Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday, February 10, 2014: Right at SandPaper deadline last week, I was passed some information on winter flounder season becoming less restrictive – as in no closed season, though a strict size and …

Monday, February 10, 2014: Right at SandPaper deadline last week, I was passed some information on winter flounder season becoming less restrictive – as in no closed season, though a strict size and bag limit stays in place.  

So, I’ve been on the landline trying to have this confirmed by the folks at NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, Law Enforcement Bureau, Marine section. They listened to me as if I had two heads. I’m not sure if this is just a lag time in regulation changes leaking downward or if I got bogus info – though, again, the sources (more than one) are mighty damn reliable.

So, for the moment (as winter flounder begin to stir with ice-out), the old closed season regs (April 1) remain in place. I have calls in so any info and I’ll alert one and all. If any of yinz have info, please let me know.


I have a couple interesting reports from bayside homeowners regarding backyards, porches and stoops being visited by oddly outgoing otters. I got photos as proof.

As I oft note, there is absolutely no shortage of these frisky little mammals. In fact, some frustrated folks might say we have too many otters, after having crab traps and fish ponds emptied by the forever ravenous buggers. They are as clever as any clandestine creature when it comes to making food raids on human waterfront habitations. When it comes to trapping them – forget about it. However, they are far from outgoing when it comes to mixing it up with humanity. In fact, part of the reason folks don’t realize how many are living nearby is their furtive style, along with their nocturnal lifestyle. When I used to kayak fish near the Hochstrasser bridge at night, I not only got a feel for how many were running about but how they were willing to let me know they weren’t wild about me being out there. They little numbnuts would purposely surface near my kayak and splash cold water on me. They also get noisy during mating season and when young are being fed.

But what would bring them ashore – and into backyards. I haven’t the foggiest. Obviously, the solid ice-over of the bay knocked any normal foraging for a loop. Unlike the otter’s close relative, including weasels, badgers, ferrets and mink, otters do not hibernate. Considering we haven’t had a winter like this in the lifetimes of most of our otters, they might have their back to the survival wall. How they know to turn to humans for foodstuff, could be as simple as their seeing coons and otters get away with trashcan raids and blitzing outdoors bowls of pet food.  

I’m always obligated to warn that as cute and cuddly as otters seem, they ain’t. To say they can bite to the bare human bone if need be is proven out by the way they can sever the head clean off a larger fish in a couple side-mouth bites. They can also splash the s*** outta ya.


Northeast Regional Office Name Change:

NOAA Fisheries has changed the name of the Northeast Regional Office to the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. We’re doing this at the direction of Congress to better reflect the broad extent of our region, which spans from Maine to North Carolina and includes the Great Lakes.

So as of today, we’ll start to use our new name in various communications. For instance, you’ll see our new name reflected on the home page of our regional office website, in emails and letters. When you call our office or one of our staff give a talk, you’ll hear the new name. Seafood dealers and fishermen will also see news about the name change when they log into various NOAA Fisheries catch and fish sales reporting systems such as SIMMs or Fish-on-Line.

Our goal is to make this transition as seamless as possible for constituents, but it will take some time to modify all of our operating systems, forms and procedures to reflect the new name. However, over time, you will see Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office and/or the Greater Atlantic Region used on all of our webpages, and in print and electronic communications materials, regulatory actions and legal documents. 

This change is in line with recent efforts to expand our presence in the Mid-Atlantic region. Our new Assistant Regional Administrator for Stakeholder Engagement, Kevin Chu, is based in Maryland and oversees our communications and fishing industry outreach teams. Click here to read more about this news.

So how will this change affect our constituents?

We don't expect there to be much of an impact on our constituents as we make this transition. But, we realize that it will take time for our stakeholders to become adjusted to seeing this new name and using it themselves.


Loads of world fishery news ........................

New findings may press FDA to reconsider what levels of domoic acid in shellfish and fish are safe

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Medi-Lexicon] - February 10, 2014 - 

A chemical that can accumulate in seafood and is known to cause brain damage is also toxic to the kidneys, but at much lower concentrations. The findings, which come from a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), suggest that officials may need to reconsider what levels of the toxin are safe for human consumption.

The world's oceans contain algae that produce certain chemicals that can be harmful to humans and other living creatures. Many of these chemicals are considered neurotoxins because they cause damage to the brain. The neurotoxin domoic acid, also called "Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning," is a very stable, heat resistant toxin that is becoming more prominent in coastal regions, likely due to environmental changes. It can accumulate in mussels, clams, scallops, and fish, and the FDA has set a legal limit of domoic acid in seafood based primarily on its adverse neurological effects.

