Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Wednesday, February 24, 2010:
We’ve gotta quit meeting like this … please. Harkening back to the Black Sox scandal’s most famed quote, I paraphrase, “Say it ain’t snow, Joe.”
I spent the day doing outdoors time and for the forth time this winter season I pondered how long it would be before I can get out again in the face of an approaching snowstorm.
The corny catch phrase for this storm is “snowicane.” That came about when predictions placed the potential wind gusts at over 60 mph. The latest forecast have downgraded those TS-grade winds, a bit. We’ll see 40-something gusts.
It now looks a lot like a fairly typical nor’easter, except for one fairly unique angle: It will stop (stall) near Long Island and perform a pseudo-retrograde. A true nor’easter retrograde is when a storm goes out to sea then stops and begins to back up, i.e. the Perfect Storm. This storm will be more a case of the storm intensifying and the expansion of intensity making it seem as if the storm has moved in from the sea. The other odd angle is the way the storm may actually decay up off New York, simply dying by playing out its energy. That could mean an astounding snow event for Southern New England. I refuse to entertain the depressing possibility that it could stall closer to us and dump snow for 36 hours or more.
I’ve been asked to pass on the Weather Service warning that the snow with this storm will once again (like last storm) be wet and heavy. It could knock down trees and power lines – and strain backs and break hearts when dug. If you’re fully reliant on eclectic heat – or an electrical device for controlling gas heat – keep some contingency plan in mind, as in a kero heater or (in my case) a propane heater, like the torpedo types used by builders. If you get totally stuck in the cold, bundle up in layers and wait for the power to come back on. Getting under a multilayer load of blankets works. Fortunately, the air temps aren’t going to be hideously low for this system.
This winter has gotten so bad that it’s almost novel. In the future, you can wait for your grandkids to bring up what a bad winter it is and you can guffaw and say “You shoulda see the winter of 2010. As I recall we had a dozen storm all over five feet of snow.”
New Bedford Standard Times] By Steve Urbon - Feb 24, 2010 -
NEW BEDFORD January's regional uprising against severe scalloping restrictions was a preview of coming attractions.
On Wednesday, fishermen from America's coastlines will converge on Capitol Hill to rally and lobby for congressional relief from draconian rules they say are putting them out of business.
They are backed by their local mayors and congressmen, and while three hours will be spent by the protesters on the Capitol steps, the day's agenda also includes visits to congressional offices.
The protest is organized by a group called United We Fish, and it expects up to 3,000 participants from the West, Gulf and East coasts and Great Lakes.
The rally will be followed up locally by a fisheries summit meeting in New Bedford set for March 8.
The fishing industry feels as though it has been backed into a corner. Dr. Brian Rothschild, dean emeritus of the UMass School of Marine Science and Technology, said there is really no one thing that brought this uprising.
'This has been going on for a long time,' he said. 'It's a case of incrementalism. It's a case of accretion, piecemeal kinds of things. You keep adding them up and then comes the straw that breaks the camel's back.'
In the Northeast, that straw was last November's decision by the New England Fishery Management Council to drastically cut back the scallop harvest, far beyond what would be needed to avoid overfishing.
In an unprecedented move that infuriated environmental groups, the fishermen sought political help from mayors, state lawmakers, governors and congressional delegations and fought back. They forced the council to reopen the subject, and succeeded in getting the council to relax its rules while staying within the boundaries of what science allows.
That action has given rise to the hope that Congress can be moved to amend the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act once again to relax the ever-tightening grip of regulation nationwide.
Fishermen are also buoyed by the January report from the Commerce Department's inspector general, which found unfair and overbearing enforcement of the fisheries laws, particularly in the Northeast. Jane Lubchenco, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scrambled to acknowledge the excesses and is planning to arrange regional summit meetings this spring to address the problems.
But the inspector general's report put NOAA back on its heels and vindicated, to a large degree, some long-standing complaints of the fishing industry.
Pressure on regulators is coming from other directions as well. U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., met in late 2009 with Lubchenco over a series of fisheries problems. But when he deemed her eventual response as inadequate, Frank wrote a scathing letter demanding more action and fewer words.
