Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Christmas reality check ...
Friday, December 16, 2016: Hopes your pipes have fared well and are still flowing freely. With winds dying off rapidly today, the freeze-up danger is somewhat lessened. Now we’re in for a monumental change. From the teens into the mid-60s in nothing flat. That yo-yo thing will continue into the foreseeable weather future. I’m still taking ocean temps near 50. Any onshore winds, like those from a nor’easter will melt any chance of things going deep and white. Best chance of snow conditions is what we just saw, anything coming in on west winds. That never amounts to much.
I hit a remarkably low tide for clamming today, Holgate end. Even though the clams have settled in fairly deep for the winter, I quickly got my allowed 150 in this small area of the mudflats:
Somewhat oddly, my bycatch of bloodworms was unusually high for cold weather, when they also tend to go down deeper. I’m on the brink of going with bait for remaining bass, though chunks of chowder clam meat also make a fine presentation on a pompano rig. Maybe I’ll go surf and turf … surf clams and bloodworms.
Here’s a look at the far-out tide conditions in Holgate today. You need to know that area a bit to see just how narrow the back cut was running … and I left before max low:
SOMETHING FISHY THIS WAY COMES?: I don’t know and I can’t yet imagine. That was my spontaneous response to being asked what effects The Donald might have on fishing. However, I wouldn’t be overly worried on the commercial fishing side of things. There is a high likelihood of the Trumpster favoring commercial over conservational when it comes to, well, all of nature.
While having a business-brained bully at the Whitehouse pulpit might seem a boom to the commercial fishing business, we have all seen the speed at which a resource can be unroyally ravaged, even annihilated – killing an industry faster than regulations ever could.
I do see a trend to less federal control of fishery management. Interestingly, that doesn’t mean states will obediently fall in line. States can always exceed federal margins. In fact – and admittedly oddly – this entire marijuana legalization thing has shown just how much states can obstinately go off on their own. I deeply fear the new administration will widen the gap between state and federal as possibly outlandish changes are suggested. Even Daring Don’s ongoing promise to erect a “A Wall” along the US/Mexico border could run into disagreement with border states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), though the border itself is under the control of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security.
In NJ, powerful fishing organizations could have a huge say in how fisheries are ultimately managed within NJ waters – above and beyond federal say. Of course, as I speak, anglers are vociferously fighting proposed stricter federal regulations on fluke. It could get to where recreational fishermen are simultaneously fighting “too strict” and “too lenient” federal fishing regulations.
Might the federal striped bass harvesting ban in the EEZ be reexplored? Hell, with Trump bulling around in the White House china closet anything is possible/likely.
CITIZENS OF NEW JERSEY
A CALL TO ACTION BY MONDAY A.M.
WHAT IS GOVERNOR CHRISTIE TRYING TO HIDE?
For over 100 years, governments and businesses in the U.S. have been required to inform the public about vital matters like government contract bids, variance applications, sub-division variance applications, foreclosures, sales of government property, government contract bids, and municipal tax sales.
But this week, Gov. Chris Christie and a group of legislators in Trenton fast-tracked a bill to move public notifications to seldom-visited government agency websites instead; sites for transactions, not for visiting to be notified of anything.
If the bill passes, New Jersey would be the first state in U.S. history to allow governments to hide this vital information on their own websites.
But don't be fooled into thinking the simple idea of We can just post them on the Governments websites is innovative. Many others states have studied public notice laws in recent years including OH, IL, FL, and WI. Each state concluded there are principled reasons, public notices must continue to be published in newspapers and on the web.
NOTE: Governor Christie claims the bill doesn't force your governments to stop using newspapers as the independent, third-party providers common-sense requires. They can just do so whenever they're ready, he and others are saying. Exactly the problem. Unlike current law, the absurd permissive aspect of this horribly-flawed bill may be worst of all.
Why? For the first time in the states history, elected officials will have the power to threaten newsrooms and journalists with economic harm should they not provide favorable coverage of whoever happens to be in power, in your town, township, county, etc. Even the perception this could be happening should send a constitutional chill through everyone.