Because domoic acid is cleared from the body by the kidneys, P. Darwin Bell, PhD, Jason Funk, PhD (Medical University of South Carolina), and their colleagues looked to see if the toxin might also have detrimental effects on these organs. By giving mice varying doses of domoic acid and the assessing animals' kidney health, the team found that the kidney is much more sensitive to this toxin than the brain.

"We have found that domoic acid damages kidneys at concentrations that are 100 times lower than what causes neurological effects," said Dr. Bell. "This means that humans who consume seafood may be at an increased risk of kidney damage possibly leading to kidney failure and dialysis."

While the findings need to be verified in humans, the researchers would like to see increased awareness and monitoring of domoic acid levels in all seafood. They say that the FDA may also need to reconsider the legal limit of domoic acid in food due to its kidney toxicity.


SEAFOODNEWS.COM  BY  John Sackton  Feb 10, 2014

The American Seafoods' Catcher processor Katie Ann was hit by a huge wave early Saturday morning while fishing northwest of Unimak Island at the height of the pollock season.  The factory trawler suffered damage that included broken windows, and injured 6 crew members.
The vessel steamed to Dutch Harbor under its own power, and docked at the Kloosterboer dock.  Some crew members were taken to the Grand Aleutian hotel, where cots were set up in some of the meeting rooms.
Lauren Rosenthal of KUCB reports that Unalaska public safety personnel met the vessel at the dock. 
"We responded and did an assessment of the situation with EMS," says Sergeant Bill Simms.
The injuries among the crew appeared to be "superficial," Simms says. "The captain was allowed to transport the patients [to the clinic]."
None of the injured crew had to be medevacked.
As of this morning, the vessel remains at the dock.  The incident was reported to the Coast Guard at 3:30 am Saturday. Katie Ann is a 295 foot catcher processor built in 1969.
Winter weather induced-fish kill prompts North Carolina to shut commercial spotted trout season

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [Star News Online] by Kate Elizabeth Queram - February 10, 2014

State officials this week closed the recreational and commercial spotted sea trout season after fish kills were reported in the wake of last month's winter storm. Those reports didn't trickle in until several days after the storm, a typical delay after severely cold weather.

"There were several counties in the central to northern part of the state that reported cold-stun deaths," said Chip Collier, Wilmington district manager for the state Division of Marine Fisheries, which authorized the early closure. "Most of it came in on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It takes a little while for the fish to float up, and it takes some time for people to get back on the water."

The spotted trout season, which closed officially at noon on Wednesday, is typically open all year. It will reopen June 15. Seafood dealers have until Feb. 12 to get rid of unfrozen spotted trout acquired before the closure, which local sellers said wouldn't be difficult.

"It's a pretty big seller for us, mainly because the trout sort of takes the place of the flounder this time of year," said Tom Franz, manager of Motts Channel Seafood in Wrightsville Beach. "The flounder become smaller, and they catch not nearly as many in the winter, whereas the trout catches increase."

By Wednesday, Motts had about 100 pounds of trout meat; as of Friday morning, inventory was down to six fish. Shoppers aware of the early season closure were upset, Franz said, though not disruptively so.

"A lot of the regulars are," he said. "We've got people coming in that know this time of year is when they get them, and they'll buy quite a few. It's one of the more affordable fish. They're not up in arms or anything, but people are disappointed."

Area fishermen were likewise incensed, saying that the statewide closure seemed unnecessary when the bulk of the cold-stunned fish were spotted in waters far north of the Cape Fear region.

"I just don't understand why they closed the counties where they didn't have fish kills," said Randy Robinson, a commercial and recreational fisherman based in Holden Beach. "I think they should go county by county. Why should we penalize the people in the southern part of the state if the northern part has a fish kill? It makes no sense."

Fish kills in Southeastern North Carolina were relatively small - on the Northeast Cape Fear River, just a single trout was found belly-up after the storm - but officials said the closure was required by law. Per the management plan for spotted trout, the fishery must be shut down statewide if any fish are cold-stunned after a period of winter weather, as the fish are managed as a statewide stock rather than regionally, Collier said.

"There's evidence that fish in the Cape Fear do migrate up to Pamlico Sound and all the way up to the Chesapeake," he said. "The closure will give the fish that did survive down here a chance to repopulate in other areas."

Cold-weather fish kills are relatively infrequent in North Carolina - the last such closure was in December 2010 - and sometimes, cold-stunned fish can survive, though it's not common.