More recently, Frank was joined by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, in questioning the rationale for demanding that all fish stocks be fully restored within a 10-year timeline, a goal that many scientists and fishermen call impossible and unnecessary.
They called on NOAA to fund an independent review of the policy, which is the underpinning of the entire regulatory scheme today. They, along with others such as New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, question whether NOAA and its regulatory agencies are meeting their obligation not only to the fish, but to the fishing economy, a duty that is spelled out in the law.
Lang doesn't think that initially happened in the case of the scallops. And most in the fishing industry don't think it is happening now with the implementation of 'sectors' along with 'catch shares' in the Northeast.
Sectors, which are cooperatives of similar fishing boats, are a system of regulation that allots catch limits based on the previous history of each individual boat in the sector. The sector then collectively counts its landings against the catch limits, and must stop everything when the allocation is reached for any one species in the sector's portfolio.
Alarmed, fishermen see themselves out of business within a few months as the sectors reach the extremely strict limits for the most limited species. Rothschild said 'the declaration of catch shares was a real tipping point.' At a meeting of the mayor's fishery council in New Bedford earlier this month, local fishermen wondered aloud if they could possibly make it under the sectors system. There are widespread predictions that taking fishing boats out of the fleet is the very objective of sectors and catch shares. Lubchenco has been quoted as saying so herself.
'There's going to be no fishing industry,' said Rodney Avila, owner of two scallop boats and the New Bedford representative on the New England council. 'Everybody woke up,' he said. 'Sectors are not going to work. And if they do work, they will be too expensive for the industry to maintain. You've got fishing monitors, dock monitors and you've got to pay a manager to manage it. What it's doing is taking over the National Marine Fisheries Service's job and the industry has got to pay for it.'
Like Frank, Avila questions the 10-year imperative for rebuilding stocks to the maximum for every species.
'It's never been that way. It's unrealistic to have that,' he said. 'Even if we stopped fishing and scientists will tell you this if nobody went fishing, it will never build up to the maximum for every species' because of natural variances in spawning and interaction.
'You can't tell Mother Nature you're going to have 17 stocks built up to a certain level,' said Richard Canastra, owner of the New Bedford Seafood Display Auction.
'And it doesn't matter what management tool you use, if it's controlled by the weakest link, it's definitely not going to work,' he said.
Wednesday's rally is set for noon on the Capitol steps. Lang said he plans to attend. Many New England representatives will be traveling by bus on Tuesday to be in the district for the entire event. The chartered bus leaves Gloucester in midmorning and should arrive at the seafood auction around 11 a.m., according to Canastra.
[Gloucester Daily Times] By Patrick Anderson - February 24, 2010 - Bluefin tuna fishermen have gained the support of 15 members of Congress in the fight against a proposed international trade ban on the prized sushi fish, an important summer income source for Massachusetts fishermen out of Gloucester and elsewhere.
A letter released late last week from U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and signed by five members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, acknowledged bluefin was overfished, but said traditional fisheries management was a more effective way to restore it.
The trade ban could have 'unintended consequences that would unfairly disadvantage U.S. fishermen and actually hinder swift recovery of the species,' the letter said.
The letter was signed by recently seated Sen. Scott Brown, along with Massachusetts Congressmen Jon Tierney, Barney Frank, William Delahunt and Stephen Lynch and the entire delegations from New Hampshire and Maine.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who did not sign the letter, said the senator 'is talking with fishing and environmental experts - both at the state and federal level - about the proposal, and will have more discussions with his constituents before he makes a final determination.'
The bluefin trade ban was proposed by the Mediterranean principality of Monaco under a United Nations treaty on endangered species known as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Fauna and Flora - or CITES.
Although it wouldn't directly prevent the catch of bluefin or sale of the fish within a nation, a CITES listing would prevent fish landed in countries that observe the treaty, which includes the United States, from being exported.
A report from the U.S. Commerce Department said American bluefin tuna exports in 2007 were worth $2.94 million.
