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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Thursday, July 19, 2018: A quick stop-in just to state the obvious: It’s the finest kinda day. Light NE winds have blown in mild water, which is just about as clean and clear as we get

Image result for stingray gif

Thursday, July 19, 2018: A quick stop-in just to state the obvious: It’s the finest kinda day. Light NE winds have blown in mild water, which is just about as clean and clear as we get in these parts.

While fishing is what it is, i.e. fluke-prone and lazy/hazy, there will be sharks galore in the beachside shallows. Why so? Those farther-south schools of cow-nosed rays I had written about are already arriving on LBI-scene in force. Larger and larger schools were reported through this a.m. Some schools were 25 rays strong … if not more. Also, the winged ones are being spotted from one end of the clearwater Island to the other.

A couple of the more famed looks at stinray schools: 

Related image

The frequency of rays has put an exclamation point on surfcasting, i.e. you better know what you’re doing if fishing the beachfront – and be using some heavy gear … or you’ll be pissing costly line into the ocean. Such line loss not only leaves ghost bird-nests on the ocean bottom (once the line is freed) but a hooked and line-disabled ray sends out distress signals that instantly reach Sharksville, a highly mobile community.  

As you might have heard, there were two minor shark-bite incidents up Fire Island way. I’ve cut and posted one news story below. I’ll wager those bites were stingray oriented, meaning the gray suits that accidentally bit the swimmers were on a stingray seeking mission, mistaking the victims for splashing rays. That would be especially true of the bodyboarder, since swim fins are an obvious match to flailing stingray wings.

By the by, rays are basically bottom feeders. When you see them finning up to the surface, they are very likely indirectly indicating they’re not liking what’s lurking on the bottom. The surfacing is a bit similar to bunker, which are mid water column feeders until spooked to the surface. I’ll go as far as saying if you see rays rustling the ocean surface when you’re in the water, you might want to head in if you’re a swimmer or keep a close eye down below if you’re surfing or bodyboarding. Again, bodyboarders are at greatest risk with ray-feeding sharks prowling about.

The video I passed on in yesterday’s column showed the cow-nosed rays feeding on coquina clams, which the Island now has in abundance. I really think the increase in these tiny, colorful clams -- usually common well south of NJ -- is because of warming oceans. Problematically, coquinas live in the tidal zone right next to the beach, meaning rays must get in that close to dine. And, hot on their tails … You get the “Save the Sharks” feel of things.

Not that it’s a science, but landing a large cow-nosed ray when surfcasting often takes a ton of patience. They are prone to powerful runs marked by total stops, during which they turn their powerful bodies sideways against the direction of the pull, i.e. the angler. I’ve even been among those who believe that hooked rays will lie flat on the bottom and create a vacuum – or even bury themselves. On further investigation – and a look at underwater videos – it seems that turning-sideways action, while flapping wings for leverage, is far more common. Yes, it’s very similar with what a bass when hunkering down after an initial run but rays have far greater bodily control.

Note: NO allowing awed passersby – or family members -- to take selfies with a landed ray. I’ve read where that’s one of the more common ways folks get “stung.”

Finally, for fully non-stingray conversant folks, the tip of a ray’s tail does NOT (!) hold sting, technically its venomous dermal denticles. There’s no counting the ER stingray-stung visitors who thought by securing the ray’s tail tip they had subdued the threat with a rag or such. The tail spine is up toward the body of the fish, far from the tail tip. See photo below. 

StripersOnline

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Sharks swimming, fin out of water, Hawaii
 
Philip Waller / Getty Images
By ASSOCIATED PRESS 
July 18, 2018

ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — Two children were bitten in the leg in the waters off New York’s Fire Island on Wednesday in possible shark attacks, prompting beach closings, authorities said.

Suffolk County police said they were investigating the separate incidents, which occurred less than 5 miles (8 kilometers) apart at Sailors Haven and Atlantique beaches. Both beaches were temporarily closed.

