Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Dec. 9, interesting and important news stuff ....


I’m fully confused by the shooting-on-sight of snowy owls at NYC and Newark airports. They are a protected species. What’s more, I can’t imagine aircraft-downing concerns over a few scattered owls when considering geese -- by the millions – are an even larger and aircraft-worrisome bird. A few, widely-scattered Canada geese on the ground – under, say 10 birds -- wouldn't raise an eyebrow of airport worry. 
Snowy owls are so laidback and approachable it would be a breeze to cannon net them for relocation. Hopefully, a fuss will be raised by bird people over this questionable owl murdering.


SNOWY BLAME: Of course, I have to have some fun with the snowy owl presence, i.e. Sunday’s baffling insta-snow storm has taken on an air of cosmic strangeness.

Firstly, some of the snow measurements didn’t even make sense, considering the sky-watchers swore there would to be “no accumulation.” Well, some places got eight inches worth of “no accumulation.”

I circled and re-circled the computerized weather maps, after the fact, seeking some sciencey excuses behind this sneakily little snow assault. None materializes. It was when I left logic in the cold that something hit me like a ton of igloo bricks. What if its’ all these freaky snowy owls?! That’s it. They brought this upon us.  

Go ahead, give all the “Bah, humbull” you want. But, notice how the uncalled for snow came submissively, almost mystically, straight out of south and west, preceding directly to where all the snowy owls are accumulated hereabouts.

I have no video proof at this time but I have it on good Native American authority that a slew of our snowy owls – maybe 20 or more – have been known to form a large circle by touching wing tips together. Then, slowly, they become a glowing, feathery snow magnet.

(Oh, but you’ll believe in Big Foot, UFOs and learning languages while sleeping, won’t ya?)

By the by, our apologies to Philly and places west of here. They got in the way of our owls’ spiritually sucked in snow. Fortunately, owl eccentricities proved no match for Eagles.

It now comes down to whether or not these snow-summoning owls remain here -- and coax in more and more white and wicked weather. If so, this could be a game changer -- make that a forecast changer.

Uh, I think snowy owls are afraid of firecrackers and high-decibel heavy metal music. Just sayin. 


NMFS imposes Atlantic coast speed limit for shipping to avoid North Atlantic right whales

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Cape Cod Times] By Mary Ann Bragg - December 9, 2013 - 

PROVINCETOWN — The National Marine Fisheries Service will make it a permanent requirement that large ships slow down in Atlantic coast areas where North Atlantic right whales breed and feed.

The federal agency posted its preliminary ruling Friday online and will make it official Monday when the current five-year regulation expires. All aspects of the rule remain in place until circumstances warrant further changes, according to the ruling.

There are 510 right whales in the world, according the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, which compiles population estimates from the latest research. Cape Cod Bay and waters north and east of Cape Cod are feeding areas.

Whale conservation groups contend that ship strikes, fishing gear entanglements and climate change are the whales' greatest threats.

"It's a huge thing," Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation in Plymouth, said Friday. "It really is going to give the species an opportunity to recover."

The slow-down rule restricts vessels 65 feet or longer to not more than 10 knots in certain locations at certain times of the year along the Atlantic coast.

Locally, these "seasonal management area" restrictions are from Jan. 1 through May 15 in Cape Cod Bay; from May 1 through April 30 off Race Point in Provincetown; and from April 1 through July 31 in the Great South Channel, east of Chatham.

The rule also has "dynamic management area" restrictions, called DMAs, which are voluntary and reported to mariners as needed.

Ships are allowed to exceed the speed limit to maintain safety but are required to document those events.

"This is very much a Massachusetts whale," Charles "Stormy" Mayo, director of right whale habitat studies at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, said Friday. "I think the original rule has been demonstrated to work, and we believe it has been effective in slowing vessels down. I'm very much pleased with the decision."

The latest analysis shows that from 2008 through 2012, there were no recorded right whale deaths from ship strikes within 40 nautical miles of the seasonal management areas, according to Sharon Young, marine issues field director of The Humane Society of the United States.

