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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, September 03, 2010: Is it just me or has this entire Earl thing been way overdone? No, I’m not going soft on the deadly dangers of underestimating a huge ‘cane but this storm virtually never …

Friday, September 03, 2010: Is it just me or has this entire Earl thing been way overdone? No, I’m not going soft on the deadly dangers of underestimating a huge ‘cane but this storm virtually never made landfall anywhere but has the fame of a Top 20 blow – if you were to go on hype and hysteria via the media (excluding me). Ratings for weather shows are the culprit. And it is being a “culprit” to get the public all fired up for low-end weather events. That over-hype thing leads to the famed and potentially catastrophic “indifference” and “complacency” attitudes when for-real storms rear their ugly heads. I’m likely pushing the blame game too far when I suggest the death of a swimmer last night up in Monmouth County might have been due, in part, to the media hype -- drawing folks to the beach to challenge the top-rated storm surf. Not that anything is going to change when it comes to our infatuation with skies gone extreme. Folks are addicted to storms – and potential catastrophes in general -- so they’ll be tuned in and ramped for each and every blow that hits the small screen. Again, the problem comes when those people actually in the mix, like coastal residents, get disenchanted with the preparation game -- or, worse yet, they fail to use that sixth sense gained from here living long enough to know when a storm is for real.

AS for Earl, a dud to be sure. We are seeing weather, to be sure. However, for most of us, the concept of 40 mph gustiness is a near weekly happening all winter long, when either cold front-related west winds or even nor’easters wield that windage – sometimes fro days on end. W will breathe a sigh of beach relief that Holgate wasn’t forced to take another hit to its heart – just as he get ready to reintroduce ourselves to the far south end. Of course, this winter will be a different story, storm-wise. There will be some ocean ferocity to be sure. Holgate will have its back to the wall for the umpteenth year in a row.

To enjoy the south end via buggy, just make sure to get that permit. I’ve gotten word that there will be an enhanced checking of permits this buggying season. I’ll also note there might even be a checking of angler registry permits. I’ll know more about that shortly.

NEWWIRES:

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[By Ken Coons] - September 3, 2010 - The summer flounder (fluke) stock has been recovering well in the mid-Atlantic region.

After reviewing the second and third wave of catch data collected on summer flounder thus far this year, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council last week voted to increase the 2011 commercial and recreational summer flounder harvest quota by as much as 8.5 million pounds, from 25.4 million pounds this year to nearly 34 million pounds next year.

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[Environment 360} By james Prosek - September 3, 2010 -

The freshwater eel, which spawns in the middle of the ocean, was once abundant in much of the world.

But the proliferation of dams, coastal development, and overfishing have drastically reduced eel populations, with few defenders coming to the aid of these fascinating - though still not fully understood - creatures.

In the early 19th century, freshwater eels - the only fish in the world that spends its adult life in freshwater and spawns in the middle of an ocean - were so abundant in New England's rivers that residents described “slicks” of young, migrating eels moving up tidal creeks in spring, so thick they formed mats on top of the water. A century ago, America's eels traveled up the Mississippi and its tributaries as far as Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois, in numbers large enough to support commercial fisheries. Eels once made up 50 percent of the inshore fish biomass of Lake Ontario at the head of the St. Lawrence River.

In England's Thames River, a little more than a century ago, runs of young eels, each about two inches in length, formed a densely-packed column five inches wide that ran uninterrupted for miles. Indeed, the word for a young freshwater eel, elver, is thought to have come from a phenomenon in mid-May on the Thames that eel fishermen used to term the “eel fair.”

These days, however, an eel caught in the St. Lawrence, the Thames, or the rivers of America's Upper Midwest is an aberration. The range of

Their sliminess and association with the snake and the phallus have made eels tough to champion.

American and European eels is shrinking dramatically and their total populations have fallen sharply. Populations of freshwater eels the world over —from South Africa, to Indonesia, to Australia - are in decline as the mysterious creatures have fallen victim to hydropower dams that macerate them on their downstream migrations, to coastal and river development that destroys or degrades their habitat, and to fisheries working to satisfy a robust demand for eels in Asia, especially in Japan.

