Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Very funny, dad!
Below: A possum I befriended near Ballinger Creek, LEHT. It was nervous at first but totally fell for a handful of Goldfish. It ate a couple, its eyes lit up and it was as if we had been friends for life.
POSSUM TIDBIT: Now, don’t freak on me for allowing my column to suddenly go so opossumy. I know that last week I wrote about the hilariously clueless effort to use possums to massacre inner-city rats in NYC. A failed effort. However, I have since been contacted about something possums really can exterminate: ticks. Yes, I’m talking tick ticks … those despicable, disease-carrying, bloodsucking arachnids, the bane of our wooded areas.
Forget costly guinea hens, which indeed love devouring ticks and other buggy crawlers. Unfortunately, nonindigenous guineas end up being far more eaten than eaters. Our ravenous hawks scarf them down like candy. Now, it turns out those tick-eating birds can’t hold a citronella candle to the tick-eating potential of Pogo and his pink-tailed coterie. A recently published study indicates that an opossum is a tick-eating machine.
Researcher Richard Ostfeld, of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., has long been following the tick-downing habits of possums. He estimates a single one of these marsupials can down loads of ticks per week. This consumption rate is confirmed through the careful examination of possum poo. What, you don’t routinely check!? Shame on you.
How is it that possums are a tick’s worst enemy? It all has to do with their plumpness, kinky furriness and their waddle-ways. When slowly strutting their stuff, possums offer up just about the juiciest – and slowest – warm-blooded target a tensed tick could hope for. Ticks have yet to master the caveat “If it seems too bloody good to believe …” etc.
Ticks will hop aboard a passing possum like Calcuttan workers grabbing onto a crowded train into the city. Wrong train, you buncha bloodsuckers.
Once ticks board the possum train, they can kiss their proboscises goodbye. Odds are less than 1-in-20 they’ll reach possum skin. It all comes down to – are you ready for this? – the utter immaculacy of possums.
Below: "I'm dead. WTF you keep lookin' at me for?" Actual act.
Despite their seemingly ragged, downright grungy look, opossums are near the top when it comes to being the cleanest, best-groomed critters out there. They tongue-groom themselves to where even a cat would go “Give it a rest already!”
It’s through the incessant self-cleansing process that possums concurrently lap up what can amount to a gravy train of ticks, gathered during a waddle-about – possibly purposely.
“They groom themselves fastidiously, like cats. If they find a tick, they lick it off and swallow it,” says Ostfeld, adding that possums walk around the forest floor “hoovering up” ticks right and left.
While essentially licking ticks to death, they are “really protecting our health,” said Ostfeld, noting the latest stats showing 300,000 people contact tick-transmitted Lyme disease every year.
But even I need some perspective on just how many ticks even a hard-lickin’ opossum can take in. For that, I turned to a publication dubbed “Proceedings of the Royal Society B.”
Yes, I first wondered what a Royal Society might be. Turns out it is short for The President, Council, and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. That answers that. Who better to talk about opossums?
Apparently for either science’s sake or just the bloody hell of it, contributors to the Royal Society caught a range of creatures beloved by ticks, among them white-footed mice, eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, opossums, thrushes and catbirds. They then, uh, infested said wildlife with ticks.
“Whoa, WTF are you socialites doing!?”
“Hey, back off, my good man, I’ll have you know we’re members of President, Council, and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.”
Oh … sorry.
Their findings: Almost half of all ticks introduced onto mice were able to feed on the rodents, while only a measly 3.5 percent of ticks introduced onto opossums found blood.
Through more research, it was duly determined that wild-caught opossums routinely carried an average of almost 200 ticks. Bandying about that 3.5 percent tick success rate, every opossum attracts and eats over 5,500 ticks in less than a week. Eat your hearts out, guinea fowl. Oh, that’s right, the hawks saw to that.
The DFW Wildlife Coalition also sang the high praises of opossums.
“When left alone, the opossum does not attack pets or other wildlife; he does not chew your telephone or electric wires, spread disease, dig up your flower bulbs or turn over your trash cans. On the contrary, the opossum does a great service in insect, venomous snake, and rodent control. He takes as his pay only what he eats, and maybe a dry place to sleep. The ’possum tolerates our pets, our cars, prodding sticks, rocks and brooms. ‘Attacks’ by opossums are simply non-existent. When he gets too close, or accidentally moves into your attic space, he can be easily convinced to move along. If you are lucky enough to have one of these guys come around, you can rest assured he is cleaning up what he can, and will soon move along to help someone else.”
