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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

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Recreational groups push to make re-allocation in favor of anglers part of Magnuson reform

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Trade Only Today] by Reagan Haynes - March 11, 2014

Recreational fishing interests are taking their allocation concerns to Congress which is considering Magnuson reauthorization.  In a Vision report, a powerful coalition of recreational groups make the point to 1) change the way mixed use (recreational and comercial) fish species are managed and allocated, and to allocate more of the nation's seafood resources to recreational anglers.  As part of the argument, they want fisheries management to focus not on maximum yield, but on things like the size and age structure of a fish stock, as anglers want larger fish.  It is important for the commercial sector to understand these arguments, as recreational fishing has huge traction in congress. 
 
In a time when Congress has a hard time passing laws that everyone agrees on, it seemed unlikely in late 2013 that a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act would include changes that would allow the law to approach the management of recreational fishing in a way that was different from commercial fishing.
 
But there has been encouraging movement this month on reauthorizing the act to include language specifically for saltwater recreational anglers, Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers told Trade Only Today.
 
From its inception in 1976 to this point, the act that manages fish stocks and allotments in federally managed saltwater areas has largely addressed commercial fishing. Now there is a push nationwide to extend the act by adding language that would specifically cover recreational anglers in terms of catch limits, allotments and conservation, Angers said.
 
The act expired in September and has yet to be reauthorized because of some controversy around making the changes, Angers said, which means the most recent reauthorization still applies.
 
Visits with Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, chairman of the subcommittee on oceans, atmosphere, fisheries and Coast Guard, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ranking member of that subcommittee, went extremely favorably, Angers said.
 
“Both offices gave uniform input that they wanted to include the type of language that was important to recreational fishing for both conservation and fishing, ” Angers said. “It demonstrates how hard we’ve worked to build those relationships in those two states. Those offices couldn’t be farther apart [geographically] and they couldn’t be more different politically, but they’re on the same page. ”
 
Both offices were receptive to a report issued last month by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, which is chaired by Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats president and co-founder Scott Deal. Angers is a member of the steering committee of that group.
 
The report, called “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries, ” has gained traction with both senators, who seem eager to adapt language into the Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization that would apply specifically to recreational fishing.
 
“I’m very much encouraged by the dialogue that we’ve had for a long time, but especially now, ” Angers said. “Both offices expressed appreciation of the Morris-Deal document because it put on paper where we need to be going. Both offices had read and absorbed that and had lots of questions about particulars and how to convert that from visionary language to legislative language. ”
 
On Feb. 27, there was a final subcommittee hearing with different regions to hear various perspectives on the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Angers said. At that hearing, Begich said he wanted to have his exploratory draft of the reauthorization out by late March.
 
Despite some potential opposition from the commercial fishing industry, several lawmakers are prepared to dig in on behalf of change.
 
“There are a number of us who are sportsmen in Congress and we’re going to make sure the interests of the recreational angler are protected, ” Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., told Trade Only Today. “I believe that can be done without being at the expense of commercial anglers. That’s what we’re going to work toward. ”
 
At the Progressive Miami International Boat Show, Angers and other stakeholders presented the vision to a standing-room-only group. Mike Nussman, president of the American Sportfishing Association, discussed how many recreational fishing jobs are at stake. That message is resonating with lawmakers, Angers said.
 
“I think we’re going to see consensus from both the Democratic and Republican staffs to put good stuff in the bill, and I’m really pleased to see that because we really want to avoid any partisanship, ” Angers said.
 
“It’s encouraging to be part of the bipartisan process on an issue that has to be bipartisan, ” Angers said. “Fish don’t understand when they cross from state waters into federal waters, and the politics on regulating catching them has to be bipartisan. With our chairman and ranking member, we find ourselves in a good place there. ”
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Massachusetts cuts commercial striped bass bag limit in half


SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Cape Cod Times] By Doug Fraser - March 12, 2014 - Cape Cod Times

CHATHAM, MA, Commercial striped bass fishermen will have to make do with a lot less this year as state fishing regulations for the summer season cut in half the number of days they can go fishing and the number of fish they can catch each day. State fishery officials at public hearings said the move was needed to try to extend the season, improve fish prices paid to fishermen, and try to spread the catches to more ports.

