Lots of very interesting fishing news:::
TRAWLER OWNER, CAPTAIN CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL HARVESTING OF SUMMER FLOUNDER AND BLACK SEA BASS
(11/P15) TRENTON * The Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife has issued summonses charging the owner and the captain of a commercial fishing trawler with illegally harvesting thousands of pounds of flounder and black sea bass.
The trawler Atlantic Queen harvested nearly 2,400 pounds of summer flounder and more than 1,200 pounds of black sea bass in excess of state limits.
"Our coastal waters support rich and diverse commercial fisheries, but it is imperative that everyone * from captains and owners of ocean-going commercial vessels to the individual angler casting a line from the beach or a pleasure boat * obey the regulations that are in place to protect these resources," said Division of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Mark Chicketano. "This was a significant violation of those regulations."
The owner of the trawler is Alda Gentile, 53, of Speonk, N.Y. The captain is William Jeffery Stanley, 44, of Brick.
Gentile and Stanley were each charged with landing summer flounder and sea bass without valid permits, harvesting both species in excess of 10 percent of total weight of species brought to the dock, failing to notify the Division of Fish and Wildlife that it was fishing for these species, and harvesting summer flounder during a closed season.
The owner and captain could face penalties up to $21,000 each.
Conservation officers boarded the Atlantic Queen shortly after midnight on Jan. 25 after noticing that it appeared to be overloaded with summer flounder and black sea bass. The vessel had just docked in Point Pleasant Beach after returning from a 10-day fishing trip.
Under the direction of the officers, the crew unloaded the fish onto the dock, where they were weighed. Although the vessel did have appropriate federal fisheries permits for these species, it did not have the appropriate state licenses for either of the species landed. The permits are necessary to land the fish in New Jersey.
As a result, the vessel was only legally permitted to land a maximum of 200 pounds of summer flounder. It had actually landed 2,397 pounds of this fish. The vessel was also only legally permitted to harvest 100 pounds of black sea bass. It had harvested 1,208 pounds of this fish.
Regulations allow for a small portion of these two fish species to be brought to the dock. This averts wasting of fish that are incidentally caught in the harvesting of other species.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife sold the fish to a licensed dealer so they would not go to waste and is holding the proceeds of the sale pending adjudication of the case in Point Pleasant Borough Municipal Court.
[Baltimore Sun] By Candus Thomson - February 4, 2011 - For the second straight day Wednesday, Natural Resources Police pulled illegal nets from the Chesapeake Bay filled to the brim with striped bass.
In total, they have seized 10 tons of illegally caught fish, the largest haul of its type since the end of the rockfish moratorium more than two decades ago.
After detecting poachers' nets Monday night, patrol boats with grappling hooks snagged nets near Bloody Point at the southern tip of Kent Island on Tuesday morning, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. They pulled up 2.8 tons, 3.5 tons and 3.5 tons.
In addition, an officer found a 2,100-yard submerged net Sunday in the Choptank River. It had just three fish in it, indicating that it had been freshly set.
The commercial gill net season opened Tuesday. Marked nets that float and are monitored by fisherman are legal; hidden, anchored nets are not.
"We're going back out at first light," said Natural Resources Police Sgt. Art Windemuth. "We've got officers who have been reassigned, working 18 hours a day. Anyplace that has water, we're looking."
The investigation is continuing, and Windemuth acknowledges that police don't know who set the nets and may never know.
The discovery of the illegal nets has unleashed fierce criticism from fisheries regulators and the conservation and recreational communities.
Ed Liccione, chairman of the 1,400-member Coastal Conservation Association Maryland, called the total "jaw-dropping" and vowed to ask the General Assembly for a ban on nets if the commercial industry doesn't "get its own house in order."
On Wednesday, the Maryland Watermen's Association added its voice to the call for action and begged watermen to turn in the renegades.
"It's just a handful of bad apples. They're out of control," said Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. "They don't think the laws apply to them. It's not fair to the guys who do this honestly."
Poachers flood the market early in the season, causing a drop in prices. In addition, the fish seized by Natural Resources Police are weighed and count against the monthly quota. The February quota is 415,359 pounds.
Simns said fed-up watermen have been tipping off police to the locations of nets.