Most of that comes from New England and during the 1990 boom years of bluefin, Massachusetts pulled in up to 57 percent of the nation's catch, according to Salem N.H.-based American Bluefin Tuna Association, which has been lobbying Congress against the CITES proposal for months.
The association said revenue from the sale of bluefin tuna in the United States peaked in 1994, when the country reported landings worth $32 million.
An alpha predator and one of the world's largest,fastest fish, the bluefin tuna traverses the Atlantic and spawns in both the Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
In the past decade, bluefin populations have declined worldwide, driven down by a growing demand for sushi around the world.
The international harvest of bluefin is managed by the International Commission on Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT.
In meeting in Recife, Brazil, last December, ICCAT reduced bluefin quota from 22,500 to 13,500 metric tons and established a timeline for rebuilding the stock by 2023.
Snowe's letter, along with most of the objections to a trade ban, say ICCAT is the venue to stop bluefin overfishing, not CITES.
One problem with the trade ban is that Japan, by far the largest single importer of bluefin tuna, has already announced that it would not honor it.
The result could be a group of nations most responsible for exploiting tuna stocks also ignoring the ban, increasing their export to Japan and then serving as a clearinghouse where illegal black market fish could be 'laundered,' Snowe's letter said.
'Thus, the most depleted portions of the fish stock would suffer increased fishing pressure to make up for the drop in supply from the U.S. and other nations that abide by the CITES,' the Snowe letter says. 'Meanwhile the U.S. fishermen who have led the world in conservation of the species would be excluded from this market thereby bearing the brunt of a Cites listing's economic impact.'
In Gloucester, bluefin is a June-to-October catch that supplements the incomes of many fishermen and boat owners with other fishing targets. With prices as high as $10 a pound, a single giant bluefin of good quality can bring a fisherman as much as $10,000.
Monte Rome, owner of Intershell Seafood Corp., which trades in local bluefin when it is in season, said yesterday that local bluefin catches in recent years had not been good, but the fish still provides significant income for number of small Glouceseter boats.
'Last year saw some signs of recovery,' Rome said.
It's unclear exactly what the U.S. government's position on the CITES proposal will be.
In a statement last October, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco said the United States 'strongly supports Monaco's proposal,' but reserved the right to withdraw that support if ICCAT management was sufficiently strengthened.
Yesterday, a NOAA spokeswoman said no decision had been made on the bluefin listing, but an Obama administration position is being developed by NOAA in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and would be announced soon.
CITES member nations will meet to vote on the proposal next month at a meeting in Doha, Qatar.
In addition to bluefin, trade restrictions have also been proposed on porbeagle sharks and the spiny dogfish, a small shark whose huge numbers and healthy appetites have plagued New England commercial fishermen.
In addition to members of Congress, letters of opposition to a CITES trade ban on bluefin have been submitted from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Gov. Deval Patrick's administration and the New England Fisheries Management Council.
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - Feb 24, 2010 - A potent brew of different grievances will be on display today at a fishermen's rally on the steps of the capitol, which is expected to draw a number of congressional speakers to address several thousand fishermen.
The primary organizers have been the recreational fishing alliance, led by Jim Donofrio, of New Jersey. New Jersey recreational and charter boats have been furious over the closures for black back flounder. Donofrio refused a request to allow new NMFS administrator Eric Schwaab address the rally.
A large contingent of charter captains have come From Florida. Many are involved in a suit over red snapper closures, because the season has been shortened in 2010. Their primary grievance is that the way recreational fishing effort is measured is flawed and unreliable.
The New England scallopers, represented by the Fisheries Survival Fund, have also joined the rally.
'The closures keep coming,' said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the New Jersey Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), one of the rally's main organizers. He said federal requirements that all fish populations be rebuilt to historic levels are 'reckless, unrealistic and without regard for coastal communities and recreational fishermen.'
The event will feature U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand of New York, Congressmen Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Walter Jones, R-N.C., Tim Bishop, R-N.Y., and other reform bill co-sponsors among the more than two dozen speakers .