"Spotted trout are more of a temperate fish," Collier said. "The cold starts to stun them, so their metabolism slows down. Sometimes the gas in their bellies will expand, and they rise to the surface. Some of the fish belly-up on the surface are still alive. As they warm up and get out of the stun, they can survive it - but it's minimal, how many do."


VIDEO: Will top US earners continue to support higher shrimp and salmon prices in 2014?

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton - February 10, 2014

Rising Shrimp and salmon prices have not had much impact so far on the volumes imported into the U.S.  In fact, these species appear to have surprisingly inelastic demand - meaning that when prices increase, customers generally keep buying. 

One theory is that so much of the heavy consumption of these products comes from the top 20% of income earners in the US, that they have been able to keep buying as prices rise, while the 80% who have seen incomes stagnate have to trade down or abandon these items altogether.  

The real question in 2014 is if the smaller segment of higher income Americans can continue to support elevated shrimp and salmon prices.


ASMFC approves Maine's elver plan that sets statewide quota

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Bangor Daily News] By Bill Trotter - February 10, 2014 - 

ELLSWORTH, Maine, The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has agreed to allow Maine to restrict its annual elver harvest with a statewide quota, rather than by a cap on the number of licenses that can be issued throughout the state.

The decision on Thursday by the interstate commission, which regulates fisheries in state marine waters, allows Maine Department of Marine Resources to continue ironing out details of a tentative agreement it has reached with the Passamaquoddy Tribe about the juvenile American eel fishery.

Under the agreement, which would resolve a long-running dispute between the department and the tribe, DMR would not object to the tribe issuing as many dip-net licenses to its members as it wants but the tribe would be limited to a 1,650-pound catch total for the 2014 season and would require its members to use state-issued swipe cards, which will track daily landings statewide, whenever they sell their elvers to dealers.

DMR plans to impose individual catch quotas on fishermen that are based on each fisherman’s catch history over the past three years, which the department has said should significantly inhibit illegal poaching. Passamaquoddys will not have individual quotas.

According to a press release issued Friday by the commission, Maine will be limited to a statewide harvest of 11,749 pounds for the 10-week elver season, which is scheduled to begin on March 22. The statewide quota represents a 35 percent reduction from the more than 18,000 total pounds caught in Maine last year, when there was no statewide catch limit. The commission had told Maine that, to better protect declining American eel populations, the state had to reduce its 2014 catch total by 25 to 40 percent.

Because of a spike in demand, brought on in part by the 2011 tsunami that wiped out stocks of live eels being cultivated in Japan, the price of elvers has skyrocketed since 2011, making it the second most valuable fishery in Maine behind lobster. The average price elver fishermen earned in 2009 was just less than $100 per pound, but it rose to nearly $900 per pound in 2011 and has been consistently above $1,500 in each of the past two seasons, at times surpassing $2,500.

Prior to this week’s vote, the commission had instructed DMR to limit the number of elver licenses issued statewide to no more than 744, which led to sharp disagreements between DMR and the Passamaquoddy Tribe.

The tribe issued more than 200 licenses to its members in 2012, which put Maine over that statewide license limit. The following year, when the Legislature tried to limit Passamaquoddys to 200 licenses, the tribe instead issued 575. In response, the department declared most of the tribal licenses to be invalid.

As many as 50 tribal members who fished with tribal elver licenses considered invalid by DMR subsequently were charged with Class D crimes, officials have said. But most of those charges since have been dismissed by prosecutors in Hancock, Washington and Penobscot counties, where prosecutors have said they don’t believe it is fair to punish fishermen caught up in an intergovernmental dispute.

Jeffrey Pierce, executive director of the Maine Elver Fishermens Association, said Friday that reduced catch limits are alway painful, the association is “fine” with the new measures being implemented for the 2014 season.

Pierce said not all non-Passamaquoddy fishermen are happy with the plan to implement individual quotas. Some wanted their quotas based on their catch totals over the past two years instead of three, he said, and some wanted only a statewide catch limit but no individual quotas.

But given that some regulators wanted to shut down the elver fishery entirely, getting a 35 percent reduction is acceptable, he said. Plus, he added, regulators are expected to require changes to hydroelectric dams to improve survival rates for reproducing adult eels.

Pierce said elver fishermen hope 2014 will turn out to be a good year, even with the tighter restrictions.

“You never know what you’re going to catch,” he said, explaining that ice, cold weather and heavy snow runoff all can keep springtime elver catches low. “[But] we’re optimistic for the season.”


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