NOTE - They claim its about taking advantage of the Internet, but that's nonsense. Since 2003 all notices have been uploaded to www.NJpublicnotices.com; fully searchable by date, town, type-of-notice, etc. They are archived and secure. They are translatable to over 100 world languages instantly.
If the bill passes, it requires governments to take over the ad placements for all individuals, businesses and law firms for free. They have no clue that the business of providing public notice requires much more than a simple upload. The municipalities apparently have no idea what they're in for.
Neither Governor Christie nor the legislature have studied the operational impacts, nor calculated the increased costs governments will incur for taking over this important business to now be borne by taxpayers.
Governor Christie talks about the declining circulation of newspapers, but doesn't reference the higher audiences also reading newspapers online. He talks about the Internet covering the state, but ignores that the meager web traffic of government websites is for transactional reasons at that not at all about the necessary notification.
You just need to look to Michigan to see what will happen. Just last month, the same environmental agency behind the Flint, Michigan water crisis found itself embroiled in another controversy because it posted on its website a legal notice about a private water grab that nobody saw for 42 days until a local newspaper reported about it.
Please, call your legislators to let them know that government secrecy is always wrong, and that A4429/S2855 is a bad bill for which they must vote NO on Monday.
Whale SENSE Atlantic Has a Banner Year in 2016
|Whale SENSE Atlantic participants communicated conservation messages to more than 100,000 passengers in 2016. Photo courtesy of Whale and Dolphin Conservation.|
In 2016, the responsible whale watching program Whale SENSE Atlantic hit two records: the highest number of participants (16) and the most large whale entanglements documented by participants (13). The most recent entanglement was reported by American Princess Cruises out of New York City on December 4, and involved a critically endangered right whale.
"This was our first ever sighting of a right whale on one of our trips," says Frank DeSantis, owner and captain with American Princess Cruises, "and while we were devastated to learn that it was entangled, we felt fortunate to be able to document its condition and report it in to the authorities."
Whale SENSE Atlantic is a voluntary program for responsible whale watching offered to commercial whale watch companies from Maine through Virginia. The program, founded by the NOAA Fisheries and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) in 2009, plays a key role in the conservation and welfare of large whales in the North Atlantic.
"The role of our Whale SENSE partners is more important than ever, as the number of whale entanglements they reported nearly doubled from 7 cases in 2015 to 13 in 2016," says Dave Gouveia, protected species monitoring coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region. "In several of the reported entanglements, the whale watch vessels were able to stay with the entangled whales until disentanglement teams were deployed, which is essential to the teams being able to find the whale."
This year Whale SENSE welcomed four new companies: Boston Harbor Cruises, New England Aquarium Whale Watch, Rudee Tours, and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. Whale SENSE participants not only go above and beyond the standard of responsible viewing practices, but they also communicate conservation messages to more than 100,000 passengers each year.
"We have the opportunity to reach thousands of people each year, to not only show them members of endangered whale populations, but to make sure they understand that everyone plays a role in their conservation," says Zack Klyver with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, program participants since 2012. "Everyone can recycle to reduce the plastic debris in the ocean, everyone can limit their energy use by shutting down electronics, and consumers can make informed and responsible decisions about their seafood purchases."
Whale SENSE participants, along with NOAA Fisheries and WDC, received an Environmental Merit Award from the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the program in May.
"We are thrilled and humbled that the EPA acknowledged the great work of our participants, and plan to continue enhancing the program moving forward so we can reach even more whale watch passengers with these conservation messages," says Monica Pepe of Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
For most whale watching operators, it was a banner year for whale sightings. Humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine were easy to find, and from June through October passengers were often able to witness the whales, sometimes in large groups, feeding on a large abundance of sand lance, a favorite prey. Along the mid-Atlantic, many humpback whales were seen in coastal waters, demonstrating to passengers that humans and the oceans are inextricably interconnected. The whales' close proximity to shore helps to drive the point home that actions taken on land can quickly impact these majestic creatures.