According to the Gloucester Times, Donofiro rejected a request by NOAA officials that Schwaab be allowed to introduce himself to the national gathering of petitioners was rebuffed yesterday.
'It's not about conciliation Ñ too bad,' said Monica Allen, a public affairs specialist for NOAA, NMFS' parent agency. 'Eric is going to go anyway.'
'What I told Monica was that Eric and no one from NOAA can help us, and I don't want to see him booed off the stage,' Donofrio said. 'It's up to Congress to fix Magnuson. I also said that NOAA under this administration enforces all the arbitrary deadlines.
'This is our day Ñ a day for all the collective fishing community to redress their grievances to Congress and not a day for NOAA to grandstand and make believe they can help us,' said Donofrio, a lead organizer.
'I said that, if Eric wants to say he will work with Congress to reform Magnuson and rid the bill of all arbitrary and non-scientific deadlines, then he will be a welcome speaker.'
One of the rally organizers from Texas, Jim Smarr, state chairman of the recreational fishing alliance, said he has 'made battling the federal fishing bureaucracy a near full-time occupation for almost a decade.'
'The docks around Port Aransas are getting emptier. Every year, there are fewer charter operators left in business and less access for fishermen. Family operators that have made a living doing this 30, 40 years, are dropping out every month. It's death by a thousand paper cuts to a way of life'
'It's a long trip to Washington, but we're coming up with a pretty good contingent from around Corpus Christi because we know the only way this gets fixed is for Congress to tell the agency to make changes.' said Smarr.
In Gloucester, the newspaper applauded the decision to prevent Schwaab from introducing himself, and derided NOAA.
'Above all, the fact NOAA would even try to horn in on the fishermen's demonstration shows federal fishing officials just don't get it. Oh, NOAA officials might have seen Schwaab's potential role as one to 'build bridges' with the fishermen, to talk of 'working together,' perhaps sing a verse or two of 'Kumbaya,' and show that NOAA and NMFS are friendly agencies that want fishermen's input while pursuing common goals.'
The truth is, NOAA chief administrator Jane Lubchenco, for all her talk, has shown the industry far too many times that neither she nor NOAA give a damn what the industry says or thinks. And she delivered that message louder and clearer than ever two weeks ago with her appointment of Schwaab Ñ a career Maryland fish and game bureaucrat Ñ to the top NMFS post.
So it was encouraging to hear 'United We Fish' rally organizer Jim Donofrio of the New Jersey-headquartered Recreational Fishing Alliance tell NOAA communications official Monica Allen that NOAA and Schwaab could take their presentations someplace else.
Today is not a day to talk once again of 'conciliation,' as Allen put it, which any address by Schwaab would no doubt pursue. Simply put, it's too late for that.
[Cape Cod Times] By Doug Fraser - Feb 24, 2010 -
Distributed by McClatchy - Tribune Information Services
Hyannis - Chatham fishermen worry that bureaucratic red tape will keep them from catching the fish they say will allow them to survive another year.
Usually, scientific studies showing fish population declines drive harsher regulations. But this year, new rules due to be implemented in May slash the catch of skates and pollock even though the scientists have information that those populations may actually be more robust than previously believed.
In the case of dogfish, the stock is booming and has even been declared 'rebuilt' by one major regulatory body, but strict quotas remain in place because of a decade-old numbers dispute between the federal fisheries service and the regional fishery management councils.
'If we can't find a way to get higher skate and dogfish quota, and to get more pollock ... we'll see fishing businesses go under in 2010,' said Thomas Fleming, a fishery analyst with the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association.
With an estimated 25- to 50-percent drop expected this coming fishing year in what can be landed in cod, haddock, flounders and other groundfish, fishermen were relying more on these other fish to take up the slack, Fleming said.
Dogfish, a small coastal shark, are marketed in Europe and Asia for fish and chips and other products. Ten years ago, the New England and Mid-Atlantic fishery management councils, which jointly draw up plans for dogfish, disagreed with the National Marine Fisheries Service over the size of a fully rebuilt stock. NMFS set a target that many feel is unrealistic and believe would result in a stock of more than a million metric tons of dogfish. The stock has grown from 158,000 metric tons in 1968 to 558,000 metric tons in 2009.
