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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday, March 28, 2017: Decent thunderboomers this a.m. Could be a lightning-packed spring ...

Just in ... Other stuff is further below ...

NEW JERSEY FILES FORMAL APPEAL OF SUMMER FLOUNDER QUOTA REDUCTIONS
STATE'S REPRESENTATIVES ARGUE ASMFC DECISION WILL CAUSE ADVERSE IMPACTS TO FISHERY AND INDUSTRY

(17/P25) TRENTON - New Jersey representatives to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission have filed an appeal requesting the commission reconsider its vote significantly reducing the state's recreational-fishing quota for summer flounder this year, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

The 34-percent quota reduction ASMFC approved in February will have a devastating impact on the state's fishing industry and tourism economy while paradoxically harming the long-term health of the state's summer flounder stocks, Commissioner Martin said.

"We are appealing the ASFMC decision because of the numerous process, data, policy and regulatory issues that will significantly impact New Jersey's fishing industry," Commissioner Martin said. "The ASFMC decision will actually result in anglers in New Jersey having to throw more dead fish back into the water than they can keep to eat, and the fish they can keep overwhelmingly will be reproductive females. This is not sound fishery management."

Recreational and commercial fishing employs 65,000 people and generates some $2.5 billion in annual economic benefits to the state. Summer flounder, also known as fluke, is one of the state's most sought-after recreational fish species, prized for its delicate flavor and easily found close to beaches and in bays and creeks.

To achieve the 34-percent reduction, New Jersey faces increasing the minimum size limit for summer flounder from 18 inches in most state waters to 19 inches, making legally sized fish more difficult to keep. Additionally, the number of fish that could be kept under the new restrictions would be reduced from five to three.

The petition from New Jersey's three representatives to ASMFC Chairman Douglas E. Grout cites technical, scientific and procedural flaws as reasons for reconsideration of the vote. The commission was formed by compact to manage nearshore fisheries from Maine to Florida.

A DEP analysis of the quota reduction determined that the number of undersized, or discarded, fish that die after being returned to the water will be greater than the number of fish that will be harvested. This would be the first-ever such imbalance for the state. Flounder, like all fish, are susceptible to mortality from hook wounds and stress.

"Discard mortality that exceeds harvest is not acceptable from a fishery management standpoint and will not be well received by the recreational fishing sector," the state's representatives wrote, adding that such waste would be inconsistent with goals established by federal law. New Jersey representatives to ASMFC are New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty, Governor's appointee Thomas P. Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, and Legislative Commissioner Assemblyman Bob Andrejczak (District 1).

They noted that summer flounder in New Jersey tend to be smaller than in states to the north due to the species' biological needs and migration patterns. Moreover, more than 90 percent of summer flounder in New Jersey waters that are greater than 19 inches in length are females, meaning an increase in size limits would encourage higher harvests of reproductive fish, which would also be counterproductive to sound fishery management.

In their letter, the representatives argue that ASMFC did not properly consider comments made by the public opposing the reduction during a Jan. 5 hearing in Galloway Township, Atlantic County. They further state that ASFMC staff found numerous mathematical calculation errors after the hearing that resulted in substantive revisions to the draft quota-reduction plan and did not provide the public an opportunity to review the changes and provide additional comments.

In addition, ASMFC did not properly apply technical information gathered through the federal Marine Recreational Informational Program, which surveys anglers and members of the fishing industry to provide more complete assessments of the health of fisheries, the representatives wrote.

Commissioner Martin testified before ASMFC in opposition to the quota reduction and recently sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross requesting that 2016's quotas remain in effect pending development of a benchmark stock assessment to better understand and manage the resource. Any quota reduction this year would be on top of a 27 percent quota reduction in 2016.

For a copy of the appeal filed with ASFMC, visit: www.nj.gov/dep/docs/asmfc-appeal-letter-20170324.pdf

For a copy of Commissioner Martin's letter to Commerce Secretary Ross, visit: www.njfishandwildlife.com/pdf/2017/flndrletter02-28-17.pdf

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His effort to elude arrest for DWI was cut short by the long arm of ... gravity. 

Drunk guy tries to run from the cops

They can't dance either ... 

Basketball celebration dance

Tuesday, March 28, 2017: Decent thunderboomers this a.m. Could be a lightning-packed spring if warm weather keeps getting attacked by cold fronts.

Here’s a spookyishly weird one for Spring 2017: We’re more in line for tornadoes than any time in the past -- though we’ve never been much on twisters along the coast, where cooler marine air usually steals the storm energy needed to form vortices.

