Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Monday, January 06, 2014:
The arriving bitterness could be far more damaging than the similar one we had last week. While the arriving cold snap will be kicking around the same single-digit real-time readings – with wind chills used in the quick-freeze industries – the arriving blast will be balls out to freeze the innards of our basements and crawl spaces.
The difference this blow-around is the lack of snow. Last week, our homes were essentially bundled in a blanket of relatively warm snow. Today’s rain and 50-dgree air temps have sent the snow cover packing. That meltdown has created the worst case scenario for a flash freeze fiasco.
As the term suggest, a flash freeze is when anything wet quickly turns to ice. When the air drops to 10, it’s becomes a deep-seated ice -- meaning it can rip apart pipes and gutters with the greatest of ease. What it can do to car door handles and windshield wipers isn’t pretty.
I’d like to say there are ways to lessen the flash freeze impacts but there aren’t towels big enough to dry your house, cars and garages. It becomes a tried/try case of keeping faucets running at pencil thickness all night -- and await the near balmy air that will be arriving by later in the week. Unfortunately, it’s when the thaw takes place that the damage done by the ice-over springs to light. Good luck.
Despite some debate (energy-wise), hot water pipes should also be “dripped.” Any pipes with still water are dead ducks. Hot water pipes are as prevalent as cold water pipes. They need some motion within. It comes down to keeping hot water moving (a bit) without emptying the hot water heater. Ideally, getting up in the middle of the night and flushing toilets and blasting on hot and cold water on for a few minutes could save the day. Sure, go ahead and sleep in the bathroom. Use cords to attach the sink faucets and the toilet handle to your toe. Wake up every now and again and give things a midnight flush and flow without climbing out of your sleeping bag. Can you tell I’ve done it already?
Sadly, this critical freeze over is literally the kiss of death for many hibernating creatures, especially herptiles. The rain and melt seepage will reach their buried sleeping haunts, literally introducing expanding ice crystals groundward and downward. I have seen the damage done by fast freezes during my spring frog and amphibian counts. Here’s hoping the flash melt following this flash freeze will arrive in the nick of time.
Lady feeding deer ...
Senate bill would send NOAA’s Seafood Inspection Program to Interior
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Food Safety News] - January 6, 2014 - Food Safety News
In mid-December, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced a bill that would move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its seafood inspections to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
More broadly, the act transfers all functions of the U.S. Departments of Labor and Commerce to a newly established Department of Commerce and the Workforce. In doing so, a handful of offices would be moved elsewhere, including NOAA (currently under Commerce) to Interior.
Burr said that the consolidation of “duplicative programs” would reduce spending.
“The president has proposed merging and consolidating federal agencies several times over his two terms, and this bill advances that proposal,” Burr said in a statement.
NOAA’s fee-for-service Seafood Inspection Program offers inspections for businesses to demonstrate food regulation compliance and become eligible for stamping with official marks, such as U.S. Grade A, Processed Under Federal Inspection and Lot Inspection.
In January 2012, the director of the Office of Management and Budget said that if Congress were to grant President Obama the power to consolidate federal agencies, the White House would want to merge food safety agencies into one. The president’s first plan to merge six business-oriented and trade agencies also included a plan to move NOAA to the Department of the Interior.
ASMI fighting misinformation scare about radiation and Alaska salmon
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Kodiak Daily Mirror] by James Brooks Jan 6, 2014
Alaska salmon are safe to eat. Some days, the problem is convincing a buyer that’s true.
In 2011, after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and ruptured the containment of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a wave of concern reached Alaska. Would radiation affect Alaska seafood? How much? When?
Those concerns ebbed as it became clear the danger was overblown. Now, a surge of inflammatory articles has revived the scare, and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is fighting back, using facts in a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole to defeat misinformation.
“We've seen a resurgence of really unsubstantiated scaremongering articles,” said ASMI communications director Tyson Fick.
While Fukushima is a relatively new issue, ASMI has always fought misinformation about Alaska seafood. “One month it's mercury, another month it's PCBs, and right now it's radiation,” Fick said. “It’s kind of the concern du jour.”