Last year, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which oversees fishing in state waters along the East Coast, declared dogfish to be rebuilt and upped the quota from 12 million pounds to 15 million pounds this year. While an improvement, it's a long way from the 50 million pounds caught in 1996.
NMFS, which manages dogfish in federal waters, did increase its quota from 3 million pounds to 12 million last year, but kept the daily limit per boat low, at 3,000 pounds. Officials at the federal agency believe the population is only a little over half way back to sustainable levels.
Fleming said NMFS has set an unrealistic goal. Dogfish, he said, are eating up other species and impeding efforts to rebuild stocks of cod and other fish. The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association wants NMFS to allow independent scientists to review the federal agency's rebuilding target and consider the impact of that level of dogfish on other species.
'(The quota) should be about 40 to 50 million pounds to bring dogs down so other (fish stocks) can rebuild,' Chatham fisherman John Our said.
Our is also concerned that fishery managers have cut pollock catches by 65 percent for the coming fishing year.
Last year, Chatham boats that caught pollock averaged around 100,000 pounds apiece. Our said his own quota for this year was cut to just 18 percent of what he caught last year. Worse, he said pollock are abundant and hard to avoid because they swim with cod and other species.
But the science that determined the drastic pollock catch reduction is under review, and fishermen believe new data will show a large pollock stock. Scientists are meeting in Woods Hole this week to evaluate pollock numbers and possibly move to a better, more accurate way of assessing that population.
'It's too early to draw any conclusions,' said Thomas Nies, a fisheries analyst with the New England council who is participating in this week's pollock summit. Even if a re-examination of the data did give a brighter picture, any new quota regulations would likely not be put in place this year, Nies said.
A similar situation exists for skates, flattened, winged fish closely related to sharks. Skate wings are sold to ethnic markets and fancy restaurants in New York, and their bodies are sold as lobster bait. Along with New Bedford, and Port Judith, R.I., Chatham is considered one of the top skate catching ports. New regulations have cut the daily allowable catch per boat from 10,000 pounds to just 1,900.
But those new rules were based on data that is three years old. When new scientific surveys showed that the skate population could actually be much higher, the New England council, which formulated the more stringent plan, wrote NMFS suggesting a postponement. But any remedy could take six months or longer, according to Chris Kellogg, deputy director of the New England council.
The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association estimates that some local vessels could suffer a 50-percent drop in revenues from the new skate restrictions alone.
'We anticipate going down (to Washington, D.C.,) in March to push these three issues as fixable problems that will mean the difference in fishing businesses being viable in 2010,' Fleming said of adjusting the restrictions on dogfish, pollock and skate.
Christian Science Monitor] By James Turner Correspondent - Feb 25, 2010 -
So called 'tough guy' shows are ubiquitous, but are they accurate?
On any given night, you can tune into the Discovery Channel and see activities as widely varied as sheepshearing, crab catching, and construction of military vehicles. Shows that focus on the workplace have become a mainstay of Discovery and its sister channels, which include TLC and Discovery Science. But is the workplace as shown on TV anything like the reality, and what does the television audience's fascination with these shows say about us?
The most widely carried cable channel in the United States, Discovery is also one of the oldest, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The channel touts such highly rated shows as 'Dirty Jobs,' 'Deadliest Catch,' and 'MythBusters,' as well as high-budget miniseries such as 'Planet Earth.' The reality programming, what 'Dirty Jobs' executive producer Eddie Barbini calls 'tough guy' shows, provide a large chunk of the weekly content.
Jack Bratich, associate professor at Rutgers University's Department of Journalism and Media Studies in New Jersey, believes that these shows are a window into a world that most modern people don't experience. Professor Bratich points out that while many reality shows focus on what he calls 'cognitive workers,' white-collar jobs such as those in design or real estate, the Discovery lineup is much more gritty. He says that these blue-collar-oriented shows offer a glimpse into a world most people don't think about. 'People don't think about where fish come from, all the things that manual labor, the working class, has been providing.'
