Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

6/16/14 ... Fishy stuff to read on ...


RFA Encourages Anglers & Businesses to Participate in Process

In April, NOAA Fisheries announced plans to develop a national recreational fishing policy.  Earlier this month, the federal fisheries arm of the Department of Commerce began taking that recreational fishing policy from door to door to solicit input and opinion from recreational fishermen and fisheries managers across the country. 

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) today commended NOAA Fisheries for coordinating this effort, and particularly for scheduling meetings with stakeholders outside of the Washington DC area. 

"One problem in the past was that NOAA Fisheries would hold invitation only meetings in the Washington DC area, but the saltwater anglers and marine business owners are going to their state and regional council meetings to express concerns, and that's where these types of sessions should be held," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio.  "Kudos to NOAA for coming out into the public arena for public input, and especially for being able to face angler frustration head-on."   

The first in a series of Public Town Hall meetings was held on June 9th in Ponte Verde, FL at a meeting of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, a second one last week in Freehold, NJ at the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting.  NOAA Fisheries staff is distributing a national saltwater recreational fisheries policy discussion guide, as well as a one-pager that explains the overall concept.   

"NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of our ocean and coastal resources, is asking for your help in developing an Agency-wide saltwater recreational fisheries policy," the agency describes online.  "We are creating this policy to institutionalize within NOAA the key tenets of recreational fishing. The policy will be a thoughtful set of principles to guide agency actions and decisions over the long-term."


RFA's managing director, Jim Hutchinson, attended last week's town hall gathering and encouraged anglers and business owners to consider attending.  "There are some constructive components of this policy draft, and there are also a lot of folks chiming in on things that many anglers might not want to see included, so this is good opportunity for our sector." 

Hutchinson said the term "recreational fishing" for one is being discussed, with NOAA Fisheries having learned from one stakeholder group that 'expense fishing' should be included in the final policy.  "Expense fishing where people sell their fish to market to pay for their recreational expenses should not be a part of the recreational fishing definition," Hutchinson said.  "Any fish caught for sale must be counted against the commercial sector's quota, so that's not something that should be part of an angler definition."

 "RFA is appreciative of NOAA's efforts to come out to the public and hear first-hand about the flawed data collection especially and how it's impacting the recreational fishing culture," Hutchinson said.  "RFA is also happy because by actively establishing this national policy for recreational fishing, it should be one less principle to worry about in terms of reforming the Magnuson Stevens Act." 

"RFA will be submitting input to NOAA Fisheries regarding the policy, and we urge anglers to participate in the process as well," added Donofrio.  

Click here to visit NOAA's recreational fishing management page or go directly towww.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/recreational




Out of flavor, make that favor ...

Report on domestic catfish industry chronicles decline since 2003 but a few bright spots remain

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Southeast Farm Press] By Mary Catherine Gaston - June 16, 2014 - 

Since peaking in 2003, the U.S. catfish industry has been shrinking. American consumer preference for the fish declined from sixth among the top 10 fish and seafood products in 2009 to ninth in 2012.

The recently released 2013 U.S. Catfish Database compiled by Auburn University aquacultural economist Terry Hanson paints a grim portrait of the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry overall, but a few bright spots, particularly for Alabama producers, are sprinkled throughout the report.

The acreage devoted to catfish farming in the U.S. continued its steady decline in 2013 and is now down 62 percent, or 121,135 acres, from its peak in 2002. Meanwhile, imports of frozen catfish fillets increased by 44 million pounds in 2013, to 281 million pounds, accounting for 78 percent of all sales of frozen catfish fillets in the U.S. Imports in 2013 were nearly 10 times what they were just eight years ago, while the number of pounds of U.S. catfish processed is down nearly 50 percent from that same year.

“Though the majority of the news for the U.S. catfish industry is bleak, 2013 did bring slight increases in both pounds processed, up 11 percent from 2012, and total producer income, also up 11 percent over the previous year,” said Hanson. “We are encouraged by these signs that the industry may be stabilizing.”

And, the news for Alabama’s catfish farmers is slightly better than for those in other states. Though the acreage devoted to catfish farming in the state has decreased steadily since 2004, Alabama has seen the lowest rate of decrease of the top catfish-producing states. In addition, while feed purchases have dropped dramatically in other states, signaling a sharper decline in the industry, Alabama’s feed purchases have remained relatively stable.

Butch Wilson, an Alabama catfish farmer and past president of the Catfish Farmers of America, says the trends in the industry are forcing farmers to innovate and diversify in order to remain competitive in a global marketplace.