As for any rabies fear, perish the thought when it comes to possums. It’s almost as if they’re too clean for the disease … or possibly immune, as is now being researched.
According to Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, opossums are “rarely found to be rabid and appear to be resistant to many viral diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and feline hepatitis.”
Hey, clean living has it perks.
Just after cutting this weekly video forecast, another over 28-inch striped bass was reported from the Mullica River - still no reported keepers yet at Graveling Point! It's been a particularly mild winter of course, and the all-time highs this second week of March should only spur improved fishing action along several fronts. Striped bass continue to bite along the banks of the Mullica and Raritan rivers, with reports from kayak anglers also coming from around the Route 37 Bridge in Toms River.
Our Bro, Martin Jr. showing love for his fishing passion.
We're loving this new license plate cover!!!! $15.95 #TruexNation#NASCAR
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Hakai] By Virginia Gewin - March 9, 2016 -
In the ocean’s twilight zone—the shadowy region from 200 to 1,000 meters below the surface, formally known as the mesopelagic—lurks a cache of fish so massive, the military reportedly once considered trying to hide their submarines beneath it. Small and often bioluminescent, many mesopelagic fish sport cartoonish big eyes and oily flesh that help them thrive in the dark, cold water. And as the world faces a decline in surface fish stocks and a growing demand for protein, resource strategists behind the European Union’s Blue Growth Strategy to expand the maritime economy have identified the estimated 10 billion metric tonnes of fish lurking in the depths as an unexploited resource.
Danes and Norwegians are exploring mesopelagic fisheries in the Indian and Arctic Oceans, says Michael St. John, an oceanographer at the Technical University of Denmark. In Iceland, experimental fishing for pearlside is currently underway, following a precautionary approach. It’s not easy to catch these fish. Technical challenges include: finding suitable trawl nets, preserving the catch until it reaches harbor, and unwanted by-catch. “As soon as [fishermen] get the technology nailed down, there will be a potential gold rush,” says St. John.
Mesopelagic fish, says US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Noelle Bowlin, won’t be showing up on your plate any time soon. Most often, their fats are quite unpalatable to humans. Instead, St. John says, the fishing industry is looking to mesopelagic fish to satisfy the future demand for fish feed and fish oil. The fish could be used to raise more edible species through aquaculture, and may show up in human dietary supplements.
But tapping into this unused resource could have profound global ramifications—for climate change as well as biodiversity—which is why St. John and his colleagues are calling for an unprecedented assessment of the role these species play in ocean carbon storage and marine food webs before the fisheries are developed.
Without more research, it’s impossible to predict the consequences of opening a commercial mesopelagic fishery. But as St. John suggests, scientists suspect the impact would extend beyond the direct effects on the fish populations.
Lanternfish, for example, are among the species that carry out the largest vertical daily migration on Earth. At night, these fish—each no larger than a dollar bill—feed in the rich water near the surface. As the Sun rises, the horde descends to the depths of the mesopelagic, taking the nutrients they consumed at the surface with them. “It looks like 70 percent of the carbon reaching the deep ocean is moved by this community,” says St. John. “Beyond their importance as food for other fish, overexploiting this community could have serious impacts on climate change, limiting the amount of carbon dioxide the ocean can take up.”
The so-called “biological carbon pump,” essentially sinking dead organic matter, sends roughly 11 gigatons of carbon each year to the deep ocean. Without this pump (of which the lanternfish activity is just a part), atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations would be about 50 percent higher than they are.
St. John says conducting detailed studies exploring the potential ecosystem-level consequences of a mesopelagic fishery before it opens would be a landmark move. He says that there is time to gather the necessary data so that if and when these fisheries do open, they can be managed sustainably from the get-go.
The question of commercial mesopelagic fishing may be a matter of when, not if, says Paul Shively, the director of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Pacific Ocean conservation efforts. “There are so many mesopelagic fish out there, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they aren’t exploited more in the future.”
So far, mesopelagic fishes’ contribution to the fish meal and fish oil industries is “very small, if not negligible,” Neil Auchterlonie, the technical director at the Marine Ingredients Organisation, an international body representing the fish meal, fish oil, and marine ingredients industry, says by email. Similarly, a spokesperson at the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s says they are not aware of any mesopelagic products currently available, particularly for direct human consumption.