As an international symposium on plummeting eel populations declared in 2003, “In recent decades, juvenile abundance has declined dramatically: by 99 percent for the European eel, Anguilla anguilla, and by 80 percent for the Japanese eel, Anguilla japonica. Recruitment of American eel, Anguilla rostrata, to Lake Ontario, near the species' northern limit, has virtually ceased.”

The decline of the world's eels mirrors crashing populations of many other magnificent marine creatures. But unlike the salmon, swordfish, or giant bluefin tuna - bold and magnificent emblems of the rivers and seas that have attracted funds to the coffers of conservation groups that support these charismatic creatures - the world's eels have few defenders and are quietly slipping away. Their sliminess and association with the snake and the phallus, as well as a general tendency to stir human uneasiness, have made eels a tough species to champion.

In its own way, the freshwater eel is as remarkable as other great migratory fish. Unlike anadromous fish, such as salmon and shad, that spawn in freshwater and live their adult lives in saltwater, freshwater eels are catadromous, meaning they spend their adult lives in freshwater (on average 10 to 30 years) and spawn in the middle of an ocean. The American and European eels spawn in the same general area - the western part of the subtropical gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda and the Azores, a region of the Bermuda Triangle known as the Sargasso Sea. No one has witnessed an adult eel spawning in the ocean. The only reason we know they do is because eel larvae, days after hatching, have been caught in fine mesh nets drifting near the surface. A single female can carry thirty million eggs. To our knowledge, an eel spawns only once and dies, as adults have never been seen returning up rivers.

There are 14 other species of freshwater eels that make migrations from the rivers of other continents to spawning places (many of them unknown) in other oceans in the Indo-Pacific region, from east Africa to Polynesia and north to Korea and Japan. One of the more fascinating is the New Zealand longfin eel. It is not only the largest freshwater eel, reaching lengths of seven feet, but is the longest lived - individuals have been aged at over a hundred years; the indigenous Maori say they live much longer.

In earlier eras, the eels' autumn exodus from freshwater to the ocean, as well as the spring migration of juveniles upstream, must have been one of the largest migrations of any creature on the planet, with naturalists describing processions of young eels swimming upstream for several straight days.

To this day, no one knows how the baby eels, all born in one place in the middle of an ocean, distribute themselves evenly throughout their vast range, which on the east side of the Atlantic historically extended from North Africa to all tributaries of the Mediterranean and north to France, England, and the Baltic Sea. Once in the rivers, the eels seemed to intuitively continue dividing their numbers, until the manna was disseminated.

But for a migratory fish such as the eel, the proliferation of hydropower dams worldwide was a major issue, perhaps the major issue, contributing to the species' decline. For example, construction of the Beauharnois and Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dams on the St. Lawrence in the mid-20th century impeded the migrations of eels to and from what once comprised the single largest nursery for the American eel - Lake Ontario and its tributaries. Even if a juvenile eel was able to make it upstream of the dams via fish ladders, the downstream gauntlet was nearly insurmountable. The dams have turbines like giant window fans that spin horizontally as the water goes through, transforming the kinetic energy of falling water into electrical energy - and also grinding up the eels. Power companies have tried all kinds of ways to keep eels away from turbines in dams - screens, high-frequency sounds, lights— to no avail. The eels feel the pull through the penstock, the tube that funnels water to the turbine. The instinct to preserve energy for their long journey turns out to be deadly.

During the fall migration on the St. Lawrence, the accumulated mortality from the turbines of both dams was about 40 percent, according to John Casselman, a biologist at Queen's University in Ontario. That didn't account for the fish that were wounded and weren't in good enough physical condition to make the long journey to the Sargasso Sea. “Unfortunately,” Casselman said, “since the dams on the St. Lawrence are run-of-the-river and use all the flow, there is little or no likelihood that the eels can get by any other way.”

The population of young eels coming up the fish ladder at the Moses-Saunders hydroelectric dam has dropped from nearly a million in the 1980s, to a hundred thousand in the early 1990s, to less than ten thousand in the late 1990s, and virtually to zero in 2000. Hydroelectric dams have similarly hurt eel populations worldwide.

