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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, September 17, 2010: Surf: Residual 4- 6-foot short-period south swell. Water clarity: Decent, considering the blow. That was a damn-decent cold front thunderboomer last night. With fully hon…

Friday, September 17, 2010: Surf: Residual 4- 6-foot short-period south swell. Water clarity: Decent, considering the blow.

That was a damn-decent cold front thunderboomer last night. With fully honking south winds ahead of the front (to 40 mph), yesterday afternoon was blown clean off the fishing board. Any boats that stayed out too long wished they hadn’t as thngs were beyond sloppy. The storm itself was a light show – especially after it moved out to sea. It also showed what a droughty summer we had since it was the first t-storm in weeks, maybe months, during a time period when we sometimes average a t-storm every couple/few days.

While the storm really roiled the surf, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Beginning as early as tonight, the first in a series of hurricane swell days kick in. I see the largest swells of the entire summer, likely moving in on Sunday and hanging around for days. I know boat anglers aren’t overly impacted by these huge hurricane waves, they do present a hidden danger near inlets. Captains who have never mixed it up with a clean-up set won’t soon forget that first “Oh, s***!” experience. A real tricky area for that is a set-wave shallow spot just outside Barnegat Inlet, north side. Only huge waves break there but it’s at a place you think you’re safely into deeper water and CRASH!

As for surf fishing, it’s going top be a chore – and then some. There is always the upside of any stir, bringing bass and blues into the suds. However, we really don’t have that many bigger game fish. The chances of feeling kingfish or croakers in the pounding waves is not great. Obviously, Holgate offers some protected zones but high tide waves aren’t absolutely going to overwash the beach. We’ll be losing that easy drive to the end we’ve had over the past week. Do not take the upcoming high tides lightly. We’ll be at red flag conditions, meaning not only will the beach overwash at high tide but it will be downright dangerous when fishing during those tides.

Mullet run has not begun. There are only a few resident schools, coming out of Barnegat Light end and zipping the short run to Holgate, to take up residency there on the back mudflats, where they’ll muster and eat for a few more days. There are some interesting reports of mullet and bunker in the far back bays and lagoons. That’s interesting because they have seemingly retuned there after having moved out during the sizzling summer, with 90-degree surface water. Of course, I’ve seen years where everyone sees baitfish in the bays and lagoons but those exact fish never end up on the cast net radar, maybe even moving out at night. Though I’ve never seen mullet migrating at night(right along the beachfront), boat folks have told me they see them schooled and moving further out at sea in the dark, though I’m guessing those are actually baby bunker schools, which can be very active in the dark.

Off the wires:

[Saving Seafood] - September 16, 2010 - Congressional Research Service tells Barney Frank the Commerce Secretary has the power to raise catch limits

Emergency Action would likely withstand judicial review

As there has been confusion -- even in upper levels of the Federal Government --as to whether the Secretary of Commerce has authority to raise catch limits on groundfish and other species under the 'emergency' provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) asked the Congressional Research Service (CRS) for an opinion.

The Congressman asked CRS to determine the extent of the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to promulgate regulations to address an 'emergency'. Specifically, he have asked whether the Secretary's emergency authority includes the authority to promulgate regulations to address economic conditions.

Congressional Research Service Attorney Adam Vann responded advised the Congressman that because the statute does not define what constitutes an 'emergency' that triggers the Secretary's emergency authority, and because the legislative history does not shed light on the interpretation of the language, it appears possible that action taken by the Secretary in response to an economic 'emergency' could likely withstand judicial review, so long as the Secretary's determination that the conditions in question constituted an 'emergency' was a reasonable one.

According to CRS:

There is no indication in the statute as to what does or does not constitute an 'emergency' triggering the authority to issue emergency regulations under Magnuson-Stevens. Furthermore, the decision to issue emergency regulations even if there is a finding that an emergency (or overfishing) exists is a discretionary one. Section 305(c) provides that the Secretary 'may promulgate emergency regulations or interim measures necessary to address the emergency or overfishing,' not that the Secretary 'shall' or 'must' promulgate emergency regulations or interim measures to address the emergency or overfishing. Therefore, the decisionmaking process regarding the issuance of emergency regulations pursuant to Section 305(c) is left to the discretion of the Secretary.

At least one other agency has exercised its own 'emergency' rulemaking authority in response to economic conditions. The regulations governing the U.S. Forest Service authorize the Chief and the Associate Chief of the Service to 'make the determination that an emergency situation exists.' Such a determination allows for work to begin on a project as soon as that decision is published in the Federal Register. These Forest Service regulations define an 'emergency situation' to include '[a] situation on National Forest Service lands ... that would result in substantial economic loss to the Federal Government if implementation of the decision were delayed.'

Finally, it should be noted that the National Marine Fisheries Service (the division of the Department of Commerce tasked with stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat) has previously attempted to define its emergency rulemaking authority In its revised Policy Guidelines for the Use of Emergency Rules, NMFS listed the justifications for emergency action. Among the categories of 'Emergency Justification' is an 'Economic' emergency, defined as action 'to prevent significant direct economic loss or preserve a significant economic opportunity that otherwise might be foregone.' Our research did not reveal any legal challenges to this characterization of Section 305(c) authority.

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seafoodnews.com] Sept. 15, 2010 -

The Center for Biological Diversity announced they were suing NMFS to list bluefin tuna as an endangered species.