The cycles are typically driven by unscrupulous “click-bait” websites designed to draw attention with inflammatory headlines or pictures. When thousands of readers click a link to “Find Out Why Doctors Hate Her” or read “28 Signs the West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation,” those websites cash in on advertising revenue.
If Alaska seafood sales decline as a result, it’s collateral damage. “It just takes a few articles in a row,” Fick said.
In 2013, Alaska fishermen harvested 272 million salmon worth $691.1 million. If buyers are scared by fraudulent claims, wholesalers may not buy that salmon. It’s ASMI’s job to head off the problem.
“Mostly what we get are requests from people that are our customers that we work with: ‘I know this is crazy, but I've got this customer that has these questions, how do I get them the appropriate information?’” Fick said.
Usually, that involves a pointer to the Food and Drug Administration, which states plainly on its website: “To date, FDA has no evidence that radionuclides from the Fukushima incident are present in the U.S. food supply at levels that would pose a public health concern.”
Dr. Bob Gerlach, Alaska’s state veterinarian, agrees. “At this point, the data shows there does not seem to be any impact on the heath and safety of seafood harvested in Alaska,” he said.
The key thing, he said, is to distinguish between scaremongering and actual threats. After the Fukushima Daiichi accident, scientists detected elevated levels of radioactive Cesium 137 in the Pacific Ocean.
It’s above normal but hardly harmful, as a 2013 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences pointed out. That paper determined that someone would have to eat 275 pounds of seafood per year to experience the radiation equivalent of one dental X-ray.
“It's significant from a scientific view but not a public health view,” Gerlach said.
At ASMI, Fick said his group will keep fielding questions about radiation and whatever the next scare turns out to be. “Our buyers, our customers generally feel really good about the market,” he said. “We'll keep our head down and keep plugging away to get the truth out there.”
Bluefin tuna goes for a song at first Tokyo auction this year compared with year-ago
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [South China Morning Post] By Ernest Kao - January 6, 2014 -
A giant bluefin tuna sold at auction in Japan yesterday for about 95 per cent less than the record-breaking sum paid last year – but Hong Kong diners are unlikely to see too steep a drop in prices for the delicacy.
The 230kg fish was purchased at the Tsukiji market’s first auction of the year for 7.36 million yen (HK$545,000), significantly lower than the 155.4 million yen paid for a fish of similar quality in 2013. It is the first time in five years that the auction price has slipped below 10 million yen.
Bluefin is usually the most expensive fish available at Tsukiji, the biggest fish and wholesale seafood market in the world.
Intense bidding last year sent prices skyrocketing and deterred other bidders from vying with the popular Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain.
The same chain won this year’s auction. Kiyoshi Kimura, whose Kiyomura Company operates the restaurants, said: “I’m glad that the congratulatory price for this year’s bid went back to being reasonable.”
The rival Hong Kong-linked Itamae-Sushi chain was top bidder for the biggest bluefin four years in a row until 2012. Founder Ricky Cheng Wai-tao famously became the first non-Japanese to claim top prize at the annual auction after he forked out HK$430,000 for a bluefin in 2008. His last winning bid, in 2011, was for a record HK$3 million bluefin weighing 342kg.
Cheng could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Federation of Restaurants & Related Trades President Simon Wong Ka-wo said the lower auction price would not signify too much of a drop in bluefin tuna prices at local restaurants.
“Bluefin tuna is generally priced very high and not that many people can afford it, so retail prices are not likely to be affected too much,” he said.
Jackel Lui, who manages a high-end Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong, agreed.
“Previous ‘sky high’ bids for tuna in Japan were just public relations gimmicks. They did not reflect the true market prices for bluefin tuna,” he said.
Lui said many restaurants in Hong Kong did not have bluefin tuna on their menus any more and instead were sourcing the less endangered yellowfin, farmed tunas or tunas from other parts of the world such as the Philippines or the United States.