The international trade in eels - a multibillion-dollar industry driven largely by Japan's appetite for the rich, fatty flesh - has also taken a heavy toll. By the 1970s, populations of native Japanese eels had fallen to a level

where they could not satisfy the domestic market. Buyers started looking elsewhere to meet the demand. Dealers discovered that similar eels lived in Europe and North America. The most efficient way to import them was as juveniles, known as glass eels, and then raise them in farms. By the mid-1990s the Japanese eel population had fallen so precipitously it sent prices for American glass eels to levels never before seen— an event that fishermen and conservation officers alike refer to as the eel 'gold rush.'

Despite alarming declines in numbers of adult eels, fishing continues; the eel trade remains dependent on the capture of wild fish, because no one has figured out how to reproduce eels in captivity in an economically viable way.

In recent years, the evidence of a drastic decline in global eel populations has become irrefutable. No longer are enough eels being born in the Sargasso Sea to spread to the extremes of the fish's historical range. In the U.S., plenty of eels still exist in South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, closer to the spawning grounds, but in places such as the St. Lawrence in Canada or in the Mississippi, eels hardly show up anymore. Likewise, in Europe, populations are still somewhat healthy in the rivers of France and England closer to the eels' birthplace in the Sargasso, but beyond the strait of Denmark in the Baltic Sea, or at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea - and up the Nile - there are far fewer. In 2007, fisheries scientists reported that the European eel population was “outside of safe biological limits.” Last March, the Belfast Morning Telegraph reported that virtually no glass eels were returning to the lakes of Northern Ireland, including such famous fisheries for eels as Lough Neagh.

Willem Dekker, a biologist at the Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research, said the steep decline in eel populations threatens the livelihoods of more than 25,000 European fishermen. But he said the causes of the drop are not fully understood. “The eel stock is dangerously close to collapse,” Dekker wrote in the newsletter of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. “Without better, coordinated assessments and an international management plan, the future looks bleak for these ocean travelers.”

The global response to rapidly diminishing eel populations has been feeble. The European Union has threatened to shut down the commercial fishery for eels in Europe, but has never actually done so. Some European countries have taken action on their own, including Ireland, which, in response to rapidly dwindling populations, shut down its commercial and recreational eel fisheries until June 2012.

In 2000, in the U.S., the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission issued an extensive Interstate Fishery Management Plan for the American eel, recommending necessary steps to save the species. Despite evidence in the report of a “very serious” decline along the U.S. Atlantic coast, the proposed plan was never put into effect. In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that the eel, though threatened, was not in immediate danger of extinction and therefore should not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. That decision did not sit well with some scientists, including John Casselman of Queens University, Ontario, who first reported on the decline in eel reproduction in the St. Lawrence River. “It is truly a crisis,” said Casselman.

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[seafoodnews.com] - September 3, 2010 - The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) issued a prompt rebuttal to the criticisms of a group of scientists published in the journal, Nature.

MSC said its standard is a measure of the sustainability of a fishery against well-defined principles and criteria. The bar at which a fishery demonstrates it is well-managed and sustainable represents a broad scientific consensus, agreed by over 200 marine biologists, scientists, environmentalists and other stakeholders from around the world, over the course of a two-year consultation period (1997- 1999).

The NGO maintains 'Every certified fishery is sustainable.'

MSC says 'Every fishery certified to the MSC standard is sustainable and well-managed and fisheries are not, as the authors assert, certified before they can demonstrate their sustainability.'

'The scoring of a fishery against the MSC standard has two key posts, a score of 60 and 80. In relation to stock levels (the example used by the authors of the Nature piece), the 60 score represents the precautionary limit for sustainability. A score of 60 and above indicates that the stock is not overfished and is at a sustainable level, as defined by the 2009 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) guidelines for ecolabelling of fish and fishery products. A fishery must be able to demonstrate it is sustainable by meeting this score in order to be MSC certified.'