Short of some decidedly funnel-shaped clouds aloft, I’ve never once seen a picturesque twister in NJ; one of those out-West types that can be seen over land, touching down --and staying down. I think one could easily be seen looking west from LBI's bayfront. Imagine being atop the Cuaseway. 

There is this famed newspaper photo from North Jersey: 

Not that many years back, summer LBI'ers saw a scattering of long-lasting waterspouts out over the ocean. I saw them from Beach Haven. It was an otherwise very sunny day -- and prior to my ardent video-cam days. Ever since, I've been eyes-opened and camera-ready for such summer spouts. Nada. 

Although NOAA defines waterspouts as tornadoes over the water, they’re far closer to a tornado’s tiny kinfolk, often hosting little more than a .5 to F1 on the famed Fujita scale (F-Scale). This is not to say they can't be nasty, especially when tailing over a smaller vessel out at sea. They can also stir the s*** out of a tourist beach, should they come ashore -- dangerously slinging umbrellas and beach gear.    

Again, there's an enhanced chance for such sightings this summer, based on what I believe are subtle northward shifts in coastal weather tendencies. 

One of the cooler YouTube vids shows a waterspout coming ashore on the Outer Banks, North Carolina; see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWjqd4aMnYw.

Brazilian waterspout. 

BIGFOOT MADE ME DO IT: How can I not pass on one of the greatest car-hits-deer stories ever told? It took place just a few days back on US-95, over Idaho way, where a 50-year-old, normalish woman is swearing to both high heaven and the local sheriff’s office that she hit a deer after having her road attention ripped away by ... a Bigfoot.

The local Moscow-Pullman Daily News, which first broke the story, went a tad more Moscowish by headlining, “Sasquatch blamed for Idaho car crash.”

The paper said the woman was intently looking in her rearview mirrors to do a Bigfoot double-take. When she looked back ahead, her Subaru Forester was metallically greeting the bounding deer.

In telling her tale, the woman accused the Bigfoot of having chased the deer onto the highway and smack into her vehicle. “You bastard!”

Experts will now try to determine if the Bigfoot was simply chasing the deer for food -- or was purposely chasing it onto the high-speed road just to mess with the heads of drivers.  

Per the police report, the guilty-until-proven-innocent perpetrator was pushing 8 feet in height and was hairy to the hilt; the term “shaggy” was shared by the sheriff’s office. As to any identifying marks, like scars or tattoos, none were forthcoming. “It could have been any Sasquatch,” was possibly thought by many.

As for me, I’m wondering how an eight-foot Bigfoot runs down a deer. It’s a lot easier envisioning a Subaru running down a deer.

Maybe not. These deer are obviously clueless to eight-foot stalker. 

The sheriff’s office is apparently reluctant about releasing the name of the driver. Can’t think why. However, Oprah and a slew of other talk show hosts are hot on her trail. I’ll call in sick from work to see an airing like that.

I’m not sure how it plays into things but the driver hales from a town called Tensed. By name alone, it would seem a place where there’s no guessing what might await residents … right around the bend. I base that on the town of Tranquility, Cal., where residents tend to repeatedly spot the Dali Lama hitchhiking.

This Bigfoot incident means we’ll likely have to suffer through another “Here at Farmer’s we’ve seen everything” commercial.

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Anchorwoman could use better anchoring ... 

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Fisheries Councils Express Concern Over Marine Monuments in Letter to President Trump

WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) — March 28, 2017 — The Council Coordination Committee (CCC), comprised of representatives from the eight regional fisheries management councils, wrote to President Trump this month expressing its concern with the designation of marine national monuments under the Antiquities Act, and explaining how monuments have already adversely impacted commercial fishing activity.

“Designations of marine national monuments that prohibit fishing have disrupted the ability of the Councils to manage fisheries throughout their range as required by [the Magnuson-Stevens Act] and in an ecosystem-based manner,” the Committee wrote. “Our experience with marine monument designations to date is that they are counterproductive to domestic fishery goals, as they have displaced and concentrated U.S. fishing effort into less productive fishing grounds and increased dependency on foreign fisheries that are not as sustainably managed as United States fisheries.”

The Committee also reiterated its support for regional fisheries management, noting that through the Council process over 1,000 individual spatial habitat and fisheries conservation measures have been implemented, protecting more than 72 percent of U.S. ocean waters.

“The Councils use a public process, in a transparent and inclusive manner, and rely on the best scientific information available as required by the MSA,” the Committee wrote.

Read the full letter here

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Cod Fishing Catches Plummet in Waters Off New England

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [China Post] By PATRICK WHITTLE - March 27, 2017

ROCKPORT, Maine -- The cod isn't so sacred in New England anymore.