Chamber of Seafood Merchants Chairman Lee Choi-wah said the low figure could signify weakness in the Japanese seafood export industry, a weaker yen and worries about declining global stocks of bluefin tuna.
Part of this year’s price decline was also in part due to the greater number of bluefins available from Oma, the city in northern Japan that is a top site for tuna fishing.
The Lobster Council of Canada launches campaign to differentiate Canadian lobster
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Canwest] - January 6, 2014 -
The Lobster Council of Canada - an industry group composed of people, not lobsters - thinks the time has come to elevate the noble Atlantic crustacean to national iconic status, alongside such quintessentially Canadian treats as maple syrup and peameal bacon.
To that end, it has launched a campaign to promote the Canadian essence of this conveniently red delicacy, and to create a logo that sets the hardy hard-shell apart from the soft-shelled moulters of nearby Maine and the spiny lobsters - glorified shrimp, really - of warmer, southern seas.
Most Canadian lobsters are hard shelled
At the heart of the campaign is a marketing mystery: What makes a lobster Canadian? Why is the lobster, as the president of the brand consultancy hired for the project put it (with apologies to the Malpeque oyster) "Canada's most iconic shellfish"?
The answer is a long story, said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, encompassing a reputation for quality, sustainability and traceability; the life stories of the hardy folk who harvest it; the smell of traps drying on a wharf; the sheen of drawn butter on a chunk of knuckle; the joy of butchering it yourself and slurping juice out of cracked claws; and the magical culinary pairing with potato salad.
"These are all things that make the brand story, make the brand promise," Mr. Irvine said.
"We know in the market that Canadian lobster gets a premium of any other similar type of lobster, and we want to be able to tell that story through a brand," he said. "It's just part of our desire to get the industry to work more together, to collaborate more, to think more professionally."
Partly it will involve research, like interviews or surveys, to "drill down to the DNA" of the Canadian lobster, as Mr. Irvine put it - metaphorically, of course, because genetically, there is not a whole lot of difference between Canadian lobsters and their cousins in the waters off Maine.
Most Canadian lobsters are hard shelled, and the season is staggered around the summer moulting season, when lobsters shrug off their shells to let new ones grow. In Maine, they take more soft-shelled lobsters, right after moulting. Typically, soft-shelled lobsters yield less meat, but are often said to taste better, with sweeter, more tender meat.
Nelson Angel, president of Revolve, the branding agency leading the lobster project, would not be baited on this question of taste, and said merely that they taste different.
"There's certainly perspectives both subjective and scientifically proven," he said. "It's about looking at those differences and finding a way to ensure we're differentiating in a way that does position Canadian lobster as the lobster of choice."
He said the design of a brand will involve sensitivity to things like environmental concerns, cultural differences, and perhaps even whether lobsters feel pain.
"We do want to make sure that there's nothing offensive, of course, in the logo or the identity," Mr. Angel said.
GMO labeling of foods battle goes on as FDA approval of Aquabounty nears
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [AFP] By Veronique Dupont, - January 6, 2014 -
NEW YORK, A GMO labeling battle is rumbling in the United States, with those demanding full disclosure of genetically modified organisms in food products pitted against big companies.
Although some giants such as General Mills have recently taken timid steps toward being more upfront with consumers, the United States, unlike some 60 other countries, lacks a legal requirement to do so.
Still, in the world's largest economy, where almost all soy, sugar beet, corn and canola crops are genetically engineered, bills requiring labeling for GMO foods were introduced in 26 states last year.
But only Maine and Connecticut approved such measures and have yet to implement them.
Alaska adopted a law in 2005 requiring labeling of genetically engineered salmon, whose safety for human consumption is still being studied by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Elsewhere measures have been defeated, notably in the state of Washington, where voters narrowly rejected GMO labeling. Other proposals are near death or languishing in legislative committees.
But supporters of GMO labeling of food insist they are unfazed and determined to shore up more support.
“We expect even more states this year” to join the battle, particularly Oregon and Colorado, said, Colin O'Neil of the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit organization that opposes GMO foods.
While one bill in Vermont was likely to pass this month, two senators were working on federal legislation, he said.