In 1995, the striped bass season lasted 57 days before the annual quota was caught and fishing stopped. For the past two summers, it has closed after just 16 days. That's due in part to a large aggregation of striped bass that has been gathering close to shore off Chatham in July, making it easy to catch as much as 60 percent of the quota in a short span of time.

While fishermen understood the need, and showed up by the hundreds at public hearings, many were disappointed by last week's vote by the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission, saying it cut deep into the profitability of the dedicated commercial striped bass fishermen.

"Our guys were fairly displeased by the 15-fish bag limit," said Darren Saletta, the executive director of the Massachusetts Commercial Striped Bass Association. At a public hearing in Plymouth a month ago, many commercial fishermen accepted the reduction in fishing days but argued for a daily limit close to the 30 fish allowed last year.

Saletta said the 15-fish limit, which would now be the total amount of fish allowed for the boat regardless of how many commercial fishermen with permits were onboard, meant that many would have to go fishing solo. For those who have to travel from an Upper or off-Cape port, the profits would likely go into fuel with just 15 fish.

"Hopefully we can make it happen and it works out," Saletta said.

Saletta also has a charter business, and is hoping proposed regulations that would ban charter boats from selling the fish customers caught but didn't want will not pass at the commission's April meeting. That vote was postponed last week so more information could be gathered and analyzed.

"This is like a child that has to crawl before they can walk," said fisheries Commissioner Ray Kane, of Chatham.

He said the regulations ended up being fairly conservative with the hope that they would address some of the recurring problems in the fishery. "I feel it's a better management plan."

"It's something I do among other things," said commercial fisherman Daniel Howes, of Orleans. He relies on several different fisheries to make his annual salary. He's been fishing since the '70s and catches about 5,000 pounds of striped bass a year.

"For me, bass was the first fish I ever sold," Howes said. "I love doing it. As long as I can do it, I'll make it work."

Howes' words are testimony to what Division of Marine Fisheries Director Paul Diodati has said all along, that the striped bass fishery should remain open to all who can pay for the permit, unlike most other commercial fisheries with a limited number of permits that must be purchased, usually at high prices, from another participant. Diodati believes this is a way for new fishermen to enter the business.

But Howes said the 15-fish limit virtually eliminates the true commercial fisherman who needs to turn a profit, not fish for the fun of it or the experience.

Eastham fisherman Bruce Peters thinks the state should limit the number of commercial permits to those fishermen that have demonstrated every year that they can catch large amounts of bass and depend on that harvest.

The purpose of the fishery is to supply fish to markets, not teach or allow part-timers who have to find a crowd of boats to find fish to catch, Peters argued.

"They've ruined the fishery," he said.

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The debate over whether crustaceans feel pain goes on

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Washington Post] By Tamar Stelling - March 11, 2014 - 

A scientist and a seafood chef walk into a bar. "We have a mutual interest," says the scientist. "I study crustaceans and you cook them." But the chef wanted to know just one thing: Do the animals feel pain?

Robert Elwood had been working with crabs and prawns for the better part of three decades when Rick Stein confronted him with this question in a pub on the coast of Northern Ireland. Elwood was stumped. "It was the first time I ever considered the question," he says.

Although some people are horrified by the idea of cooking lobsters alive or the practice of tearing claws from live crabs before tossing them back into the sea, such views are based on a hunch. We know very little about whether these animals - or invertebrates in general - actually suffer. In Elwood's experience, researchers are either certain the animals feel pain or certain they don't. "Very few people say we need to know," he says.