A 13-year-old boy was bitten while on a boogie board at Atlantique beach and was treated at a hospital, according to Town of Islip spokeswoman Caroline Smith. EMTs at the scene removed a tooth from the boy’s leg.

At Sailors Haven beach, a 12-year-old girl suffered bite marks “consistent with a large fish” while wading, said Elizabeth Rogers, a spokeswoman for Fire Island National Seashore, which runs the beach.

Rogers said authorities had not confirmed the wounds to be shark bites, but said the Suffolk police marine bureau was waiting for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to identify the tooth.

Philip Pollina said he and his wife heard their daughter Lola scream, then she emerged with a bloody leg.

Pollina says lifeguards initially thought a Portuguese man-of-war had stung her but then concluded there were “teeth marks.”

“I saw something next to me and I kind of felt pain and I saw a fin, I don’t know how to describe it, and then I ran out of the water because I felt it,” Lola said at a press conference. “It was not that big like 3 (0.91 meters) or 4 feet (1.22 meters).”

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying he had deployed DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos to lead a multi-agency investigation into the possible shark attacks.

“I am relieved that both teenagers who were attacked have been released from the hospital,” Cuomo said. “The State will do everything we can to protect beachgoers and keep the community safe.”

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Jay Mann
(A Read not meant for everyone ... or is it???????)

Last night, Stafford Township passed its plastic bag ban ordinance, via a 7-0 council vote. It is similar to the bag bans adopted by Long Beach Township and Harvey Cedars, meaning single-use plastic bags are out – no “fee” strings attached. 
As of today, it will now take 19 days for Stafford’s ban to legally take hold, meaning it isn’t official until August 7 -- when it gets etched in Stafford granite. Thereafter, something akin to a 120-day grace period follows, during which effected businesses can either gradually usher in one-use plastic baglessness … or they can opt to hold out to the bitter end when, in early December, the no-bag hammer comes down, lawfully. 
Onward to the complex/frustrating part. There is a huge Trenton fly in the Stafford plastic bag ointment. As we speak, a single-use plastic bag bill sits on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk, where it has already languished for 20 days, unattended. He could sign it tomorrow – or many days hence. 
The state bill seeks to place a five-cent fee on all plastic and paper bags. One cent would go to businesses to cover the cost of compliance. The other four cents would go to some sort of lead remediation in schools. Don't ask. Might those bag pennies eventually go into the state's famed General Fund? That will never happen … or not. I’ll let you ponder that play on words. 
A quick aside, green groups want a dime-per-bag fee. They feel this would impress on shoppers to use their own bags. They would then like to see part of the added five cents go to supporting green efforts, including supplying shoppers with free reusable bags. 
The complex part: When signed, the state’s single-use plastic bag statute would require/force all NJ municipalities to apply the Trenton-based approach to bag control … EXCEPT for towns that already have their own bag bans in place. 
So, Stafford managed to get its ordinance signed in the nick of time, right? Not so fast, dudes and dudettes. Remember that part where it will now take 19 days before the Stafford ordinance will be official? Yep, that’s the rub, time-wise. Should the governor sign the state bill before then, Stafford’s ordinance will be pretty much null and void. Again: Stafford’s plastic bag ban language calls for a full and fee-less ban. 
But the complexity doesn’t end there – and here’s where it must be understood that every town without a bag ban will have to go with the Trenton penny flow ... or else. Under the state bill, towns cannot, post signing/passing, create ordinances stricter than that of the statute. There is virtually no way to get off the fee-per-bag snide. 
It’s now a state-wide waiting game, maybe more so for Stafford, which is likely counting down from 19 (as of today), hoping no signing takes place along the Delaware. 
(If you’ve read this far, you’re likely the type willing to go the added educational mile with me. So, read on, fellow students.)
I've made some calls and pulled some behind the scenes strings, and I still have no clue if Gov. Phil is for or against the bag bill before him, i.e. if he'll sign it within the next 19 days. 
From Civics class, I recall that no action on his part can be a very telling action. As proof, check out the following, as offered at info.cq.com:
New Jersey: Governor must veto bills within 45 days after “transmittal” from legislature or they automatically become law. If the General Assembly or Senate present the governor with a bill less than 45 days before a recess, that deadline is extended until they next convene. If presented within 45 days of adjournment, the governor has seven days to veto it or it automatically becomes law. Governor has a “reduction” veto that provides the ability to reduce — but not increase — proposed appropriations in a particular line item within any spending bill. State Constitution also gives the governor an “amendatory” veto, the authority to return a bill with recommendations for amendment(s). Legislators can call a special session to override a veto with a 2/3rd vote of both chambers.