The fish-and-chips staple was once a critical piece of New England's fishing industry, but catch is plummeting to all-time lows in the region. The decline of the fishery has made the U.S. reliant on foreign cod, and cod fish fillets and steaks purchased in American supermarkets and restaurants are now typically caught by Norway, Russia or Iceland in the north Atlantic.

In Maine, which is home to the country's second-largest Atlantic cod fishery, the dwindling catch has many wondering if cod fishing is a thing of the past.

"It's going to be more and more difficult for people to make this work," said Maggie Raymond, executive director of the Associated Fisheries of Maine.

State records say 2016 was historically bad for cod fishing in Maine. Fishermen brought less than 170,000 pounds (77,110 kilograms) of the fish to land in the state last year.

The haul was below the previous record low of about 250,000 pounds (113,398 kilograms) a year earlier. Maine's record year for cod was 1991, when fishermen brought more than 21 million pounds (9.5 million kilograms) of the bottom dweller to the docks, according to records that date to 1950.

The Sacred Cod is the nickname of a wood carving of the fish that hangs in the Massachusetts State House. That state remains the center of the nation's Atlantic cod fishery, but the business is in jeopardy there, too. Catch fell from nearly 100 million pounds (45.3 million kilograms) in 1980 to less than 3 million (1.36 million kilograms) in 2015.

The catch of cod in Maine, and elsewhere in New England, has fallen in the face of increasingly meager quotas allowed by the federal government. The government's catch limit in the Gulf of Maine has fallen from more than 18 million pounds (8.2 million kilograms) in 2011 to about a million pounds (453,592 kilograms) last year.

New Hampshire fishermen brought more than 2 million pounds (90,718 kilograms) of cod to land in 1997. That dropped to 44,701 pounds (20,276 kilograms) in 2015. Rhode Island's total dropped from 474,908 pounds (215,414 kilograms) to 138,891 pounds (63,000 kilograms) from 1997 to 2015.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released an assessment of the Gulf of Maine cod stock in 2014 that said the spawning population was at its lowest point in the history of the study of the fish. Scientists have cited years of overfishing and inhospitable environmental conditions as possible reasons for the decline.

A new assessment is taking place this year, said Jamie Cournane, groundfish plan coordinator for the New England Fishery Management Council, which regulates fisheries under NOAA.

Cod are considered groundfish, which are fish that live near the ocean bottom. Several types of groundfish, including haddock, sole and halibut, have high economic value. The low quotas for cod are problematic for New England fishermen because they must also stop fishing for other valuable species once they reach their cod limit.

U.S. fishermen primarily fish for cod in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, which are major fishing areas off of New England. Georges Bank has also seen steep cod quota cuts in recent years.

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While at the same time... 

The Cod Are Coming Back to Newfoundland and They're Eating the Shrimp That Had Taken Over

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Postmedia Breaking News] by Aaron Beswick - March 24, 2017

Theodore Genge has a big beautiful new dragger that’ll be ready to head for “the Labrador” as soon as the sea ice loosens its grip on Anchor Point.

When the 63-year-old Newfoundland fisherman began building the $2.2 million trawler two years ago he had 750,000 pounds worth of shrimp quota to catch.

But plummeting shrimp numbers in the cold water off Labrador have led Fisheries and Oceans Canada to drastically carve into quotas for that coast. Genge expects that by April he’ll be left with a total of 300,000 lbs of quotas — 220,000 lbs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where there is still plenty of shrimp, and 80,000 lbs on the Labrador coast.

“Right now, yes, it’s pretty stressful – I don’t know whether there’s any hope or no,” said Genge.

“But it’s like this. I started at this fishing when I was 14 years old. There was never a year that looked good before you started. I’ve survived. With fishing you’ve either got to go in or get out.”

There’s a huge biological change happening on the banks that extend off Newfoundland and Labrador’s northeastern coast.

The northern cod are coming back.

And they’re eating the shrimp that had taken over their home range off the Labrador coast and northern Grand Banks.

Canada’s cold water shrimp had an export value of $345 million in 2013, making it Canada’s fourth-largest seafood export, behind lobster, Atlantic salmon and snow crab.

This week a House of Commons committee urged the Fisheries Department to begin annual studies of the northern cod population off Newfoundland and Labrador to monitor its recovery. A report by the committee found the cod stocks were showing signs of rebounding after being decimated in the early 1990s.

The return of the once mighty northern cod stock may be a boon for the natural world and, eventually, for the humans who haul them from the sea, process them and eat them.

After all, their disappearance 25 years ago almost killed the east coast fishing industry and seriously maimed the Atlantic provinces.