“I’ve lived every one of these trends on my farm,” said Wilson, who in recent years has diversified operations and updated technologies on his Dallas County farm. He now raises tilapia in addition to catfish and has moved portions of his operation indoors to keep up with the industry’s latest technological advances.

Looking to the future, Hanson says some trends will likely continue, while others may see a sharp change. While the market share of imported fish and seafood will continue to rise, overall consumption of seafood products will keep to its downward trend unless efforts are made to educate Americans about the nutritional benefit of eating more fish. The increase in feed prices over the past few years has led to a lower in-pond catfish inventory in the U.S., which will result in a supply shortage in 2014. As of February, processors were paying much higher prices per pound for U.S.-raised catfish than just a year earlier, a positive trend Hanson hopes will continue at the production, processing and retail levels.

“If producers are able to invest these profits to improve infrastructure, adopt new technologies and reduce production costs, then U.S. farm-raised catfish will compete favorably with inexpensive imported products,” Hanson said. 

Hanson, associate professor and Extension specialist in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, has provided the annual catfish database for the last 15 years.  Much of the information in the report is a historical compilation of data provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture


If you're up Canada way ...

Industry happy with return of Mclobster in Atlantic Canada, supplied by Raymond O'Neill & Son

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [The Chronicle Herald] by Bill Power - June 13, 2014

Finally, some good news for Maritime Canada’s beleaguered lobster fishery.

McDonald’s Canada is bringing back its McLobster sandwich for its 15th consecutive season, and a couple of Maritime companies, High Liner Foods Inc., of Lunenburg, and Raymond O’Neill & Son Fisheries, of Escuminac, N.B., will benefit.

“The McLobster sandwich has achieved something like iconic status in the Maritimes, where demand remains high throughout the summer after 15 years among local customers and tourists,” Jason Patuano, regional communications manager for McDonald’s, said Thursday.

Lobster currently landing on sandwich buns in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and parts of Quebec, was caught in May and frozen for delivery to about 89 locations.

McDonald’s will not reveal exactly how much lobster will be gobbled down this summer, except to say the volume will be in the thousands of pounds.

“It’s a pretty big lobster feed,” Patuano said.

The regional and seasonal launch of the McLobster sandwich comes at a time when lobstermen in northern Nova Scotia are struggling with large catches and stalled markets.

McDonald’s will monitor the regional market response to the McLobster, and the social media reaction across Canada. There is always the possibility of it appearing in other markets, Patuano said.

“We had a successful introduction of the McLobster in the Ontario last summer, but made different menu decisions for that market this year,” he said.

“With such a strong response to the McLobster launch on Facebook and Twitter from Western Canada, it is interesting to consider the possibilities, but for now this remains a regional offering in the Maritimes.”

Lobster meat for the McLobster sandwich is supplied to McDonald’s this year by High Liner Foods through a partnership with Raymond O’Neill & Son Fisheries.

High Liner also provides McDonald’s with Alaskan pollock for its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches in the Canadian market.

Wendy Schofield, production manager at Raymond O’Neill and Son, said lobster meat harvested by area fishermen is processed and packed for shipment at the 45,000-square-foot processing facility in Escuminac that employs about 220 seasonal workers.

“It’s great to know that lobster that has been harvested by local fisherman at the wharf right here in Escuminac will be served at McDonald’s all across the region,” Schofield said in a news release.

The lobster meat ships frozen and is mixed at McDonald’s locations featuring the traditional East Coast recipe of celery, a lemon-flavoured mayonnaise-style sauce, and shredded lettuce on a bun.

The McLobster sandwich sells for $6.79 and can be included in a meal for $8.99.


Eel appeal remains deadly to stocks ... 

Endangered listing of Japanese eels creates fears of rising prices

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Nikkei] - June 16, 2014 -    

GENEVA/TOKYO, The Japanese restaurant and food industries are worried that the price of the Japanese eel may climb further, following the decision by an international body to classify the fish as endangered.

The Japanese eel is a migratory fish found in Japan, China, South Korea and a wide expanse of East Asia. Because there are no farms that raise the fish from eggs, most Japanese eels sold in Japan are caught when young and raised until they are mature enough to eat.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced on June 12 that the Japanese eel was added to its Red List, recording it as a species nearing extinction. The decision by the Swiss-based scientific organization does not carry any legal obligations. But the Red List is referenced by the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which governs the Washington Convention and international trade and protection of endangered species.