The Center intends to sue the agency for failing to respond to a petition to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna. The tuna, which migrates across the Atlantic to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, faces extinction due to severe fishing pressure and habitat degradation, including effects of the BP oil spill. The Center filed its Endangered Species Act petition in May; the agency has missed the 90-day legal response deadline.

'The oil well is capped, but the effects of the spill on bluefin tuna will be seen for years to come,' said Catherine Kilduff, a Center oceans program attorney. 'Tuna were already struggling in the Gulf; the spill made the problem worse. If the government doesn't move quickly, the question won't be when the tuna will recover, but if they'll survive at all.'

Overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna has caused more than an 80 percent decline from what the population would be absent fishing pressure. The millions of gallons of oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and into tuna breeding grounds during spawning season threaten to further reduce the western Atlantic population. Scientists say any eggs or larvae encountering oil will die; oil may also have harmed adult tunas' gills, and heavy use of dispersants killed fish and other marine life.

'Endangered status for bluefin tuna could mean enhanced protections for all fish and wildlife in the Gulf,' said Kilduff. 'To survive this disaster and recover, fish and wildlife need stronger oversight of the offshore oil industry and protection of essential habitat.'

There are two imperiled populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna: one that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico, another that spawns in the Mediterranean. The petition seeks endangered status for both populations, which are intensely overfished. Temptation to catch the popular sushi fish remains high -- one tuna sold for $177,000 in the fish market this year. In 2007, fishermen reported catching 34,514 tons of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna, exceeding the allowable catch by about 5,000 tons. Scientists estimated the actual catch was likely about double the reported amount.

The bluefin, a majestic fish weighing close to a ton and reaching 13 feet, is among the fastest of all species, capable of speeds over 55 miles per hour. They are threatened by overfishing, capture for tuna ranches, and changing ocean and climate conditions.

Protection under the Endangered Species Act would require federal agencies such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to avoid jeopardizing the bluefin tuna in permitting offshore drilling. Additionally, protections would safeguard critical habitat and ban the importation of bluefin.

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by DAN JOLING - Sept 16, 2010 -

A report shows this summer's Arctic sea ice melted to the third-lowest level since satellite monitoring began in 1979, continuing a trend of habitat loss for walrus, polar bears and other ice-dependent marine mammals.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado said sea ice coverage Friday was recorded at a summer low of 1.84 million square miles. The ice cover appeared to have reached its minimum extent for the year that day.

The average September sea ice extent from 1979 to 2000 was 2.7 million square miles. This year's coverage was 753,000 square miles fewer than that number.

The record low for summer sea ice coverage -- 1.65 million square miles -- was set in 2007.

Brendan Cummings, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the announcement illustrated a trend for summer Arctic sea ice and means bad news for walrus.

'We're on a clear path to a seasonal ice-free Arctic,' he said. 'There may be year-to-year fluctuations, but the clear path is unidirectional.'

The report comes days after federal biologists in Alaska confirmed that Pacific walrus have come ashore on the state's northwest coast in unprecedented numbers.

Walrus gathered near Point Lay, an Eskimo village 300 miles southwest of Barrow, numbered from 10,000 to 20,000 animals or more, according to preliminary counts.

The animals are mostly females and young walrus that ride the edge of sea ice north as it melts over the summer in the Bering Sea and into the Chukchi Sea.

Walrus historically come ashore in late summer on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea. In 2007 and 2009, thousands came ashore on the Alaska side as sea ice receded beyond the outer continental shelf, where water is shallow enough for them to dive for clams, worms and other food.

Walrus gathered on land face threats from predators and especially stampedes. An estimated 3,500 walruses were spotted on Sept. 12, 2009, at Icy Cape, about 140 miles southwest of Barrow, but U.S. Geological Survey researchers saw a large number of carcasses just two days later. They counted 131 mostly young walruses that were likely killed when the herd was spooked. Young animals can be hurt in stampedes when a herd is startled by a polar bear, human hunters or even a low-flying airplane.

Federal biologists concluded the deaths may have been from 'disturbances' that led to trampling.

The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned to list the walrus as a threatened or endangered species because of habitat loss.

'A land-based existence will support far fewer walrus than an ice-based existence,' Cummings said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court-ordered deadline to make a decision on the petition by the end of January. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey is investigating walrus foraging from shore and from ice.

Cummings' group successfully petitioned to have polar bears listed as threatened because of habitat loss due to warming.

Polar bears spend most of their lives on sea ice and use it to travel, breed and hunt, especially for their main prey, ringed seals, which are the only seals that can live in completely ice-covered waters. Ringed seals excavate snow caves on sea ice to provide shelters for pups that polar bears try to exploit.

Arctic ice usually begins melting in March and reforms in mid- to late September.

The Snow and Ice Data Center said the 2010 ice level was only the third time in satellite records that ice has fallen below the threshold of 5 millions square kilometers, or 1.93 square miles. The ice minimum for 2009 was 1.97 million square miles.

Ice loss started late this year, but May and June saw record daily average ice-loss rates.

The center said it was possible that the 2010 summer low number could be revised slightly downward because of melting or a contraction in the ice pack. The center will issue a formal announcement in October with full analysis of the possible causes behind ice conditions this year.

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