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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tues. Dec. 23, 2008: Night befoe the night and all through the ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008:

It’s the night before the night before Christmas and I really should be starting my Christmas shopping but this tiny voice in my head keeps telling me to hold out just a little bit longer – to get the really good deals and all that. Very strategic. O course, it’s the same voice that tells me that paying property taxes on time is highly overrated.

Here’s hoping you’re doing better than me -- and despite all this drama over the economy you’ve nailed your entire gift list with stuff they’ll never forget. Yes, I think that theme of Chia Pets for everyone is very sound. Nice work. And I’ll email you a couple websites for people desperately in need of friends for 2009.

(Boy are the holidays a brain drain, eh? Even during my woods time today, my brain was sounding off like a congested freeway, replete with road rage ponderings over what I should do in the Christmas spirit, i.e. visiting and giftifying. Hey, I’m all for the holidays but anyone who can still embrace them as this purely celebratory and rapturous time is in better command of “the sprit” than I am. Tomorrow’s evening mass in Surf City -- the Villanova Church, 13th street, opens just for the Christmas Eve mass -- should re-instill me with holiday energy. NOTE !!! If you’re one of the St. Francis regulars, I could sure use some help tomorrow, both 4:15 and 7 p.m. masses, with ushering. Just show up about 15 minutes early. You’ll see me running around like crazy.)

With the wind laying down today, I chose between clamming and the deep woods. The woods won since there was still enough blow to have Holgate wind-chilled over – not to mention the ice factor, which can make for treacherous buggying on the back flats. And, yes, the bay took on some widespread skim ice just like that – with some serious slag ice along the banks, where the winds piled up the break away slosh. The arriving very mild air should melt away any thought the bay might have of significantly freezing. By the bay, the U.S. Weather Service has renewed its call for a warmer-than-usual and wet/windy winter. I have no doubt the storm side of things is off to good start. As for that “warmer” part …

There will be bass this holiday. Fit some time in and try the south third of LBI. Use small plastic or even very small swimming plugs (swum slowly). I always like black Bombers sashayed lazily on the surface (if the water is clear and clam enough). The trick is utter persistence. I’ve heard of that word but have yet to meet it personally.

Here are some significant news items (for the angler who wants to be in the know – and then some):

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[Copyright 2008 HT Media Ltd.] - December 22, 2008 - The Bush administration has decided to withdraw a proposed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rule before it leaves office that would have given more control over environmental reviews to the fishing industry, while limiting the public's ability to participate in key decisions impacting the oceans.

This decision to withdraw the NEPA proposal effectively passes the controversial rulemaking by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) to the new Obama administration.

'We're pleased that the Bush administration has listened to the outpouring of public opposition and decided to drop this flawed proposal,' said Lee Crockett, director of Federal Fisheries Policy at the Pew Environment Group. 'This will allow President-elect Obama to take ownership of this rule and rewrite it to protect our oceans and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.'

Congress and President Bush recently revised the nation's primary fisheries management law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, with bold new provisions to strengthen ocean fish management. If the NMFS proposal had passed, it would have created procedures allowing fishery managers to regulate their own activities. It would have also established a new environmental review process that would have severely weakened the application of NEPA to ocean fisheries management.

'We're hopeful that the Obama administration will develop a new NEPA rule that requires a thorough environmental review of fisheries actions and meaningful opportunities for public participation, which will allow public officials to make informed policy decisions that benefit everyone,' said Crockett.

NEPA reviews have a long history of environmental success. This law has made it possible to protect thousands of square miles of coral formations, reduce mortality of endangered sea turtles and begin the rebuilding of depleted fish populations. The proposed NEPA rule met fierce opposition across the country with over 80 members of Congress on record against this change.

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The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) is alerting reporters and editors nationwide to treat actor Jeremy Piven's claims of mercury poisoning from eating sushi with skepticism. For balanced information on the benefits of seafood consumption and mercury, NFI directs reporters to review two recent pieces published in the online magazine, Slate.

In 2008, Slate media critic Jack Shafer specifically tackled the issue of mercury in tuna sushi and concluded that activists warning Americans about high mercury levels in tuna sushi were engaging in 'scaremongering'. In 2007, Arthur Allen wrote that not only is it safe for pregnant women to eat fish, but that scientific evidence showed that woman who eat more fish have smarter babies than moms who don't.

'We already know close to 80 percent of Americans are not eating seafood at least twice per week, said Jennifer Wilmes, a registered dietitian with the National Fisheries Institute. 'Messages that inappropriately scare consumers away from fish because of mercury can do a real disservice to public health, said Wilmes. When people eat less seafood, they miss out on a significant disease prevention opportunity.

What's more, published reports suggest Piven's situation has more to do with contracts and Hollywood hype than health.

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[Richmond Times-Dispatch] - December 23, 2008 - The next time you get a shot, offer a quick thanks to the horseshoe crab. The blood from one of those prehistoric survivors was used to make sure your medicine was safe.

Four U.S. companies, including Chesterfield County-based Wako Chemicals USA Inc., process the blue blood to make LAL, a powder that drugmakers use to conduct a government-mandated test to make sure medicine is free of bacteria.