Unless the Japanese eel population recovers, it may be added to the list of species protected under this convention. Such a move would lead to import-export controls, and higher prices.

High risk

The IUCN added the Japanese eel to the second highest category in its three-tier endangered list. This recognizes a high risk of extinction within the wild in the near future. Loss of habitat and over fishing are cited as the reasons for the listing.

Matthew Gollock, who leads the IUCN expert committee on eels, expressed great concern for the status of the Japanese eel, as well as other species of the fish. At the same time, he sounded a positive note when he said that inclusion in the endangered list "will allow us to prioritize conservation efforts for eel species."

The IUCN Red List is regarded as the most authoritative reference for evaluating extinction risks for various species. Now that the Japanese eel is on the list, the fish will most likely come under the protection of the Washington Convention, if such action is proposed at the next conference of the parties in 2016. Protection under CITES includes a requirement for government permission to export controlled species. Depending on the designation, commercial trade and taking of the species from the wild are prohibited.

Rising costs

In any case, the price of eels in Japan is certain to rise if the fish comes under convention controls, since the country imports most eels, including elvers for farming, as well as processed and cooked adult eels, from China and Taiwan.

Even if the species is added to the Washington Convention, trade can continue as long as the government in the exporting countries has a viable system of regulation including the issuance of permits. But it will still likely reduce supply and cause higher prices.

Due to several years of low catch volumes of juvenile eels in various Asian countries, wholesale prices in Japan have more than doubled in the past three years. This has already lost the interest of many consumers. That is why the IUCN decision is a worrying development for those that handle the decreasing Japanese delicacy. However, prices have been falling since spring due to the largest eel catch in the last five years. This has provided a sense of relief for eel purveyors, but "the (IUCN) decision means the price may start to rise again," said an official at Kura, an operator of conveyor-belt sushi restaurants.

Kappa Create Holdings, which runs the Kappa-Sushi restaurant chain, stopped serving eel sushi this spring except for locations in northwest Japan and the Kyushu region due to the rise in eel prices. The company said that if eel becomes difficult to source, the company will limit its eel menu.

Zensho Holdings is now using European eels imported from China at its Sukiya fast-food restaurants. But the company is concerned that "demand may shift toward European eels and cause a price rise."

"In the medium- to long-term, we will likely need to consider selling different kinds of eel," said an official from the Summit supermarket chain.


Amy caught a keeper! Dinner!

Amy caught a keeper! Dinner!

Bill from Indian Mills, NJ weighed in a 22.5 lb bass today. He caught it off of the mid-island surf on bunker.

Bill from Indian Mills, NJ weighed in a 22.5 lb bass today. He caught it off of the mid-island surf on bunker.


Murphy clam, 6.1 lbs!

Murphy clam, 6.1 lbs!
Wish I was doing this today!!!!
Wish I was doing this today!!!!


A Korean Delicacy That Peels the Mouth

HEUKSAN ISLAND, South Korea — South Korea has a generous list of foods some find hard to swallow, among them boiled silkworm pupae and live baby octopuses, which have been known to attach their suction cups to the roofs of diners’ mouths in what appear to be desperate bids to escape.

But fermented skate from this southern island tops them all. By far South Korea’s smelliest food, the fish, called hongeo, is described by lovers and detractors alike as releasing odors reminiscent of an outhouse. Served most often as chewy pink slabs of sashimi, hongeo is prized by enthusiasts for the ammonia fumes it releases, sometimes so strong they cause people’s mouths to peel.

“I used to think that people could not possibly eat this stuff unless they were crazy,” said Park Jae-hee, a 48-year-old marketing executive. “But like smelly blue cheese, it has no replacement once you fall in love with it.”

It is easy, of course, to poke fun at other nations’ cuisines: Consider Europeans’ wrinkled noses at the American penchant for slathering ketchup on everything from fries to scrambled eggs. But some South Koreans who are otherwise fiercely proud of their fiery, often odoriferous foods, like kimchi, admit to being repelled by hongeo and baffled by its rising popularity.

“I can’t understand who in the world would pay to eat a rotten fish in a restaurant that smells like an uncleaned public restroom,” said Ms. Park’s closest friend, Huh Eun.

Even those who swoon over its exotic taste cheerily admit their passion comes with some social costs. A subway ride after a meal of hongeo can be isolating, with fellow riders sometimes casting furtive glances and sidling away. Owners of restaurants that specialize in hongeo advise customers to seal their jackets in plastic bags before the meal and offer to spray them with deodorant afterward.