Although whale watching in the Northeast has ended for the year, whale watching season is just beginning in Virginia Beach, where whales are often seen as they migrate from northern summer feeding grounds to southern winter breeding grounds. Two Whale SENSE participants, Rudee Tours and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, are starting their seasons ahead of schedule due to the early arrival of whales off the Virginia coast.
"The early return of our annual visitors gives us a unique opportunity to share our scientific research and conservation efforts with even more guests during their Sea Adventures," says Alexis Rabon, lead naturalist and boat programs coordinator with the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. "We appreciate the Whale SENSE program, and the accreditation provides that extra layer of certainty that our guests will get an incredible, thoughtful and well-designed trip full of education and excitement."
Whale SENSE company in your area.
Scientists Unsure What Killed Tens of Thousands of Herring: 'A Bit of a Mystery'
Bidders hope to secure a 25-year lease to operate a wind farm, to sell the electricity to energy-hungry Long Island and the New York City region. Offshore wind is a big part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan for New York to get half of its energy from alternative sources by 2030.
But the commercial fishing industry opposes building wind turbines on this particular stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, which is sandwiched between shipping lanes into and out of the New York harbor. “We are very afraid we are going to lock up an area of the bottom that is definitely favorable for scallop settlement,” said James Gutowski, a scallop fisherman from Barnegat Light, N.J., and chairman of the Fisheries Survival Fund.
Members of the fishing industry say the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management didn’t adequately consider what the impact would have on scallop and squid fishing grounds. The Fisheries Survival Fund and other members of the fishing industry filed a lawsuit last Thursday in a Washington, D.C., federal court seeking an injunction to block the lease from going into effect.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already removed about 1,780 acres from the lease area after the National Marine Fisheries Service flagged that parcel as a sensitive habitat and a prime commercial fishing spot.
The bureau also has awarded 11 offshore wind leases so far, including sites off Massachusetts, Delaware and Virginia. The developers for each of those projects are currently conducting site assessments, according to the bureau, which declined to comment on the lawsuit. A hearing is set for February. Other plaintiffs include the Garden State Seafood Association and the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.
Offshore-wind developer Deepwater Wind, based in Rhode Island, began operating the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. on Monday off Block Island, R.I., near the tip of Montauk. It also has a site located between Montauk and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., that it plans to build in phases. The first phase could begin construction in 2019 and would provide enough energy for more than 50,000 homes for Long Island’s South Fork.
A 2011 plan for the strip of the Atlantic Ocean, located about 11.5 miles from Jones Beach, called for building 194 turbines that would generate enough electricity to power 245,000 homes. But today’s improved wind technology could generate even more power, according to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is managing the auction. “There is significant market demand” in the region, said Tracey Blythe Moriarty, a bureau spokeswoman.
Some 14 organizations have qualified to bid during Thursday’s auction, including the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA. The authority is the first state entity to participate in a federal offshore wind auction, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
President-elect Trump’s nominee to run the EPA, Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA at least 14 times.
With Scott Pruitt running the EPA, everything we’ve fought for over the last 50 years is at risk. Our hard-won environmental protections that have cleared our air and waters of toxic pollution, promoted cleaner energy and a safer climate future, protected America’s natural heritage—all of it is on the line.
In the winter/holiday spirit, why not tip your gas station attendant. Like many males from my era, I once pumped gas, uh, professionally. Even though it was only a quarter, tips were quite common ... and hugely appreciate since we were making maybe $1.00 an hour. I think a buck tip for fill-up is a nice gesture.
Mid-Atlantic Fishery Council Proposes Steep Cut to Recreational Summer Flounder Quotas
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Asbury Park Press] by Dan Radel - December 16, 2016
This was one of the more consequential Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council meetings in recent memory.
The council's decisions that were made this week in Baltimore will have a major impact on fishermen, starting with recommendations for cuts to summer flounder, special management zones for artificial reefs, and final rules for a coral protection on the Continental Shelf.