Shipping industry representatives had wanted the rule extended for a fixed number of years and to have more research to determine if it worked, according to written comments submitted to the fisheries service by the Chamber of Shipping of America, an industry group.

The fisheries service will evaluate the conservation value and the economic, navigational and safety impacts of the rule by 2019, according to the posting online Friday.

The industries affected by the rule include commercial shipping, passenger ferries, whale-watching companies, and commercial and charter fishermen, according to the fisheries service.

The rule is expected to have little-to-no impact on ferry and whale-watching businesses, according to fisheries service research.

"I was in support of them making the rule permanent," Bay State Cruise Co. General Manager Michael Glasfeld said Friday. The company, based in Boston, runs ferries between Boston and Provincetown. Glasfeld said he needed to read the rule closely before commenting more.

He was most concerned that the dynamic management areas would become mandatory, Glasfeld said. "They would be the thing that would turn us out of business."

Stephen Milliken, owner of the Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown whale-watching company, said Friday that he has supported the rule all along.

"It's expected," Milliken said. "The good thing is that every five years we can review it and what the patterns of the right whale movements are and adjust any changes. Hopefully it will help in their recovery."

Dolphin Fleet boats typically see right whales for a few weeks in Cape Cod Bay in the spring. The boats have to remain 500 yards from the whales, by law, Milliken said.

The focus in the coming years will be on monitoring the results of the rule and the distribution of the whales along the coast, Young said. Further changes to the rule may be considered, she said.

"It is an amazing victory," she said. "I think right now we need to bask in the victory for right whales."


Sen. Begich warns FDA not to pull a Christmas surprise stealth roll-out of GM salmon

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Seafoodnews.com] - December 6, 2013 -

Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) called on FDA  to "Leave surprises to Santa this season"

He put FDA) on notice that any changes to "Frankenfish" policy must be well-promoted and must include ample time for public debate - not obscured by a release during the holiday season. In a letter to the FDA yesterday, Sen. Begich reminded the agency about last year's unwelcome and untimely announcement.

"On December 26 last year, the FDA released the draft Environmental Assessment and preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact regarding the AquaBounty proposal to sell genetically modified salmon," said Sen. Begich. "Release of this decision came as an unwelcome present in the midst of last year's holiday season and at a time when Americans were more focused on their families than on anticipating such a major policy decision. I wanted to put the FDA on notice that I would not welcome a similar announcement as a surprise during the upcoming holiday season."

Recent news about Canada's approval of the export of genetically-engineered (GE) salmon roe has renewed concerns that the FDA is poised to announce approval of GE salmon for human consumption. In a letter sent to the FDA this week, Sen. Begich requested advance notice and a briefing on any such pending action by the FDA. Sen. Begich also introduced legislation in the 113th Congress that seeks a more comprehensive environmental review of the AquaBounty proposal and requires labeling of GE products.

"Americans shouldn't have to wonder if the seafood on their plate comes from the ocean or a test tube," said Sen. Begich.

NOAA's draft rule on Atlantic bluefin tuna draws fire from New England

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Gloucester Times] - December 9, 2013 - GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Congressman John Tierney, Massachusetts’ other U.S. House lawmakers, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have all signed onto a letter urging NOAA’s acting chief fisheries administrator to “make key reforms” to a proposed new rule managing the harvesting of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

In their letter, sent Friday to acting Administrator Samuel D. Rauch III, Tierney, the two senators, and the state’s other delegation members — from South Shore and South Coast representatives William Keating and Joseph P. Kennedy III to Lowell-based Niki Tsongas and Western Mass. Congressman Richard Neal — all called for NOAA to make certain that any mandates ensure “equity among fishing participants from different regions, future fishing opportunities for Massachusetts’ traditional near-shore fishing industry, and the long-term sustainability of this unique fish.”

