Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Thursday, May 21, 2020: I’m guessing I can’t be hiding in the woods any longer. I’ve been doing a dang good job of it for many weeks on end, unwilling to mix it up with the COVID rules and regulations being delivered from up above, namely Trenton. I also hung low as to not to go contrary to LBI-based directives, seeing I really must stay on good terms with the government leaders here – though I did stump for the opening of beaches.
Tomorrow I’ll begin firsthand monitoring of a weekend of rather significant import, virally-speaking. I’m wondering what might be coming down the pike -- which for us is the Garden State Parkway, Rte. 72 and Rte. 539.
Already, I’m a tad surprised that I didn’t see more traffic action showing today. In fact, traffic was quite light toward dark, when early arrivers for the holiday weekend usually begin showing in force. That get’s one to wondering if the downhome fear factor regarding Rona – and leaving home -- might be more significant than many of us realized. I was among the many who figured there would be throngs atop throngs bustin’ toward the beach for Memorial Day. It might still play out that way but it could be a more complicated weekend for the coastal economy. A lighter than expected showing would not bode well for the many businesses trying to somehow salvage a summer season, via safe distancing, controlled patron numbers and take-out or both a pickup and delivery nature. That would seemingly need a ton of people just to attract a few willing to go the extra mile to spend money. Being close to the entire LBI mercantile realm, I can assure you that a frighteningly large number of smaller seasonal and year-round businesses must make a ton of hay in summer or end up coming out the other end of things.
SEAL APPEAL: I’ve been asked to mention – for the umpteenth time – that it’s imperative to give basking seals plenty of people-free leeway. The closed beaches of early COVID times have the pinnipeds feeling confident about pulling out on LBI sands. The dog-faced marine mammals have a flock of human supporters -- who get royally miffed when touristy types approach too closely – and quickly – to sunning seals. It’s best for all involved to pretty much ignore them should you come across one or more beaching it.
BEEFY BASSING: I continue to get reports of very nice to too nice stripers being take in the surf and off boats. Too nice? Anything measuring in at 38 inches and above must go back into the blue. While that’s no biggie for boat folks landing a few or more bass, the poor sot surfcasting the beach often gets just one taker per session, making it a lot tougher to part ways in a fitting regulatory fashion. I’ll again suggest jumping through the NJDEP hoops to legally grab a “bonus bass” between 24 and 27.9 inches. Those are terrific eating, with fillets a perfect size for pan frying. The bay still has bass but very few of keeper size, at least in the circles I frequent.
I got more than a few calls and emails about dead dogfish along the Barnegat Light beachfront. Initial reactions had surf anglers doing the dastardly dead of needlessly killing the sharks. While that wanton waste is likely the doing of some numbnuts recreational anglers, there’s always the possibility it had to do with some accidental bycatches by boat fishermen.
A reminder that the placing of lifeguard stands this C-19 summer could exclude fishing areas previously located outside the flags – in towns that allow it. From what I’m hearing, there will be more lifeguard stands spread out to distance beachgoers and bathers. Stands will have a single guard. More on that as final lifeguard stand arrangements are passed my way for publication.
Hope to have better news by the time of this Thursday’s weekly video forecast. I still have faith; curbside tackle is open, marinas are open, boat rentals allowed, and our six-pack charters are running. I’m hopeful that by Friday, we can ‘social distance’ ourselves along the rail of our favorite headboats en route to a good catch of fluke heading into the Memorial Day weekend.
Of course, there’s always a chance my hopes are shattered. I can’t think of that today; in terms of reaching a boiling point, it’s hard not keeping an eye on the stove given the protest in Camden County on Monday.
It was Bellmawr to start the week, I can’t see any reason while it’s not Belmar by the end of the week. Keep the faith folks, fluke opens May 22!