The global food industry farms or catches billions of invertebrates every year. But unlike their vertebrate cousins, they have virtually no legal protection. "Early on in my career I realized that when the law speaks of animals, it does not mean invertebrates," says Antoine Goetschel, an international animal law and ethics consultant based in Zurich. "As long as the common opinion is that invertebrates do not suffer, they are out of the game."

Pain is an awkward thing to test. It can't be measured directly or pointed at; it's not even easy to define. How can we tell when an animal is suffering? We have come a long way since Descartes, who argued that all non-human animals were merely automata, without self-awareness and incapable of feeling. But much of what we think we know still involves a lot of guesswork.

So how do we answer Stein's question? Elwood has been looking for ways to do so since running into Stein eight years ago. For a start, arguments by analogy are silly, he says. "Denying that crabs feel pain because they don't have the same biology is like denying they can see because they don't have a visual cortex."

Elwood and his colleagues at Queen's University Belfast are instead tackling the question by looking at how these animals behave. Most organisms can respond to a stimulus that signals a potentially harmful event. Special receptors called nociceptors - which sense excessive temperatures, noxious chemicals or mechanical injuries such as crushing or tearing - are found throughout the animal world, from humans to fruit flies. When a parasitic wasp jabs its egg-laying ovipositor into a fruit fly larva, for example, the larva senses the needle and curls up, which can make the wasp pull out.

But when an animal responds to something we would consider painful, it does not necessarily mean the animal is in pain. The response might be a simple reflex, where signals do not travel all the way to the brain, bypassing the parts of the nervous system connected with the conscious perception of pain. When we scald our hand, for example, we immediately - and involuntarily - pull it away. Pain is the conscious experience that follows, once the signals have reached the brain. The key for Elwood was to look for responses that went beyond reflex, the crustacean equivalents of limping or nursing a wound.

He started with prawns. After so many years of working with them, he thought he knew what to expect, which was that he would see nothing more than reflex reactions. But to his surprise, when he brushed acetic acid on their antennae, they began grooming the treated antennae with complex, prolonged movements of both front legs. What's more, the grooming diminished when local anesthetic was applied beforehand.

He then turned to crabs. If he applied a brief electric shock to one part of a hermit crab, it would rub at that spot for extended periods with its claws. Brown crabs rubbed and picked at their wound when a claw was removed, as it is in fisheries. At times the prawns and crabs would contort their limbs into awkward positions to reach the injury. "These are not just reflexes," Elwood says. "This is prolonged and complicated behavior, which clearly involves the central nervous system."

He investigated further by placing shore crabs in a brightly lit tank with two shelters. Shore crabs prefer to hide under rocks during the day, so in this situation they should pick a shelter and stay there. But giving some of the crabs a shock inside one of the shelters forced them to venture outside. After only two trials, the crabs that had received shocks were far more likely to switch their choice of shelter. "So there is rapid learning," Elwood says, "just what you would expect to see from an animal that experienced pain."

Finally, Elwood looked at how the need to escape pain competed with other desires. For humans, pain is a powerful motivational driver, and we go to great lengths to avoid it. But we also can override our instincts and choose to endure it if the rewards are great enough. We suffer the dentist's drill for the long-term benefit, for example. What would a crustacean want badly enough to make it endure pain?

For hermit crabs, it turns out to be a good home. These animals take up residence in abandoned seashells, but they can be made to give up their home if given a shock inside the shell. Elwood found that the likelihood of a hermit crab's dumping its shell when given a shock depends not only on the intensity of the shock but also on the desirability of the shell. Crabs in better shells took bigger shocks before they were willing to move out. This suggests that the crabs are able to weigh different needs when responding to the noxious stimulus. Once again, this behavior goes far beyond reflex, Elwood says.

And it is not just crustaceans. Robyn Crook, an evolutionary neurobiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, is asking many of the same questions of cephalopods, such as squids and octopuses. "We are learning things we never expected to find," she says.