'The MSC program demands additional precaution and sets a target level for the stock which equates to a score of 80. If a fishery is scored between 60 and 80 for its stock level, the fishery must take action to increase the score to the target 80 within a set period of time. If the fishery fails to reach this target, it can lose its certification.'

'This higher level further reduces the risk of the stock —which could be being depleted because of natural fluctuations - falling below sustainable levels and allows the fishery sufficient time to respond to new data on stock levels and implement any necessary changes to ensure that the stock can move back up to the higher target level.'

'Stock abundance is a key indicator of the sustainability of a fishery but further rigor is built-into to the MSC standard by scoring the fishery against a total of thirty one performance indicators. If the score for any one of these indicators is less than 60 the fishery would fail.'

The authors of the Nature piece said that fisheries that use bottom trawls or utilise the catch for the production of fishmeal should not be viewed as responsible and sustainable.

MSC notes, 'The MSC program does not prescribe gear types or specify the final use of the fishery products. Instead, as an outcome based programme, it requires all fisheries seeking to be certified meet the science-based principles and criteria of the MSC standard that together are a measure of the status of the stock, the level of impact on the environment, and the management system the fishery has in place. The ‘open' approach of the MSC program meets the requirement of the guidelines of the UN FAO for a global certification and ecolabel program for fish products. Consequently, the program is open to all fisheries to be assessed against the rigorous, science-based standard.'

MSC also notes, 'The ability of stakeholders to file an appeal of the certifier's conclusions is a unique and robust feature of the MSC program. The purpose of the objections procedure is to provide a structured and independent review to ensure that a certifier has followed the correct procedures; has taken into account all the relevant information; and has provided a clear rationale for each score awarded. The ruling on an objection is decided by an Independent Adjudicator, not the MSC. The objections procedure is therefore the last in a series of checks and balances which ensures the outcome of a fishery assessment is scientifically valid.'

The MSC statement concluded with notes on specific fisheries that were the subject of the criticisms lodged against it:

• Harvest of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba ) is very low – less than 1 per cent of the most recent estimated biomass. The management authority for the fishery is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which was established in part to address concerns that an increase in krill catches in the Southern Ocean could have a serious effect on populations of krill. CCAMLR has adopted a very precautionary approach designed to ensure fishing activities minimize risks to the krill population. Further, for the season 2007/08, the total landings (by all boats operating in the area) were 150,000 tonnes – just four per cent of the total allowable catch set by CCAMLR.

• The pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) fishery in the Bering Sea benefits from very high levels of scientific study and analysis backed up by 100 percent federal observer coverage. The science supporting the fishery is a result of local, state and federal agencies, and industry working together collaboratively. The pollock stock is well known by scientists to fluctuate, rising and falling in natural cycles i.e. not as a result of fishing activity. Annual harvest levels are set by the management agencies in accordance with these cycles. The important factor relevant to MSC certification is that the population levels are fluctuating around the target reference point (the 80 score) and therefore the fishery has been determined by the independent assessment team to be well managed and sustainable

• The Pacific hake (Merluccius productus) fishery was certified as sustainable and well managed following a comprehensive two-year scientific assessment of the fishery completed by an independent, third-party certifier, and a three-month review of an objection to the certifier's finding that the fishery meets the MSC standard. The conclusion of the Independent Adjudicator was confirmation of the certifier's original determination i.e. that the fishery meets the MSC standard on all three Principles and should be certified. Stock levels for this fishery are highly variable and large fluctuations are observed, linked to variations in the ecosystem's capacity to support Pacific hake. Fishery harvests are reduced to precautionary levels when stock assessment models show negative trends. The 89 per cent decline figure used by the authors takes as its basis the highest ever recorded biomass of Pacific hake, 4.6m tonnes in 1984.

• Toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni)is still in assessment and therefore the MSC cannot comment on its status. However, it is important to note that an ‘exploratory fishery' is not a fishery without sufficient knowledge to carry out exploitation, but rather a fishery where the management authority sets a highly precautionary catch level while investing in collecting data that is fed back into their own scientific assessment to enable further development of the fishery. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is the management authority for this fishery and, as demonstrated by the case of Antarctic krill, sets very precautionary catch levels for its fisheries.

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