"It's hard to catch them red-handed, but I think they will," he said. "It's only a matter of time."
Striped bass is the official state fish and the Chesapeake Bay is the spawning ground and nursery for about 75 percent of the stock on the Eastern Seaboard. Decades of overfishing led to a five-year moratorium that ended in 1990 to give the striped bass population a chance to rebound. As a result, what happens in Maryland is of interest up and down the coast.
Fishing websites are filled with the news of the finding of the nets, and Fisheries Service Director Tom O'Connell said he got a call from the head of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Service, the regional regulatory authority that sets Maryland's striped bass quota, asking for an update.
Despite toughening regulations and penalties last year and creating with a District Court a pilot program to hear natural resources cases exclusively in Annapolis, O'Connell said the poaching issue will have to be revisited.
"It's become clear that the penalty isn't strong enough to deter this kind of action," O'Connell said. "We are in discussions now about legislation."
Recreational fishing groups stand ready to lobby for those changes.
"This has got to stop," said Dave Smith, executive director of the 7,000-member Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association. "Recreational anglers have to get together and go to the General Assembly and say, 'Let's get serious.' "
Drifting gill nets are legal in Maryland waters from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28. Watermen must mark their nets and be within two miles of them. The Department of Natural Resources can close the season early if it appears that watermen are going to exceed the monthly quota. This year, the season closed Jan. 17 and reopened Tuesday.
Anchored gill nets - more efficient and deadly, and harder to detect - have been illegal since 1985.
If convicted, poachers can be fined $1,000 for a first offense plus $1,500 for each striped bass caught. The state's points and penalties system for watermen, which took effect last February, could result in license suspensions or revocations.
February 4, 2011 - EDITORIAL: Those who would like to see an end to the commercial harvest of striped bass in Maryland could have received no bigger boost to their cause than what has transpired this week near the appropriately-named Bloody Point at the southern tip of Kent Island.
In a matter of two days, Natural Resources Police hauled in more than 10 tons of striped bass, also known as rockfish, caught in illegal gill nets anchored to the bottom. That 20,000-pound bounty translates into about $60,000 in wholesale value but could prove far more costly, not only to the watermen involved but to all those who harvest seafood from Maryland waters.
Recreational fishing groups are already calling for watermen to keep their hands off striped bass permanently. Certainly, their outrage is justified: Along with the fish, police confiscated one submerged net that was 2,100 yards long, or enough to wrap around a football field six times.
Not that the incident was too great a shock to law enforcement. Last year, police confiscated a total of 15,000 yards of illegal gill net but charged fewer than a half-dozen people for illegal netting of striped bass.
That's because it's exceedingly difficult to prosecute such cases unless the scofflaws are caught red-handed. Illegal gill nets are left unattended and usually harvested at night. Meanwhile, there are only 19 Natural Resources Police officers to keep track of the waters along the upper Eastern Shore from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to the Nanticoke River, a distance roughly the equivalent of Baltimore to Ocean City.
What makes this week's incidents of illegal netting particularly troubling is that they come just a few months after the sentencing of the last of the rockfish poachers and wholesalers caught in a much-publicized federal crackdown two years ago. The black market ring uncovered by police operated on a breathtaking scale (1.6 million pounds of fish) and required 8 years to investigate and prosecute.
Watermen say poaching involves a relatively few bad apples and that honest fishermen will offer tips to police. But it's hard to believe that such illegal operations aren't more commonly known, particularly in the close-knit Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland communities where most watermen live and where many still regard DNR police with suspicion.
There are about 1,200 people licensed to catch striped bass on a commercial basis in Maryland, so the fishery is unlikely to be shut down — nor should it be. A rockfish dinner is a gastronomic joy that the non-fishing public should not be denied. Certainly, the species is not endangered. Last year, Maryland watermen harvested about 1.9 million pounds, about 883,000 pounds by attended drift gill nets, which are legal.
But it's fair to question whether the catch is properly regulated even with licensing reforms and increased penalties for violations adopted by the state over the past two years. An individual quota system where watermen would be given an annual catch limit (instead of only a daily one) might greatly reduce the motivation to poach.