Big Hurricane Season Coming- NJ is Not Stronger Than the Next Storm
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there will likely be more storms this year. According to the forecasts, storms are more active than normal with 13 to 19 named storms. Of those storms, 6-10 are expected to strengthen into hurricanes and 3-6 will become major hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
“NOAA’s forecast for the hurricane season shows that storms are coming in with higher and greater frequency. Climate change is here and it will bring powerful storms to this state. However, New Jersey is not prepared for when these storms will hit. Since Sandy, we are not stronger than the next storm. New Jersey has put more people and their property in harm’s way. Governor Murphy also has not reversed Christie’s rollbacks or strengthened rules that protect us from climate change or storm impacts,” said Jeff Tittel Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Not only have we failed to learn the lessons of the superstorm, climate impacts and sea level rise are getting worse.”
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal hurricane season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. Warm water is one of the key ingredients in the formation and strengthening of tropical storms and hurricanes.
“Sea level is rising, and storms are coming whether we like it or not. We need immediate action from the Murphy Administration to prepare us and protect us from climate impacts. We need to adapt and mitigate. Instead of limiting development and pulling back from building on flood prone areas, we are putting more homes in flood risk zones. We are still building in vulnerable areas and granting permits under Christie-era regulations that don’t protect against climate change or storm impacts,” said Tittel. “We are still the only state in the region without a Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Plan. We need to move forward with a Coastal Commission, DEP needs to also use the latest science to put climate and sea level rise in their rules.”
A new study based on data from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows New Jersey with 9 communities among those in the nation with the greatest percentage of homes at risk of chronic flooding by 2060 and 2100. Hoboken is ranked No. 2 on the list, trailing only Miami Beach, Florida. Atlantic City is ranked No. 3. New Jersey is also number 1 when it comes to states with most homes in 10 year flood risk zone. A Rutgers study notes that sea level may rise almost 3 feet by 2100. According to a Zillow report, New Jersey is developing risk zones more than 2x faster than safer locations and are top 3 for allowing the most homes in risk zones, more than 9,000 since 2010.
“We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change in NJ. Fish are already living in storm-drains in LBI. Some roads go underwater every time there’s a full moon and we’re losing coastal wetlands at an alarming rate. While sea level is rising and storms are getting stronger, we are still building in the wrong places. There are over 4,000 new homes that have been built in flood prone areas. We must start taking real actions to fight climate change now. Murphy can create a cabinet level committee to coordinate all agencies in coastal resiliency and reducing greenhouse gasses. This includes updating all state regulations to include climate impacts, re-doing the Water Supply Master Plan, and using up-to-date data in our mapping and planning, and buying out flood prone properties,” said Tittel.
Climate change is happening and happening even faster. UN Climate Report warns of a global tipping point by 2030. Sandy was supposed to be a 1-in-100-year storm, but now it is predicted major storms will increase 1 in every 25 years because of sea level rise.
“New Jersey needs to be stronger than the next storm. NOAA has already predicted a strong hurricane season. Our state is still dragging its feet and we must take extreme actions to plan for climate change and sea level rise. New Jersey’s head is still in the sand like an ostrich except a big wave is coming. Nature is already planning for us with flood after flood. We must build a green wall around New Jersey to fight back against climate change and protect us from the next storm,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
By John Sackton
May 12, 2020
[The Winding Glass is the opinion and analysis column by John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews.]
The collapse of foodservice is easing. But at a very slow pace. Last week distributors mostly saw an uptick in orders as some restaurants in parts of the country prepared for opening. But there is no certainty this will continue. The next step is to see, in those few areas where there are actual reductions in cases, if customers will return.
Datassential’s weekly update on Friday showed little change in the significant majority of Americans who remain cautious, and want reopening to go slow. The majority who will definitely avoid eating out has not changed and is down only 2% in the past two weeks.
With social distancing and capacity constraints, restaurants that do reopen for sit down service will be operating at 25% to 50% of capacity, and they will have higher costs. It is not possible to make money in this environment. The only rationale for opening is to think this is a temporary situation, on the road to a more profitable business. It may not be.