The letter comes as groundfishermen out of Gloucester and other New England ports continue to confront dire cuts of up to 78 percent in allowable landing limits for Gulf of Maine cod and other species in the current fishing year, which began May 1 and carries to next April 30. In the meantime, a growing number of fishermen have sought to bridge the gap by fishing for tuna out of ports including Gloucester, which is also the focal point of the acclaimed National Geographic reality TV series “Wicked Tuna.”

“Although we are generally encouraged by some of the provisions in this draft rule,” the federal lawmakers said of NOAA’s tuna management proposal, “we are concerned with several management options that could threaten our Massachusetts fishing fleet.

“Over 1,000 traditional near-shore fishermen in Massachusetts depend on healthy Atlantic bluefin tuna populations and utilize selective fishing techniques,” reads the letter, also signed by Massachusetts U.S. Reps. James P. McGovern, Michael Capuano and Stephen F. Lynch. “The proposed rule, as currently drafted, could put these Massachusetts fishermen at a significant disadvantage.”

The NOAA draft proposal, first outlined in August, targets several changes to current regulations, including:

Implementing an annual cap for bluefin killed on surface longlines along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Allocating that cap among surface longline fishermen by establishing an “Individual Bluefin Quota” system, seen as loosely equivalent to NOAA’s groundfishing catch share system that many fishermen blame for steering more and more quota to large boats and corporations, and freezing out smaller, independent boats which may not have the capital to compete.

Establishing a gear restriction area in the Gulf of Mexico for March through May, where surface longlines would be prohibited throughout the Gulf, but highly selective alternative gears such as greensticks and buoy gear would be allowed.

Establishing another gear restriction area off Cape Hatteras, N.C., from December through April.

The lawmakers’ letter notes that longline vessels have surpassed their quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna by more than 100 percent in each of the last five years, and in 2012, discarded some 239.5 metric tons of dead Atlantic bluefin — but that many of those discards occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, the most-documented spawning ground for the western populations of bluefin.

“The traditional Massachusetts fleet utilizes selective fishing methods to target Atlantic bluefin, including rod and reel, harpoons, greensticks and handlines, which minimize any unintentional catch,” the delegation’s letter said. “Changes to the existing quota allocation could allow fleets from other regions to utilize a disproportionate amount of quota as discards and deprive our region’s fishermen of this vital resource.”


Once humble black drum is now a money fish for Louisiana fishermen

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [The Advertiser] Claire Taylor- December 9, 2013 - 

WEST ST. MARY PARISH, Douglas Olander has been fishing since he was 5 years old.

His father was a commercial fisherman. So was his grandfather, who used a sailboat to catch shrimp. Now, Olander’s 19-year-old son is getting started in the fishing business. It’s hard work, requiring a big financial investment. And in order to remain viable, today’s commercial fisherman should possess the ability and desire to adapt to change.

Olander, 44, who owns Big D’s Seafood at the Port of West St. Mary Parish along with his wife, is doing just that. “When I was a kid, the black drum, you couldn’t give it away,” Olander said while piloting his 32-foot aluminum boat along the Calumet cut on his way to the Atchafalaya Delta.

He remembers when most people preferred eating speckled trout, flounder and the darling of the fish world, red fish.
After fisheries officials prohibited the commercial taking of red fish to protect it from overfishing, the once-shunned black drum gained in popularity.

Black drum are a firm, white-meat fish with a texture and taste very similar to red fish. “It’s always been a good fish. You just had so many options,” Olander said, explaining that you wouldn’t eat a hot dog if you could have steak even though a hot dog tastes good, too.

Today, black drum being served at fine-dining establishments in New Orleans thanks to fishermen like Olander. “It’s become the darling of white tablecloth restaurants,” said Thomas Hymel of the LSU AgCenter in Jeanerette, who helps area fishermen and shrimpers market their catch.

Another reason for the increased popularity of black drum fishing, according to the Louisiana Sea Grant Oyster Initiative Program, is that black drum are known to be powerful oyster predators. The fish tend to spawn in coastal marshes, and in the spring, feed on small seed oysters. With its strong jaws and heavy teeth, the drum easily crushes oyster shells, and can eat up to one oyster per pound per day.