For some viewers, the appeal of these shows lies in the human drama that plays out, especially the conflict. It would be tempting to assume that the participants are playing up for the camera, something Bratich says has been one of the great unanswered questions of reality TV. But according to Tim Samaras, a tornado researcher and one of the stars of 'Storm Chasers,' the cameras fade into the background quickly. 'I think the first couple of days, it affected the crew. But then they were with us all the time. In the vehicles, they have these small cameras that run all day long. After the first couple of days, like I said, we just kind of forgot that they even existed.'
If anything, Mr. Samaras says that the conflict as shown on TV is milder than what occurs in reality. 'I have to tell you that none of that stuff was done just for show. I know about each of those situations. There are some strong feelings out there between a lot of the groups, and rumor has it that they [the producers] even had to scale some of that back so it didn't come out too strongly in the show.'
Mr. Barbini, who was a cameraman on 'Deadliest Catch' before moving on to produce many of Discovery's reality shows, says that the members of the fishing crews also tried to tone down their behavior, rather than embellish it. But he agrees with Samaras that the cameras fade into the background quickly, especially when they are there 24 hours a day for weeks on end.
Part of the reason that these shows seem so exciting is that they are edited that way. For obvious reasons, much of the mundane day-to-day activity ends up on the cutting room floor, which can make the jobs seem as if they are filled with more peril and adventure than they are. 'MythBusters' Grant Imahara says that it can be difficult to make activities such as repeating an experiment a hundred times exciting to the viewer. 'Nobody really wants to watch all of those tests; that doesn't make compelling TV. And so the editing room, they'll speed it up or recap it or summarize the results for us.'
The potential for disaster is also a draw for many of these shows. 'I have to say that watching car races, my interest [is piqued] when somebody wrecks,' says 'Storm Chasers' Samaras. 'And I have to say that's true in 'Storm Chasers,' 'Deadliest Catch' or any of the others. I think that's what helps form reality television.' Phil Harris, captain of the Cornelia Marie on the 'Deadliest Catch,' had a stroke on camera and died Feb. 9. But how his illness will be edited or even included has not been decided, the production company told the Los Angeles Times.
One exception to the exciting and dangerous model most of the shows take is 'Dirty Jobs,' which seems to go out of its way to celebrate the boring and mundane work most blue-collar workers do. Both Barbini and Discovery Channel president Clark Bunting attribute the success of 'Dirty Jobs' largely to its host, Mike Rowe. Since the shows usually deal with a single day at a workplace, there is no time for the workers to acclimate to the cameras. In a past interview for digg.com, Mr. Rowe stated that he dislikes when the subjects of the show start playing to the camera and tries to direct them back to the work at hand.
Barbini says that another unique factor of 'Dirty Jobs' is the way in which the film crew is shown on camera, rather than the norm in most reality shows, which is to avoid showing the crew if at all possible. Part of this is due to the cramped quarters the crew and Rowe often find themselves in, but there is more to it than that. According to Barbini, 'Dirty Jobs' is in some ways a reality TV show about making reality TV shows. 'It is intentional, because the crew is executing a job, just like the people we are going to visit. I think that people are just interested in what goes on behind the scenes of a reality TV show, and Mike really integrated that very naturally.'
As popular as the shows are, they may be on the wane, at least for Discovery. 'My goal, candidly, is to move away from the direction of doing perilous jobs, and move more in the direction of the visual story and wow factor,' states Mr. Bunting. He cites upcoming series dealing with topics such as curiosity and energy, as well as past shows such as 'Planet Earth' and 'Life,' as the direction he'd like to take the channel.
Bunting is also pragmatic about the need to provide a mix, especially on a channel with such a broad audience. 'You can't do 'Life' all the time. You can't do 'Planet Earth' all the time. But what you can do is stay true to those core concepts with shows like 'MythBusters,' like 'Dirty Jobs,' that I think fit equally well into that brand of discovery as 'Planet Earth' and 'Life.' '