Anglers are facing the most restrictive fluke regulations yet as a 40-percent cut in the allowable coastwide harvest is being recommended.
It's based on models that show summer flounder was overfished this year and its biomass is on the decline. Fishermen and legislatures refute that science.
Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) is asking NOAA to postpone any cuts until a benchmark assessment is complete. He said there continues to be legitimate concerns that the random sampling heavily relied upon by NOAA and the estimates produced are inaccurate.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is also taking a strong position against the reductions, which it said will cripple recreational and commercial fishing in New Jersey and be felt sharply throughout the Shore economy.
On Wednesday the council approved a non-preferred coastwide measure for a 19–inch minimum size limit, a four-fish bag limit and a season from June 1 – Sept. 15.
However, that's unlikely to be the New Jersey recreational season.
Kiley Dancy, spokesperson for the council, said it's a fallback measure in the event that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is unable to provide a set of state/regional measures that would constrain landings to the harvest limit.
In other words, a coastwide reduction has to be made and it will either be done with a one-size fits all measure or regional/state measures.
Either way, New Jersey anglers will be seeing less summer flounder in their coolers.
Pallone said fishermen won't be the only ones who suffer if these cuts are finalized, but the tourism and boating industries along the Shore will be impacted as well.
“Many fishermen are frustrated and lack confidence in the data that guides stock assessments,” said Pallone. “In the recreational sector, many believe that they have sacrificed for years to increase stocks, and have yet to see any benefits, despite the increase in biomass from the ‘90s."
Larry Hajna,spokesperson for the DEP said he was disappointed with the actions taken by the MAFMC and the ASMFC. He said it will make it nearly impossible for recreational anglers to keep any summer flounder they catch.
"In effect, these actions will result in a moratorium on one of our most important recreational fish species. I strongly urge (NOAA) to overturn these actions and keep current regulations in effect, so that all partners can work toward a stable management approach that provides long-term conservation of summer flounder without continually placing New Jersey at a disadvantage to other states.”
SMZ FOR ARTIFICIAL REEFS
The council voted in favor of special management zones for the 13 artificial reefs in federal waters off the coast of New Jersey. The measure now goes on to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for final adoption.
That means it could take until 2018 before that status is actually in place, and the decision could be reversed or amended.
Commercial fishermen will most likely continue to advocate for a compromise on the reefs, instead of a measure that prohibits them from use of the reefs.
The designation has the power to prohibit the use of any gear on the reefs except hook and line and spear fishing, and the taking of fish by hand. In other words, it would eliminate fish traps principally used by commercial fishermen.
Captain Pete Grimbilias, now the chair of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, was a driving forces to get commercial pot lines off the reefs. He was cautiously optimistic after the council took its position.
"It's a great step. It's been a long battle over the last ten years since the problem first came to our attention," said Grimblias. "It's not over yet though, we need to get NMFS on board with it."
The late Frank Lautenberg, a five-term United States senator from New Jersey, was the name the council gave to a 38,000 square foot, deep sea coral protection area from New York to Virginia.
Its official name is the Frank R. Lautenberg Deep Sea Coral Protection Area. It's intended to protect slow-growing and fragile corals in the submarine canyons on the Continental Shelf from the impacts of bottom-tending fishing gear.
The area was approved in 2015 by the council, which has the discretionary authority to designate zones where fishing may be restricted.
It adopted the final rules and name for the area at this week's meeting.
The council said it chose Lautenberg because of his ocean conservation legislation that included provisions for deep sea coral protections.
The area prohibits commercial fishermen from using bottom-tending fishing gear such as trawls, dredges, bottom longlines, and traps. The rule does not apply to recreational fishing, commercial gear types that do not contact the sea floor, or the American lobster trap fishery.
An exemption is provided for the deep sea red crab commercial trap fishery. Vessels may transit through the area if fishing gear is stowed and not available for immediate use