Now their return brings economic and social upheaval.

Theodore Genge was eight years old when his father, Rufus, rounded Cape Norman in his small wooden boat, aimed for The Black Joke.

It was 1968; Rufus was 25 years old and he was armed with a weighted hook, a couple hundred fathoms of line and gas and food to last him a few weeks.

The darkly named harbour on the uninhabited Belle Isle is in the strait separating Newfoundland from Labrador. With towering 100-metre-high cliffs, the island may have looked pretty to the French who named it, but not to Rufus.

“Nine miles long by four miles wide and he’s all bare rock and ponds,” said Rufus, now 80.

He was heading to meet one of the world’s great migrations.

A few million tonnes of cod, famished from their spring spawning on the offshore banks, were chasing billions of capelin into shore.

“When they get in amongst the capelin, they just gorge themselves,” said George Rose, a former Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist who literally wrote the book on how man destroyed one of the earth’s greatest wild protein sources. “Cod: The Ecological History of the North Atlantic Fisheries” reads like a Shakespearian tragedy, with man’s pride in his own power and knowledge leading him to destroy one of nature’s greatest gifts.

“Oh yes, they’re coming back on the northeast coast,” said Rose, who retired this year as director of fisheries ecosystem research at Memorial University’s Marine Institute.

“Farther south, they’re still in rough shape, but the northern cod was the big one.”

The southern Grand Banks, the Gulf of Maine, Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence are all home to their own cod stocks that have not shown significant signs of recovery since the overfishing of the late 20th century for reasons that are not fully understood.

But the biggest of all the stocks by a wide margin was the northern cod.

For the last decade the northern cod stock has been increasing at a rate of about 30 per cent per year. Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s 2016 stock assessment estimated its total biomass at around 300,000 tonnes.

That’s well short of the million tonnes Fisheries and Oceans has pegged as the size of a healthy resource. But it’s ten times as many fish as were there were on July 2, 1992, when former fisheries minister John Crosbie announced the cod moratorium that resulted in the biggest layoff in Canadian history – an estimated 45,000 jobs.

“If northern cod kept growing at the rate that it has been, we could see a healthy fishery in a few years,” said Rose.

“But there’s no guarantees that it will.”

Nobody knows how big the northern cod stock once was.

But fishing records tell us that back in 1968, when Rufus Genge made his first trip to Belle Isle, 800,000 tonnes of northern cod were caught. Another 400,000 tonnes were taken from the stocks on the southern Grand Banks. Eighty per cent of that catch was by foreign draggers from Spain, Portugal, the Soviet Union, Japan and France.

The cod stocks are the gift of plate tectonics.

When North America tore itself from Europe and Africa 200 million years ago, and started floating east, it took some of the Old World with it like a memento for its long voyage.

That keepsake is a shallow underwater plateau that stretches for up to 500 kilometres off of Newfoundland and Labrador’s east coast.

“It’s monstrous and there’s no other place like it on the planet,” said Rose of the Grand Banks.

Frigid arctic water is pumped south by the Labrador Current toward the Gulf Stream, which pulls up warm waters from the south. The churning of these two currents sends nutrients from the Atlantic’s dark floor up the precipitous underwater shoulders of the Grand Banks into the light column.

In a kind of underwater alchemy at 150 metres below sea level, trillions of microscopic plants called plankton harness the sun’s energy to convert the nutrients into biological matter. Tiny little animals called zooplankton feed upon the plants and bring life closer to a size that we can actually see.

There are two predominant directions that zooplankton can take to make their way up the food chain on the Grand Banks: through crustaceans like northern shrimp or through the small baitfish capelin.

“You can’t have both,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, who has studied the inverse relationship of cod and shrimp.

That is to say you can’t have both a capelin-cod dominated food web and a crustacean-dominated food web on the shelf that extends off Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cod do eat shrimp. But after going a month without food during the spring spawning season what they really need is the capelin that refills their livers with the fatty lipids to survive the winter to come.

We appear to be headed back to the traditional order of a capelin-cod dominated food chain.

Indeed, the MP’s fisheries committee is also urging closer monitoring of capelin stocks, as well as limits on seal populations, which prey on both cod and capelin.

Even that first summer at Belle Isle, Rufus Genge knew the world around him was changing.

For generations, the Genges had fished from Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula with weighted hooks and cod traps — big net boxes placed near shore that the cod swim into. Life was getting expensive and so to support his wife and four children he’d need to catch more fish.

That meant going to where the fish were. He had Ralph O’Keefe in Port Saunders build him a 52-foot longliner that he took far up the Labrador Coast chasing the northern cod.

Yet the game was already up for the northern cod and the lifestyle they supported.