As it is, the fish confiscated by police will count against the total commercial catch allowed for the season so the poachers have already hurt law-abiding watermen. But here's another step the Department of Natural Resources should consider: Start offering cash rewards for tips leading to arrests and convictions.
The fish swimming the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries belong to all Marylanders. If watermen can't police their business voluntarily, then it may be time for lawmakers and state regulators to take more drastic actions. (((((((((((((((((((((((())))))))))))))))))))))))
The Assembly Appropriations Committee has advanced legislation (A-2695) sponsored by 9th District Legislators Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove to expand existing law whereby disabled veterans would be entitled to free admission to State parks and forests.The measure would also offer certain other military personnel free admission to State parks and forests, as well as free hunting, fishing and trapping licenses, permits, stamps, tags and certificates. Senator Christopher J. Connors is the prime sponsor of similar legislation (S-113) that is presently awaiting action in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. Following the Committee’s release of A-2695, Connors, Rumpf and Gove offered the following remarks:“For years, the 9th District Delegation has been attempting to advance this legislative initiative as a means of providing an additional benefit to our veterans in light of their courageous service to our nation. Given New Jersey’s beautiful State parks and numerous waterways for fishing, we feel that exempting military personnel from paying for these recreational activities is an appropriate and meaningful gesture of gratitude. “In our conversations over the years with veterans, we recognized that many of these individuals shared common interests, particularly in outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting. Many of the veterans living in our District are retired and living on fixed incomes. The cost savings afforded to eligible veterans under this legislation could allow these individuals to pursue recreational activities that they once enjoyed but could no longer afford.”Members of the 9th District Delegation serve on the Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee of each respective House of the Legislature. Connors, Rumpf and Gove are also the prime sponsors of legislation that would authorize municipalities to offer free or reduced beach badges to certain veterans. ((((((((((((((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))))))
[Guardian] By Fiona Harvey - February 4, 2011 - A campaign to end the practice of forcing fishermen to throw away a large proportion of their catch has won the support of the EU commissioner for fisheries, who has pledged to try to bring an end to the current quota system.
Maria Damanaki, the EU fisheries commissioner, told the Guardian yesterday: "We can't go on like this, with this nightmare of discards . . . we need a new policy."
Her strong stance marks a radical challenge to the common fisheries policy, which has operated for 40 years.
As much as two-thirds of the catch in some areas is thrown back into the water, usually dead, as a result of current quotas. When fleets exceed their quota, or unintentionally catch species for which they do not have a quota, they must discard the excess at sea. About one million tonnes are estimated to be thrown back each year into the North Sea alone.
The proposed reforms to the EU's common fisheries policy will be put before the European parliament in a year to two years, the commissioner said. Under them fishermen will have to land their entire catch - whether the fish are saleable or not. The reforms are likely to be phased in, but Damanaki insisted the end result must be an end to discards.
Although some countries may try to water down the plans, Damanaki said public opinion was behind the move. "I am very optimistic [that the proposals will go ahead] as I know there is public support," she said. "The UK in particular has been a champion on this issue, and across Europe there is growing awareness."
Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition against discards spearheaded by the Guardian's food writer, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Fishermen could lose out at first, Damanaki acknowledged. Although many dislike having to throw fish back, they are able to choose the highest value fish to keep. If they had to land all of their catch, they could be forced to sell low-value species useful only as fishmeal.
But Damanaki said they would benefit in the longer term, as ending discards would help to preserve dwindling fish stocks, and fishermen would receive aid. "There have to be some painful changes," she said. "Our current policy of short-termism is not sustainable. We know that a third of our fish species are over-exploited."
She said the commission had worked on the proposed reforms for three years, and consulted extensively with scientists and fishermen. Under her plans EU member states would have the ability either to set quotas for their fishermen or to limit the amount of time they can spend at sea.
Damanaki said restricting the time at sea was a better option for mixed fisheries, where there is a high probability of catching more than one species. She said current monitoring systems would have to be reinforced to ensure member states were complying with the rules.
The food industry and conservationists backed the move to end discards. An unprecedented alliance of retailers and food processors, including Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer and the UK's Food and Drink Federation, was brought together by the green campaigning organisation WWF yesterday to campaign for the reform.