“I’ve eaten dog, durian and bugs, but this is still the most challenging food I’ve ever eaten,” said Joe McPherson, the American founder of the Korean food blog ZenKimchi, who has become a self-appointed ambassador for Korean cuisine. “It’s like licking a urinal.”

The lowly fish, once just a regional specialty in the southwest provinces of North and South Jeolla, followed the migration of rural workers during South Korea’s industrial boom in the 20th century, with restaurants specializing in hongeo opening to serve growing populations of scattered Jeolla natives.

Still, it took a while to catch on, thwarted not only by its formidable odor and limited supply, but also by the regional prejudices that have dogged Jeolla, where Heuksan Island is. During decades of military dictatorships, the country’s elites, often from rival Gyeongsang Province, were accused of ostracizing Jeolla and fomenting a bias that outlived authoritarian rule.

Then, about 10 years ago, a free-trade agreement with Chile helped wear down resistance to Jeolla’s signature fish dish, flooding the market with relatively cheap Chilean hongeo and inspiring new restaurants to open.

Among the legions of the fish’s fans, the velvety texture of frozen hongeo liver melting on the tongue with a pinch of salt and red pepper has been compared to foie gras. The smell, to their minds, is most of the appeal, coupled with a tingling in the mouth that accompanies the hit of ammonia. Gourmets say a proper hongeo dinner must end with hongeo soup, steaming with the smell of boiling ammonia.

Despite the dish’s newfound popularity, the center of hongeo worship remains here on Heuksan Island, off the country’s southwestern tip. The bottom-feeding fish with the Guy Fawkes-like smile has long been the foundation of the island’s economy, and fishing boats head out several times a month to nearby waters where hongeo feed and lay eggs.

Islanders say the fish first gained a following here because of a quirk of biology. In the days before refrigeration, the fishermen’s forebears learned that hongeo was the only fish they could ship to the mainland 60 miles away without salting. The hongeo lacks a bladder and excretes uric acid through its skin. As it ferments, it oozes ammonia that keeps it from going bad.

Thank God for the NYT providing a heaping helping of oikophobia to explain that a toxic fish is just like enjoying ketchup on fries. 

“Hongeo can’t pee, and that’s where the miracle begins,” said Kim Young-chang, 77, the owner of a hongeo restaurant here. A true believer in the fish’s power, Mr. Kim rattled off a list of health benefits he believes come from eating it. “I have never seen anyone having stomach trouble after eating hongeo,” he proclaimed.

Among Heuksan residents and their neighbors across the water in mainland Jeolla, hongeo has long been an integral part of local tradition and lore. Wedding parties are considered incomplete if hongeo is not served. And natives point out that the dissident-turned-president Kim Dae-jung, perhaps Jeolla’s most famous son, was so homesick for the fish that politicians made sure to bring him fresh stocks during the years of military rule when he was in exile.

The fish has also helped rejuvenate this island of 2,200, once a major port, where thousands of boats sought shelter from typhoons and where crews traded in fish and visited the then-famous bars. The town had declined in recent decades, as boats with refrigerated storage could bring their catch farther and found less use for the island as an offshore trading post.

But with hongeo’s growing popularity, residents began pitching the island as a tourist attraction where people could sample authentic “Heuksan-do hongeo,” and hongeo restaurants have replaced many of the seafront bars. Yoon Sung-jong, 51, the island’s postmaster, said that up to 80 percent of the outbound packages his office handled were hongeo, addressed to mainland restaurants, where a dish of Heuksan Island’s hongeo can go for $150.

These days, one of the surest signs of hongeo’s rise to national attention is also a dispiriting one for those who value regional harmony. According to Lee Jeong-bok, a linguist, the word has entered the lexicon of slurs that some Gyeongsang people hurl at their Jeolla neighbors, with the clear implication that Jeolla people are repulsive. (Not to be outdone, some Jeolla people use the name for a Gyeongsang delicacy — a half-dried mackerel — to describe their enemies there.)

But hongeo has also helped bridge regional prejudices. Some Gyeongsang natives have been drawn to Heuksan Island to sample the fish. And in a good-will gesture in 2005, Park Geun-hye, a Gyeongsang native and aspiring president, sent two hongeo as a gift when a Jeolla politician named Han Hwa-gap was elected head of an opposition party.

When Mr. Han switched his allegiance seven years later to support Ms. Park’s bid for the presidency, earning death threats, he cited, among other things, how touched he had been by the symbolism of her gift.


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