Crook and his colleagues have only recently shown that cephalopods have nociceptors at all. She also has found that octopuses show much of the pain-related behavior seen in vertebrates, such as grooming and protecting an injured body part. They are more likely to swim away and squirt ink when touched near a wound than elsewhere on their body.

Squids, though, may feel pain very differently. Shortly after a squid's fin is crushed, nociceptors become active not only in the region of the wound but across a large part of its body, extending as far as the opposite fin. This suggests that if it feels pain, rather than being able to pinpoint the location of a wound, an injured squid may hurt all over.

Crook is not certain why this would be. But it makes sense from a squid's point of view, she says. Unlike an octopus, a squid's tentacles can't reach many parts of its body, so it couldn't tend a wound even if it knew where the injury was. Squids also have a fast metabolism that forces them to stay on the move and keep hunting. An all-over heightened sensitivity may keep a squid generally more alert and wary. For example, Crook has found that an injured squid will be more sensitive than others to touch and visual stimuli. "Its long-term behavior changes," she says. "This fulfils one important criterion for pain."

Despite this work, the topic remains controversial. One concern is where to redraw the line if the backbone no longer marks a boundary. After all, roughly 98 percent of all animal species are invertebrates; Elwood and Crook may be only scratching the surface. The differences between octopus and squid show how diverse the experiences of the rest of the invertebrates might be, Crook says. A crustacean's neurons number in the low hundreds of thousands. If they feel pain, she says, what about fruit flies? They have a similar-size nervous system.

Fruit flies are known to have nociceptors, and it is likely that other insects do, too. Bees also respond differently to electric shocks given with and without anesthetic. And insects, generally, seem capable of learning to avoid noxious stimuli. But can they suffer?

Hans Smid, who studies the brains and learning behavior of parasitic wasps at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, dismisses the possibility. "I am absolutely convinced that insects do not feel pain," he says.

Like Elwood's, Smid's interest in pain began with a simple question. A few years ago, a visiting journalist was surprised at how casually Smid squashed a wasp that had escaped from its cage. Why hurt an animal you are so enthusiastic about, the journalist wanted to know.

Yet Smid is confident that insect behavior is best understood in terms of a relatively simple series of reflexes and innate responses. Unlike crustaceans, insects seem to have no pain-related behaviors. If an insect's leg is damaged, for example, it does not groom or try to protect the limb afterward. Even in extreme cases, insects show no evidence of pain. Imagine a praying mantis eating a locust, Smid says. With its abdomen opened up, the locust will still feed even while being eaten.

In terms of relative brain size, fruit flies and the parasitic wasps that Smid studies are the masterminds of the insect world. But neurons consume a lot of energy, and there is evolutionary pressure to keep brains as compact as possible. In short, there need to be good reasons to have enough brain for pain. Smid thinks that insects simply do not have the need. "I don't see the evolutionary advantage for insects to sustain such a complex system as emotion, of which pain would be just one component," he says.

Elwood agrees this is a useful way to frame the question. "From an evolutionary perspective, the only reason for pain that makes sense to me is that it enables long-term protection," he says. Pain may provide an animal with an additional, and memorable, means of focusing on a source of harm that helps it avoid it in future. If an animal's life span is not long enough to benefit from that - as is the case with most insects - then pain has no use. Similarly, some animals may simply be unable to avoid noxious stimuli in the first place. "Is a barnacle going to benefit from a bad experience?" Elwood says. "I doubt it."

Ultimately, we are up against the problem of consciousness. Like all subjective experience, pain remains private to each individual, leaving us only with educated guesses. But both Elwood and Crook have changed how they treat the invertebrates in their labs. They now use as few animals as possible and keep the potential for suffering to a minimum. And they are pushing others to do the same.

There are signs of change, too: Cephalopods at least now get some protection, in some parts of the world. "We are broadening our understanding of both pain and nociception," Crook says. "How can this not be interesting, even to the skeptics?"

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