Health experts are already warning of a second wave of infections as more people move around. In the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the second wave was worse than the first. Until there is a vaccine, a large portion of America will not eat in their old restaurants.
We need to understand that the foodservice model is broken. How people get some of the satisfactions that came from dining out for pleasure is a new frontier, with potential, as well as pitfalls, for the seafood industry.
Our industry relies on foodservice for 70% of dollar sales. With this model threatened in a lot of areas, some new ideas have emerged, and these are the shoots that may survive and thrive in the future.
Initially the pandemic devastated the fresh fish market, which is set up for just in time delivery to restaurants through seafood distributors. When distribution and air travel shut down, fresh fish had nowhere to go.
But Datassential says the second most important thing (after Mexican food) that consumers miss about eating out is ordering seafood.
This has led to a surge in demand at retail, even as fish and service counters were shuttered. But many people are nervous shopping in grocery stores as well. Instead of it being pleasurable making choices, most people want to get in and out as quickly as possible.
That has led to the explosion in home delivery options. In most cities and large suburbs, almost all food can now be delivered directly, and not just by Amazon Fresh, Instacart, or Mercato. Delivery services are seen as the most safe option for getting food.
More local businesses have developed their own delivery systems, especially seafood businesses that are landed locally, so they don't have to rely on a high priced intermediary like Uber Eats or Mercato.
In Gloucester, for example, Cape Ann Fresh Catch has seen its business boom and has expanded from selling a series of weekly fish deliveries on the CSA model to offering direct home delivery as well. Want to cook a pound of dayboat scallops? They will deliver to your door for two or three people at roughly the same price one order would cost in a restaurant.
In New Bedford, and also in Maine, lobster fishermen are finding success selling directly to consumers. Massachusetts has waived dealer license fees for local fishermen, expanding their ability to sell direct.
Red's Best in Boston, run by Jared Auerbach, is a local high quality distributor on the fish pier, now offering direct consumer pickup, as well as delivery of frozen seafood.
In Alaska, where harvesters are far from major population centers, there are both local CSA type deliveries, and frozen seafood that can be delivered anywhere in the country. Sitka Salmon Shares for example, will ship a box of frozen Alaska seafood to your door every month, just sign up. Again, the prices are comparable to what you might spend as one person in a restaurant. When you are feeding more than one at home, it becomes more cost competitive.
This model works with smaller volumes. It will not work for boats landing thousands of pounds of whiting, for example, or a 20,000 lb load of pink shrimp in Oregon. But for smaller scale fisheries at coastal locations near population centers, this model has the capacity to grow significantly.
The most successful examples combine small scale restaurant distribution and home consumer distribution. Many of these companies supplied local fish markets and local restaurants. Now as the restaurant business halted, they've added home delivery.
The big hurdle is advertising. Most of these companies are gaining customers by word of mouth and social media. They don’t have the money to spend on advertising that would grow their business up to capacity. And they have to deal with vagaries of landings and weather.
The strength of the home delivery services is when they develop relationships with customers, so that if storms keep the fleet off the water for a couple of days, the customers understand, and get their delivery on a Friday instead of a Wednesday.
The pandemic showed that you don't just have to order through Amazon to get food online.
This pathway is also open to seafood distributors, even large ones like Pacific. There is no reason not to invest in making direct deliveries if the warehouse and stock is set up for it. These sales don’t depend on a sales call and an order for 200 lbs a week. They depend on a customer finding they can get frozen or fresh swordfish once a month, with perfect quality, right to their door.
Obviously we are all counting on the return of foodservice in some fashion. But it may be more oriented towards frozen fish than fresh fish. Flowers, another business that has been decimated by the pandemic, are delivered quickly and easily anywhere in the country through the FTD and other networks. If consumers learn they can get the best quality seafood at home, a growing network of local seafood delivery could emerge from this pandemic and survive.