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Below is another read on the noise factor with nearshore wind turbines. I won't get heavily into it but the more studies done on existing wind turbines, the less ominous they seem. What's more -- and fully expected -- the submerged portions of a wind turbine superstructure quickly acts like an artificial reef, first gathering vegetation, then mollusks and finally fish. 

Undersea Noise not an Issue for Wind Power, Say Scientists

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Day (Tribune Content Agency)] by Benjamin Kail - July 17, 2018

Despite lacking ears, oysters respond to noise.

"We don't think of underwater noise as an issue ... but most marine life -- if not all marine life -- listens to the world around it in one way or another," said Aaron Rice, a researcher at Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology.

As part of the lab's bioacoustics program, Rice's research dives into the sounds animals make, helping scientists pinpoint habitats and behavior patterns. He also examines how human-made sounds impact sea critters, whether oysters slamming their shells shut at the hum of a cargo ship or whales within earshot of a pile driver for an offshore wind turbine foundation.

Rice said he's been encouraged by what he's learned about offshore wind, even with an immense amount of "steel in the water" planned off the shores of the East Coast within the next five to 10 years.

Deepwater Wind, which built and operates the Block Island Wind Farm, plans a 75-turbine wind farm south of Martha's Vineyard that will deliver electricity to Rhode Island and Connecticut by 2023. The company is proposing to help New London State Pier become a hub for offshore wind deployment.

While noise pollution associated with pile driving into the seabed is "not an insignificant noise footprint," Rice said it was "a fairly short noise event," especially compared to geophysical exploration for oil and gas, in which "seismic activity will go on for months and months on end."

Rice added that Deepwater Wind could consider other foundation and turbine types that could lessen the impact of pile driving or eliminate the need to pile drive at all. Trenching a cable from turbines to the shore, and ships required for maintenance and construction also will produce noise that could impact sea life, Rice said.

"A quiet ocean is a good thing," Rice said. "Elevated noise has demonstrated effects to all animals, including people. But wind is not the most severe by any stretch of the imagination."

He described the overall impact of offshore wind on marine life as "a drop in the bucket ... compared to global shipping on which the world depends."

Stephen Boutwell, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said BOEM "is unaware of any harm to marine life as a result of operating a wind facility."

BOEM leases swathes of federal waters to offshore wind developers and researches potential impacts on marine life. The agency has reshaped wind lease areas based on concerns from the commercial fishing industry and conservationists, Boutwell said.

Deepwater Wind says surveys of the site area and sea floor likely will begin this summer. Construction should begin by 2021 after lengthy state and federal permitting processes. The costs of the project have not yet been revealed, and Deepwater Wind and utilities still need to hammer out contracts.

Scientists: no evidence linking turbines to whale strandings

Last June, after a humpback whale carcass was found stranded ashore in Jamestown, R.I., University of Rhode Island researchers called into question some widespread reports that tried to pin the Block Island Wind Farm as the culprit, arguing "it is highly unlikely the whale's death had anything at all to do with a turbine."