The global fish oil industry is valued at around US $1.2-billion. Photo by Ted Horowitz/Corbis
But fisheries can develop quickly, says Andrew Clayton, the director of a Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to end overfishing in northwestern Europe. For example, a decade ago, boarfish were regarded as a spiny species that was only good for clogging nets. Now, fishing fleets and governments haggle for shares of the stock so that the fish can be used in fish meal.
In the United States, at least, it could be difficult to develop a fishery for a mesopelagic species. The Pacific Fishery Management Council has proposed a plan to prohibit new fisheries targeting as-yet-unmanaged forage fish without scientific information on harvest sustainability and potential ecological effects. The US National Marine Fisheries Service has until mid-March to take action on the proposal.
Mike Heath, a population biologist at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and a co-author, alongside St. John, on the call for more research, says that the fishery council’s plan to delay the opening of the mesopelagic fishery is a good one. But he notes that such a ban will eventually be challenged, making it all the more imperative to gather any evidence needed to guide sustainable management of what are likely slow-to-reproduce species. “We have to make sure that anything we do now doesn’t endanger the prosperity of people in the future,” he says.
So often, conservation biologists and fisheries managers are working to undo the damage caused by overfishing. With mesopelagic fish, they have a chance to get it right from the start.
(Photos NOT from this story.)
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Ellsworth American] By Stephen Rappaport - March 10, 2016 -
ROCKPORT, Maine, Last year, Maine fishermen harvested elvers worth more than $11.4 million from the state’s streams and rivers. That made the fishery for the tiny, translucent juvenile eels the fourth most valuable in the state, but it still wasn’t a good year.
A cold, dry spring delayed the migration of elvers from the sea into the rivers where harvesters set their gear. As a result, Maine fishermen landed just 5,259 pounds of the tiny wrigglers, little more than half the 9,688-pound quota allocated the state by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The good news was that those elvers were worth $2,171 per pound to the harvesters fortunate enough to catch some.
When the Maine Elver Fishermen Association gathered for its annual meeting Saturday morning, harvesters received some good news from Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher and former MEFA Executive Director Jeffrey Pierce.
Emergency legislation enacted that morning should give fishermen a better chance to actually fill the quota, and Keliher said he also hoped it would reduce friction over the elver fishery between the state and Maine’s four tribal governments.
Of immediate consequence, the new law extends the elver season, which begins on Tuesday, March 22, from May 31 to June 7 and allows fishing every day of the week. Under the prior law, the fishery was closed on weekends as a conservation measure.
Initially, LD1502 gave Keliher flexibility to set the 48-hour closures before the season to take account of the tides and minimize the impact on the industry. With fishing limited by a fixed quota since 2014, though, the closure became unnecessary.
The legislation also allows licensed fishermen to chose before each season starts what type of gear they will use — fyke nets or dip nets. It does not, however, authorize the use of more gear.
The statute also fixes the number of commercial elver licenses to be issued, and the amount of gear to be used, to fishermen from the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. According to Keliher, negotiations with the Penobscot Nation were under way and he was cautiously optimistic as to their outcome.
“I couldn’t even guess how many licenses the tribe will issue this year,” Keliher told the harvesters.
The meeting also saw the MEFA membership vote to merge their organization with the Pennsylvania-based American Eel Sustainability Association. ASEA, in addition to representing the elver fishery, represents the interests of harvesters of mature eels.
Maine is the only state with a substantial elver fishery, although South Carolina has a legal fishery with annual landings under 500 pounds and last month regulators approved a new, 200-pound elver fishery in North Carolina for an in-state aquaculture project. Nearly every state along the Atlantic Seaboard allows the commercial harvest of mature silver or yellow eels.
According to Mitchell Feigenbaum, a Pennsylvania-based eel and elver buyer and director of the ASEA, a merger with MEFA would give harvesters a much louder voice before the regulators who manage the fishery and to counteract efforts by various conservation groups to have the American eel designated as endangered.
“It’s more efficient to operate as one organization,” Feigenbaum said. “There’s strength in numbers.”
According to Feigenbaum, although the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined that the American eel population is in no danger, regulators from Europe and other eel-producing countries continue to raise questions about sustainability because their industries have a competitive interest in limiting the quantity of elvers shipped overseas from the United States.
Another issue for elver harvesters now that Maine has established individual landings quotas is to make those quotas transferrable by sale or inheritance like any other valuable asset so that fishermen can enjoy the benefits of “unlocking the latent value” of their quota shares.