Olander and his wife, Chrystel, built their business on black drum. They started with one boat and a pickup truck.

“My wife was paying people for three years out of the pickup truck in the mosquitoes before we could get an office,” he said.

Now they own six acres of property in the Port of West St. Mary where they have an office, home and dock, along with their own boat landing. The Olanders own three boats for catching black drum and a fourth for shrimping.

“It’s like a fisherman’s dream,” Olander said. “The only time you’ve got to go to town is to buy groceries.”

Olander and several fishermen who work with Big D’s Seafood are responsible for catching about one-third of Louisiana’s three million pound annual commercial quota of black drum, Hymel said.

“He is the center of all that,” Hymel said.

A three-person crew spends most of the day running hooks through cracked crab claws. The hooks are attached to trotlines, elasticized lines that are marked with small floats.

Six days a week, Olander is up at 6 a.m. He and his crew load the baited lines in plastic bowls onto the boat he designed specifically for black drum fishing. They load ice and fuel up the vessel at a cost of about $160.

Olander carries his dog, Brownie, aboard the boat and heads south, toward the Atchafalaya Delta in the Gulf of Mexico, occasionally conducting business over a blue tooth device while Brownie nudges him for attention.

Using a GPS, he pilots past oil and gas facilities and pilings crowded with resting pelicans. Eventually, Olander stops the boat near a float, slips on white overalls and orange gloves, then reaches over the side of the vessel to retrieve the first of 30 trotlines he set out the previous day.

Using a hand tool, Olander quickly flips a black drum, detaching the flopping fish from the hook, plopping it into a large holding area. The first trotline of the day brings in nine black drum.

“Not too bad, not too good,” he said.

Other fish — bull drum, sting ray, saltwater catfish and the coveted redfish — are lured in by the crab claws, but Olander releases them into the brown waters of the Gulf.

Using his gloved hands and a hand-held instrument, Olander repeats the process over and over again for hours, pulling in the elasticized lines, flipping the fish off, gradually filling up the holding tank with 400 pounds of fish.

After stopping for a snack and soft drink, Olander tosses the fish, one or two at a time, into a covered tank, shoveling ice over the catch to keep it fresh.

Olander drives to another spot and sets out 30 mores lines. He’ll be up before the sun tomorrow, repeating the process again. He believes his business has succeeded because he is dependable. “Just having fish when they needed fish. That’s what made me successful at it,” he said.

The LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant want to help him become even more successful. They’re already working with local shrimpers to package their catch in five-pound consumer packs under a label they created, Vermilion Bay Sweet.

The product is available in a few local stores, including Rouse’s supermarkets in Lafayette and Youngsville and at Shawn’s Cajun Meats in Delcambre, Hymel said.Now they’re working with Olander to package his black drum in small quantities for sale in local stores, including Shawn’s Cajun Meats and Bi Lo in New Iberia, he said.

LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant already are marketing his black drum fillets at the Delcambre Farmers Market.

It takes self-reliant, can-do people like Olander who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and change their business model, from one in which they sell only wholesale to one in which they package and sell their product for sale in stores, Anne Dugas of Louisiana Sea Grant said.

“He’s the new generation of people who are going to move this business ahead,” Hymel said.

(There are about 300 to 400 black drum fishermen within Louisiana, 50 of whom fish year-round. Louisiana imposes a 3 million pound quota on black drum. To date, that quota has never been reached. Black drum from 1 to 10 pounds are very common and often referred to as "puppy drum." Larger fish, called "bull drum", might reach 40 pounds and are occasionally even larger. The most valuable is the 3- to 6-pound fish. The price drastically decreases the larger the fish. There is approximately a 60 cent per-pound difference between the smallest and the largest of black drum.)


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Comment by Dave Nederostek on December 9, 2013 at 7:29pm

The savages up at those airports shoot anything that flies. Starlings, gulls you name it.;


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