develop a wintertime fishery, ” he said.

 

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Mexico's $37 million payoff plan would ban gillnet fishing in Gulf of California to save porpoises

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Associated Press] December 29, 2014

Mexican authorities are proposing a $37-million plan to ban gillnet fishing in most of the upper Sea of Cortez to save the critically endangered vaquita marina, the world's smallest porpoise.

The plan would compensate fishermen for stopping the use of nets that often sweep up the tiny porpoises along with their catch.

Recent reports suggest there are fewer than 100 of the shy, elusive porpoises left in the Sea of Cortez, which is also known as the Gulf of California. The gulf is the only place on Earth where the marine mammals are found.

The proposal was submitted this week for mandatory public consultation, and could be implemented in a couple of months.

The vaquita is threatened by gillnet fishing for totoaba, a huge, heavy fish whose swim bladder is prized by chefs in China.

There is already a protected reserve area around the mouth of the Colorado River delta, but the new proposal would greatly increase the no net-fishing area southward. The new area would essentially include almost all of the vaquitas' known range. The ban would initially be in place for two years.

The plan presented by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department would pay some of the fishermen to work patrolling the area to detect violations of the net ban. Some non-threatening net fishing techniques would be allowed for some months of the year.

Omar Vidal, of the World Wildlife Fund, praised the plan but noted that "enforcement is the main challenge," because of illegal fishing by small boats in the area.

The biggest threat is China's hunger for totoaba swim bladders; though fishing for totoaba is already illegal, the very high prices that Chinese chefs are willing to pay make it a lucrative illicit industry.

According to the Smithsonian Institution's website, one totoaba bladder can attract a $5,000 US payoff in the United States, and more than $10,000 in Asia.

"If this works well, then Mexico will have given the world a unique example to demonstrate that it is possible to save an endangered species and support sustainable fisheries," Vidal said.

But with perhaps only a couple of dozen reproductively mature females left, Vidal noted, there isn't much time left.

Capturing vaquitas to breed them in captivity isn't an option because it would not be feasible to capture or hold a sufficient number.

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