The immense landings of the late 1960s by the foreign draggers had dug deep into the northern cod’s biomass.

Fishery conservation theory can be compared with banking. The surplus productivity of a fish stock is like the interest generated by an investment.

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American Bird Conservancy’s Statement on Trump’s Clean Power Plan Rollback: 

“American Bird Conservancy is extremely concerned that further deregulation of energy development, especially of the rapidly growing wind industry, will be a disaster for bird conservation,” said Michael Hutchins of American Bird Conservancy. “Wind energy development can be done using bird-smart strategies that avoid risky locations and mitigate for impacts. People love birds and public lands and do not want to see them squandered.”

Congress should fund coastal infrastructure despite budget blueprint


Natural protective coastal infrastructure, such as beaches, dunes and wetlands, create and sustain U.S. jobs, protect public resources and private property, and drive the U.S. economy. Congress would be wise to invest in these resources (and the science that supports them) despite the administration’s budget blueprint that leaves U.S. coasts vulnerable by cutting vital programs and underfunding the science that protects lives, property and ecological resources.

Countless examples such as Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Matthew make a convincing case that by investing millions of dollars now in coastal protection and resilience, the federal government will save billions of dollars in storm and flood damage later. Similarly, maintaining a reasonable federal investment in coastal science and technology offers a great return on investment through better coastal management and more effective response to natural disasters and manmade environmental emergencies.

Restoring and maintain our nation’s first line of defense against coastal storms and flooding is a job bonanza. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) estimates that coastal restoration creates or maintains 17 to 33 jobs for every million dollars spent(1). These are jobs at all levels of the economy: commercial fishermen and charter boat captains, lifeguards and hotel workers, dredging crews and coastal small business employees, construction workers and engineers.

Furthermore, healthy coasts drive the coastal economy – beaches alone generate $225 billion to the national economy(2) – and with 50% of Americans living near a coast, the coastal economy is America’s economy. The protection that beaches, dunes, and wetlands provide, together with the understanding of how these systems work, ensures that critical public infrastructure and private property are protected and people are kept out of harm’s way during hurricanes and other coastal disasters.

Sustaining these resources and supporting the economy and jobs they maintain takes a national investment, but a far cheaper one than paying to rebuild communities or restore natural habitat after a disaster. Some of the investments necessary to keep our coasts healthy and communities resilient include:

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) shore protection program, which goes a long toward restoring beaches and rebuilding dunes before and after coastal storms strike;
  • Comprehensive regional restoration programs and studies by USACE, NOAA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), work that is guided by natural systems rather than political boundaries and by science rather than partisanship ;
  • Coastal research programs at NOAA, U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS), BOEM and USACE, building a national base of coastal knowledge and institutional insights that can be an invaluable resource to academia along with the public and private sectors;
  • Science and community education programs, such as NOAA’s Sea Grant and Community Resilience grant programs, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) resilience centers, and the EPA’s Beach Water Quality Testing program, low-cost efforts that have a huge impact on bringing science to coastal communities via better water, health fisheries and more resilient economies;
  • Academic research granting programs at all of the agencies listed here as well as the Office of Naval Research, the Naval Research Lab, and the National Science Foundation;
  • Coastal management, such as NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management and USACE’s Regional Sediment Management programs, looking at the coast as a vital and interconnected system rather than a series of disparate pieces.

 
These programs work together to collect and analyze coastal data, inform state and local decision-makers, reduce potential risks to public and private property, and provide federal support to buttress local and state efforts to restore eroded and degraded coastlines.
 
Unfortunately, the administration’s “Budget Blueprint” cuts or eliminates all of the programs mentioned here. The blueprint lacks both details and forethought, seeking short-term budget cuts while leaving the U.S. coast with long-term vulnerability. Reducing funding to these programs not only leaves our coast behind, but the effects will trickle down to diminish the science and technology capability of our nation as fewer research grants lead to fewer bright, young U.S. scientists and engineers.
 
Fortunately, Congress is ultimately responsible for developing the federal budget and should give greater consideration to how that budget will impact their constituents today and into the future than was shown in the administration’s blueprint.
 
In particular, coastal Members of Congress need to take strong stand for investing in coastal infrastructure and research. They will be the ones meeting with constituents whose homes have washed away, or worse, because cuts to coastal data, shoreline restoration and monitoring programs made storm predictions worse, allowed unacceptable coastal ecological degradation and left coastal communities, their residents, and their economic futures more vulnerable.
 
An investment in coastal science and infrastructure is an investment in America’s future. Congress must take the lead and develop a budget that builds up our coast, not following a blueprint that tears it down.
 

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