With the horseshoe-crab populations limited to the eastern coasts of the United States and of Asia, the production of the powder is not widespread. At least one Chinese firm makes it, but the four U.S. companies dominate the $50 million global market, said Ronald N. Berzofsky, the general manager of Wako's LAL division.

As much as a cup of blood -- about half of a crab's total -- can be harvested from a creature before returning it to the sea. That cup, in turn, can be used to produce about 100 tests.

'We treat them as natural resources,' said L. Todd Lumadue, a procurement and product manager at Wako's local plant.

A fisherman working out of Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore collects up to 500 crabs a day, five days a week, during warmer months for Wako.

The process is ecologically sound and relatively safe, said Eric Hallerman, director of the Horseshoe Crab Research Center at Virginia Tech.

'The notion that these crabs serve a pretty compelling biomedical need seems to me to make this defensible,' he said. 'There's no substitute for this.'

Lumadue said 96 percent of the crabs Wako's contractor collects survive and are returned to the ocean. The crabs' shells are tagged, and if a tagged crab is caught again, it is thrown back instead of being shipped out for bleeding. Crabs shed their shells annually, so no crab participates more than once a year.

The survival rate is much better than in the other big use for the crabs: bait.

'That's 100 percent lethal,' Hallerman said.

Using crabs as blood donors dates to the 1960s, said Waco's Berzofsky.

A marine biologist in Cape Cod, Mass., wondered, 'Why don't fish get sick?' Berzofsky said.

'Bacteria is everywhere in the ocean,' he said. 'Sometimes it's so bad, you can't even get in the water. So how can fish survive?'

That query led to research that found that horseshoe crabs -- chosen for their abundance in the area of the study -- produce blood that reacts to toxins by clotting around them.

Sensitivity to toxins proved useful in the pharmaceutical business, which at the time was testing its products on animals. A dead animal meant a bad batch.

The crab-blood process is still animal-based, but because the crabs are released alive, the moral challenges no longer exist.

'It's fascinating,' Hallerman said. '[Horseshoe crabs] have been around a long time. They're 200 million years old. They've been faced with a wide variety of bacteria over the years.'

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Fish rich in selenium neutralizes mercury and reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease. I'll tell you more after this Ð

Along with the more well known omega 3's - seafood has some of the highest levels of a mineral called selenium than any other foods. Per ounce only Brazil nuts have more. Selenium is essential to good health Ð and it is a major overlooked factor in the ongoing debate over mercury and fish.

Studies show that Selenium is present in deep-water fish at five to 20 times the concentration of mercury. And when the two chemicals bind, methyl mercury appears to be neutralized.

Research by Dr. Nicholas Ralston at the Univ. of North Dakota found that the most popular fish eaten by Americans - including salmon, pollock, tuna and flounders - all contain much more selenium than mercury. In fact, all ocean fish are rich in selenium, with the exception of sharks.

Ralson told Seafood Business that eating more fish rich in selenium and omega 3's Ð especially pregnant women and nursing mothers Ð can only benefit developing babies. Selenium is also credited with substantially reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease, which stems from plaque build up that destroys brain cells.

That was the conclusion of a nine year study in France, and more recently, in a study of 2,000 elderly Chinese by researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 4.5 million Americans. Health experts predict the number of cases could reach 16 million by 2050. The cost of caring for Alzheimer patients in the U.S. now tops $100 billion a year. Researchers say that the brain metabolizes selenium slowly and it is important to maintain ample levels over several years, preferably throughout one's lifetime. High selenium intake is also associated with lower risk of hardening of the arteries, and may reduce the risk of cancer.

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[New York Times] Editorial - Dec 23, 2008 -

The federal government has been trying to persuade pregnant and breast-feeding women to limit their intake of fish because of mercury contamination. Now some federal scientists are arguing that these women should actually increase their fish consumption. The behind-the-scenes disagreement is fierce and raises serious questions for consumers.

The current official advice from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency is that pregnant and nursing women and young children can safely eat up to 12 ounces Ñ roughly two servings Ñ of most fish a week, but should limit their intake of albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week and avoid entirely four species of fish containing high levels of mercury.

Now the two agencies are at loggerheads over the two-serving limit. The F.D.A. has circulated a draft report suggesting that the vast majority of fetuses and infants would actually benefit if their mothers ate more than two servings of fish a week because fish contain highly beneficial nutrients that aid in brain development. The F.D.A.'s scientists argue that those benefits outweigh any potential harm.

Those contentions are sharply disputed by specialists at the E.P.A. who charged that the report had serious scientific flaws, relied on questionable models and should not be used as a basis for decision-making. That is a strong indictment that must be answered before the public can place any confidence in the F.D.A.'s judgment.

Meanwhile, experts caution that consumers should choose from fish that are low in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.

Although the draft strikes some as another last-minute effort by the Bush administration to weaken industry oversight, it can provide a useful opportunity to review whether mercury warnings have gone too far in driving women away from a potentially beneficial food source.

The report is still undergoing revision at the F.D.A., which pledges to publish it for comment before deciding how to proceed. Only then will a wide array of experts be able to tell if the final recommendations make sense or are dangerously flawed.

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