May 21, 2020
Many restaurants and retailers were just getting into the swing of using reusables and decreasing their use of plastics—and then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Those that weren’t forced to close completely transitioned to take-out, which almost solely relies on disposables, and in some cases plastics. Now, a few months after the lockdown, some restaurants are being allowed to reopen. However, many states have strict guidelines in place—and those include restaurants using disposables.
For example, restaurants in Florida were able to reopen at no more than 50% capacity on May 4. In addition to limiting the number of people in establishments and requiring that social distancing measures remain in place, the Re-Open Florida Task Force also issued guidance stating that businesses should create paper menus for single use and dispose of them immediately after.
Oklahoma’s guidance for restaurants recommends that businesses limit or remove reusable customer items like menus and condiment containers. “Single use items preferred,” the document states.
The push towards single-use items has Greenpeace sounding the alarm.
“As governments look toward reopening businesses and restaurants, to require widespread single-use utensils, dishes, bags, and menus would be an ecological disaster leading to more plastic pollution, increased forest destruction, and worsened climate change,” said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar. “It would not protect workers or customers from COVID-19, as close proximity and hand to surface contact would continue as workers remove and dispose of throwaway foodware. Increased disinfecting practices, dishwashing, and distancing have already been urged by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent the spread of the virus and should continue to help keep everyone safe.”
These guidelines pushing for single-use items were released before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an update stating that the coronavirus “does not spread easily” from touching surfaces or objects.
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes,” the updated document from the CDC explains. “This is not enough to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.”
According to the CDC, the virus is “thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.” If that’s the case then restaurant guidelines requiring social distancing between tables, limiting tables to only members of the same household, and introducing more hand sanitizers should be more effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 than by requiring businesses to use disposables.
In addition to the impact all of this would have on the environment, Hocevar stated that it would also hurt small businesses by requiring them to make additional purchases. “Programs have already shown that restaurants can save money by adding dishwashers and reducing single-use plastic and waste hauling costs, and doing so can boost job creation at a time we desperately need it,” explained Hocevar.
“While some disposables have inevitably increased during the current crisis, we should not be making them the norm,” added Hocevar. “When the pandemic has passed, frontline communities will still face increased health risks from petrochemical facilities, our oceans and waterways will be flooded with even more plastic pollution, and the climate emergency will continue. We cannot be so shortsighted in our ‘solutions’ to the current crisis that we ignore or worsen the ones we all continue to face daily.”
May 21, 2020
Although social distancing measures have forced many people to stay indoors and start experimenting in the kitchen, the verdict is mixed on home cooking. According to Datassential, two in five consumers did not actually start cooking more often. However, about 35% found joy and excitement in discovering new dishes, yet more than a third of Gen X and households with children are sick of having to cook more often for their families.
For the most part, the pandemic has encouraged very few consumers to adopt new shopping and dining strategies, the rest are maintaining their prior routines. Online grocery shopping and grocery delivery have benefited the most from these new trials, with 21% trying grocery pickup for the first time, and 19% trying delivery. Millennials tend to be the most adventurous, with higher first-time trials across all behaviors including using a restaurant app, subscribing to a meal kit service, or baking something from scratch.
However, new habits are here to stay. Across the board, consumers that tried new cooking or shopping habits for the first time are likely to retain them after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Although meal kits had the lowest proportion of first-time subscribers in Datassential’s consumer pool, about 74% plan to continue their subscriptions.
The most popular habit tried for the first time was baking something from scratch, and 80% of consumers plan to continue doing so after restrictions are eased. Also, 76% ordered a family bundle meal from a restaurant for pickup or delivery for the first time, and plan to do this again. About 71% ordered restaurant food for delivery and will do that going forward. Meanwhile, most Boomers, who are generally more attracted to the social aspects of dining out, are likely to stop ordering restaurant food for takeout or delivery post COVID-19 restrictions.
Copyright © 2020 The McClatchy Company
By Kat Bergeron
May 19, 2020
Have you read about oysters in the 1918 pandemic being the equivalent of the missing toilet paper of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic?