The labeling of genetically engineered foods is “an issue that exploded last year at the state level” due to consumer pressure, according to O'Neil.
A recent New York Times poll found that 93 percent of Americans want GMO food to be labeled.
For O'Neil, “the tipping point came with the California ballot initiative” on GMO labeling that was narrowly rejected in 2012 due to a costly counter-campaign by large multinationals.
Agrochemical giants such as DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta, and BASF, joined by food behemoths including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods ponied up a combined US$46 million for advertising and other means to convince voters to reject the proposal.
The anti-GMO side spent US$9 million.
“That sent a tremendous signal to consumers,” O'Neil said. “Many were unaware that companies would spend so much to keep consumers in the dark.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents leading food, beverage and consumer products companies, said the organization has maintained “strong support for a federal solution” regarding standards for the safety and labeling of GMO foods and beverages.
“Our nation's food safety and labeling laws and regulations should not be determined by political campaigns or through a patchwork of state laws,” spokesman Brian Kennedy told AFP.
The GMA argues it agrees with the FDA and other agencies, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, that foods and beverages containing genetically engineered ingredients are safe and that labeling would be costly for small farmers, as well as the agencies verifying them.
Some Companies Take Small Steps
But there are small signs the issue is making its way to the front burner.
General Mills announced Thursday that it would make its popular Original Cheerios breakfast cereal without GMOs, and U.S. consumers would see it labeled as such.
“We did it because we think consumers may embrace it,” the company said. “But it's not about safety.”
However, General Mills, whose brands include Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Yoplait yogurt, said that for other varieties of Cheerios it will not be able to forgo GMOs.
“The widespread use of GM seed in crops such as corn, soy, or beet sugar would make reliably moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible.”
A few other companies have also addressed the GMO labeling issue lately.
Supermarket chain Trader Joe's says it sells only non-GMO products.
Meanwhile upscale grocer Whole Foods, which sells a large amount of organic produce, plans to label genetically engineered products — but only as of 2018.
As for fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, it has started listing genetically engineered ingredients on its website. “Our goal is to eliminate GMOs from Chipotle's ingredients, and we're working hard to meet this challenge,” it says. But “there is currently not a viable supply of responsibly raised meats and dairy from animals raised without GMO feed.”
Sea Shepherd in annual pursuit of Japan's Southern Ocean whaling fleet
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Deutsche Welle] - January 6, 2014 -
The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd is conducting its annual pursuit of Japanese whaling vessels. Activists say they have evidence of several whales being slaughtered.
"There's three carcasses on the ship, a fourth carcass has been cut up. There's blood all over the place, meat being carted around on this factory ship deck, offal and innards being dumped in the ocean," Bob Brown, the chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia, said.
He described what he had seen as "a gruesome, bloody, medieval scene which has got no place in this modern world."
The group used a helicopter to shoot pictures of the Japanese vessels from the air. The photos show three minke whales dead on the deck of the factory ship Nisshin Maru. The group said a fourth whale was being slaughtered when the helicopter flew overhead.
Brown also claimed that one of the ships was inside the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, calling the alleged violation a "gross breach of international law."
A spokesman for Japan's fisheries agency responded to Brown's claims by saying: "We are not aware of the existence of a whaling sanctuary, so we don't want to comment on their arguments."
Japan says it is hunting the animals for scientific purposes under an exception to a 1986 ban on whaling. This year, it is planning to kill about 1,000 whales as part of what it calls a "research plan submitted to the IWC (International Whaling Commission)."
Opponents argue, however, that this is just a cover for commercial whaling, as the meat not used for study is sold as food in Japan.
Sea Shepherd engages every year in sometimes forceful clashes with Japanese whaling ships while trying to make them stop their hunt. Stink bombs, water cannon and ship collisions are a common feature, and in one year a Sea Shepherd boat sank after its bow was sheared off.
Australia went last year to the United Nations' highest court in a bid to outlaw Japan's annual whale hunt. The International Court of Justice is expected to issue a ruling sometime this year.