Bob Kenney, a URI marine research scientist, and Jim Miller, a URI professor of ocean engineering and oceanography, said the five turbines off Block Island produce about 100 underwater decibels at a range of about 50 meters, "very low and only detectable when ships are not nearby and when the wind is not too strong."

Additionally, the pair noted that noisy pile driving and construction occurred a few years before the whale was stranded in Jamestown, and that "whales themselves are louder than turbines."

The researchers said social calls of humpbacks have measured between 123 and 183 underwater decibels at 1 meter, while scientists have measured fin whale vocalizations near the Block Island Wind Farm at more than 140 underwater decibels at a range of 500 meters.

In an email Sunday, Kenney said nothing had changed his opinion since last year. Offshore wind projects "will all have mitigation plans ... which typically include seasonal restrictions" on construction to protect marine life, he said.

He added that the impact of turbine foundations in the water was not as great as some had feared, "and for some species, sea turtles, some fish, added structure is probably a benefit rather than a negative impact."

"Marine mammals are not following some narrowly-defined movement routes along the shore, so it's not like building something in one lane of the highway," he said.

At the time of the humpback's stranding in Jamestown last year, Mendy Garron, the Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, told the Block Island Times that, "We don't believe the Wind Farm would have any negative activity on the humpback whales."

Asked about the Jamestown humpback last week, NOAA spokeswoman Jennifer Goebel said, "The report on this whale was that it is a presumed ship strike case based on test results, which are apparently limited."

Professor Ian Boyd, who has researched acoustic disturbance to whales at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, was misquoted by a United Kingdom news outlet seven years ago in what he described to The Day as a "spurious and untrue" article about whale deaths. Several websites since have directly or loosely referenced "research at St. Andrews University" linking turbines to whale deaths.

"I know of no evidence supporting a connect of wind farms to the deaths of whales," Boyd wrote to The Day on Friday. "Frankly, it's really unlikely. The greatest risks occur during construction but even then they are only likely to cause disturbance, be relatively short-lived and vary between species. Many species are pretty robust to disturbance. There are also well developed methods to mitigate these effects."

Deepwater Wind to schedule construction around whale migration season

Ensuring protection of the North Atlantic right whale is a top concern, according to scientists and Deepwater Wind.

Rice noted it was a "highly endangered species hunted nearly to extinction" that was rebuilding for a time but is "slow moving and vulnerable to ship strikes or getting tangled in fishing gear."

Aileen Kenney, Deepwater Wind's senior vice president of development, acknowledged that noise from construction equipment and shipping potentially could disturb whales and other species, making them go into deeper waters or change their movement patterns. Kenney has no relation to the URI scientist.

When building the Block Island Wind Farm, Deepwater Wind complied with BOEM requirements to stop construction if workers spotted certain sea life within specific distances. The company also established agreements with groups such as the Conservation Law Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Counsel to limit impact on right whales.

"We're saying we're not going to do any pile-driving, not any survey activities ... from the November time frame to April or May," Kenney said. "It is a big logistical challenge for us, but it's an important commitment that minimizes impact to the species."

Kenney and several scientists noted that no right whale calves had been born so far in 2018, and NOAA says only about 450 right whales remain in the Atlantic.

NOAA is investigating three separate waves of abnormal fatality totals among three species of whales between 2016 and 2018, including the right whale, minke whale and humpback whale.

Since June 2017, NOAA has investigated 19 dead stranded right whales, 12 of them in Canada and seven in the U.S. In the past two years, 33 minke whales have been found stranded along East Coast beaches, including a dozen in Massachusetts. Since 2016, 76 humpbacks have met the same fate, 20 of them in New England.

The causes of the overall increase in deaths -- deemed by NOAA as Unusual Mortality Events for each species -- remain undetermined. But many necropsies show evidence of vessel strikes or entanglements in fishing gear, and NOAA said more study is needed.

"Contributing factors to the whale mortalities are still being investigated as part of this ongoing event," NOAA spokeswoman Katherine Brogan said Friday.

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