This is not such an odd analogy. In highly-populated coastal regions during the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic, oysters apparently disappeared as quickly as TP does today. Guards protected beds from thieves. Oysters prices shot up.
Why? Apparently 1918 Americans were more nutritionally savvy than we might think, or they followed food-fad mongers in droves.
Another possibility is that they truly believed old wives tales that claimed oysters prevent or lessen colds, viruses and flu. In 1918, medical knowledge was not as advanced as today, and Americans were desperate as they watched hundreds of thousands die.
I was unaware of the 2020 rebirth of the pandemic oyster until an editor asked if I knew about the Mississippi Coast oyster situation in 1918. She referenced an Eating Well magazine article that mentions a renowned New York chef's Instagram post, in which Dan Barber claims oyster price-gouging, stockpiling and poaching skyrocketed in 1918.
Unfortunately, fact-checking far-off pandemic claims is difficult. Two previous deep-dives into how the 1918-20 pandemic waves affected the Coast hadn't yet uncovered oyster health cures or local purloined oyster beds.
After another day of research, I now suspect that oysters were so plentiful here and already so much a part of the everyday Coast diet that there was no need for thieving or over-pricing. Not in our part of the Gulf, anyway.
I located only one article on the pandemic oyster, printed in an October 1918 edition of this newspaper but datelined New Orleans and headlined "Eating of Oysters Urged by Doctor:"
"Oysters are healthful and should form an important part in the diet of those suffering from the influenza, declared a local physician in repudiating a statement that persons should refrain from the use of fish, oysters and meat, not only to win the war, but also to check the spread of influenza."
The reference to the war is, of course, World War I. Both New Orleans and the Coast wanted locals to know oysters were cheap, plentiful and healthful, and eating them did not take food out of soldiers' mouths or spread the flu.
One Louisiana oyster company manager followed up with an advertisement that "prominent physicians have advised me that the health of the people will not be impaired by eating oysters during the influenza scare."
Bad oysters apparently had sickened some, as still happens if harvested from unhealthy, polluted waters or if stored improperly. For the Gulf region rich in oysters, it was important to spread the message that oysters were a patriotic way to save precious meats for the war effort.
The population of the three coastal counties was less than 80,000, just one-fifth of today. The coastline was dotted with giant, thriving oyster beds that supplied enough for locals and to ship in factory cans or iced containers across the nation. Whether they reached regions affected by oyster hoarding is unknown.
This is when Biloxi and the Coast worked hard to claim the Seafood Capital of the World title. Earlier Native Americans had also harvested Coast bi-valves, described in 1699 by the first French explorers as "some rather good oysters."
Changes in the natural environment, over-harvesting, storms and pollution all have played roles in Mississippi's disappearing reefs.
But the 1918 oyster was an inexpensive staple, advertised as 50 or 65 cents for a sack of 100, or as high as $1.30 for select. Today, you're lucky to get one oyster for $1.30. They also were larger back then.
Through scientific research, we now know oysters are one of Mother Nature's perfect foods. They're high in protein, low in calories and mineral rich in zinc, iron, copper, Vitamin D, selenium, potassium and magnesium. They're also high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Anyone attempting to keep the COVID-19 monster at bay knows the importance of nutrition. Now we're learning that safely processed oysters are again on a list of potential pandemic health foods because of high zinc content. Recent studies show zinc likely reduces onset and severity of viruses and flus, just like old wives tales claimed.
As businesses suffer from this pandemic shut down, so does seafood. Kudos to Chef Barber and other media platforms that bring attention to the oyster.
Could this pandemic create a renewed American interest in oysters, not as an expensive delicacy but as the healthy, affordable food it used to be? Is that possible with so many changes in environment? Maybe. Maybe not.
With this renewed oyster interest, maybe Americans will demand better federal and state intervention into sustainable oysters. Maybe flood-control projects like the Bonnet Carre Spillway that last year devastated 95% of the Mississippi Sound's oysters will be rethought.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. Oysters become yet another intriguing COVID food for thought.