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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wanna be a commecial fisherman? Monday, July 19, 2010. A 32-foot Topaz Gone Again went down in Barnegat Inlet over the weekend. No lives were lost but the speed it went to the bottom was sp…

Wanna be a commecial fisherman?

Monday, July 19, 2010.

A 32-foot Topaz Gone Again went down in Barnegat Inlet over the weekend. No lives were lost but the speed it went to the bottom was spooky, per some witnesses. It apparently struck Buoy Marker 10.

Rescue vessels and the Coast Guard were on-scene in nothing flat. The captain and crew were taken to Coast Guard Station, Barnegat Light.

I heard that one of the first responders to the scene was, per usual, a boat tow service. The smaller tow vessel apparently tied up to the Topaz in an effort to keep it afloat, however, the smaller boat was almost dragged down when the 32-footer began its rapid emersion. Water pumps from another towing service couldn’t keep up with the leakage.

After going down, the vessel then sat in a hole (30-feet deep, or so), as salvage efforts proceeded. As of midday today, a crane company managed to raise it. The crippled vessel is now sitting in the bay off the Coast Guard Station.

See related story, this week’s SandPaper.

This weekend the fishing remained the tale of fluke caught by the thousands – maybe tens of thousand statewide. However, like the lines from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” -- “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink” – it was fluke, fluke everywhere but not a bite to eat. Keeper ratios were generally 1 take-home to 30 releases.

I’m now getting the totally expected gripes from angst-laden anglers seeing other anglers keeping fluke that are seemingly way too small. I must admit that there is some logic behind this mailer’s observation: “We couldn’t find a keeper to save our souls and neither could any boat around us and here’s some guy and his family putting half their fish in the cooler. Don’t tell me he’s that lucky.” Indeed, that’s what I’d call suspicious by default.

A lens of dirtier and cooler water along the beachline on Sunday hurt surfcasting. In fact, fishing pressure in the suds was kinda light overall.

I got this report late due ot computer snafu.

“Jay,

Headed out to the Lindy on Monday with good friend Bob Percopo on his 33 Hydrasport No Limits. Trolled for several hours with no luck when the rods started going off, one, two, three, four five rods at the same time. Fish hit rigged bally, spreader bars and cedar plugs. With only the two of us on board we wanted to ensure we did not get greedy and concentrated on each getting one fish on board. Despite some tangles as we had no one to clear rods, 40 minutes later and totally exhausted, we had two yellow fin on board, a 67 and an 80-pounder. The other fish either spit hooks or broke off but it was wild pandemonium for 40 minutes bringing two nice yellow fin on board.”

(I’ll try to get a pic in SP weekly column.)

IMPORTANT READS:

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - July 19, 2010 - Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Fla) has introduced a bill to weaken Magnuson. Although it is hard to wade through the legislative gobbledygook; the basic thrust seems to be that if a species is overfished, and subject to zero retention; the secretary can allow for continued discards and by-catch of that fish in other fisheries, so long as the Secretary certifies that prohibition of all discards is not sufficient to rebuild the stock.

'If the Secretary determines that the prohibition contained in such a fishery management plan is not sufficient to prevent or end overfishing for the stocks to which it applies, the Secretary may authorize retention of fish that are not undergoing overfishing within that fishery, notwithstanding that discard mortality of stocks for which retention is prohibited may be inconsistent with provisions on ending or preventing overfishing,'

Nelson goes on to describe various conditions, such as observer coverage of party and chartet boats, enhanced data collection and other measures that would apply.

Also the bill contains some provisions for economic relief.

Should the stock continue in its state of collapse, i.e. overfished, then the Secretary will have to 'take such action as may be necessary to end overfishing for the stocks to which the prohibition applies before the end of fishery year 2015.'

The bill appears aimed at the red snapper management plan.

Pew condemned the potential changes.

LEE Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy for the Washington-based Pew Environment Group, said: This bill will undermine the nation's commitment to restore depleted ocean fish populations. The federal government has been required to end overfishing since 1976, but has failed to do so. The result has been predictable: chronically overexploited fish stocks and decimated fisheries. Finally, in 2006 Congress put a stop to the delays and weak rules that put our fish populations in jeopardy and passed a clear, unequivocal requirement to end overfishing. Now, just as those requirements are going into effect on the water, this legislation would turn back the clock. If enacted, it could set recreational and commercial fishing throughout the nation on an unsustainable path by threatening the long-term health of the fish on which they depend.

Holly Binns, manager of Pew's Campaign to End Overfishing in the Southeast, said: This legislation could stall a lot of carefully crafted plans to rebuild imperilled fish populations in the southeast, including South Atlantic red snapper. It would allow overfishing of one of the region's most severely depleted species to continue for another five years. This bill undermines the plan that federal fishery managers approved in June to put this species on the road to recovery. Red snapper are at 3 per cent of healthy population levels and they may not survive without the protections scientists recommended. The red snapper recovery is on the right track, but this could deliver a serious setback.

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Star-Ledger] By Brian T. Murray - July 19, 2010 - TRENTON, New Jersey faces a potential shutdown of its $790 million oyster, clam and mussel harvest if federally-mandated health inspections and coastal patrols are not improved this summer, according to state and federal authorities.

How the state responds over the next few months to federal requirements geared toward preventing outbreaks of illness from contaminated shellfish is crucial to the mollusk industry, said officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA contends the state Department of Health and Senior Services failed to conduct adequate inspections in 2008 and 2009 at plants that process the mollusks hauled in by small, commercial fishing operations.

The financially strapped state Department of Environmental Protection also failed, the FDA said, to conduct mandated patrols of polluted coastal waters to guard against the poaching and illegal sale of contaminated mollusks.

'As New Jersey attempts to adjust to the impacts of the economic downturn, it is important for the department to consider that further cuts in these field functions will likely result in N.J.'s inability to maintain compliance,' Gary J. Wolf, shellfish specialist for the FDA's Central Region, wrote in a federal assessment report.

Unless adjustments are made, he said the state may not be able to go forward 'without the closure of a significant portion of NJ's coastal waters to shellfish harvest.'

Wolf additionally told The Star-Ledger that state officials are working 'to come into compliance,' but will be monitored this summer because the FDA is obligated to suspend shellfish shipments from any state that fails to correct deficiencies in its shellfish program.

The report, circulated last week by the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said there was 'inadequate enforcement staffing' in 2008 and 2009 by state health officials at shellfish processing plants. Those officials are charged with making the plants meet temperature-control requirements to guard against 'Vibrio parahaemolyticus,' a bacterium that causes serious illnesses in humans. The FDA also said that last year, the DEP did not fully patrol 21 of 30 polluted coastal areas designated for monitoring to avoid poachers harvesting and selling contaminated mollusks.

'We have expanded our inspection staff and we will be out full-force this summer inspecting shellfish harvesting and processing centers. We expect to meet all the FDA inspection requirements this season,' said Marilyn Riley, a spokeswoman for the state health department.

The DEP has begun borrowing boats from the State Police just to meet minimum FDA patrol requirements, said Assistant DEP Commissioner Amy Cradic.

Cradic cited the FDA data Thursday before the state Senate Committee on the Environment and Energy to explain why the DEP has ordered the removal of experimental oyster beds set up by educational and scientific groups to re-establish the native shellfish in contaminated coastal waters. The DEP does not have the resources to patrol the beds, she said.

The nonprofit NY/NJ Baykeeper has campaigned to keep its two oyster beds in the polluted Raritan Bay area, arguing the bivalves help cleanse the waters, and Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) has introduced a bill to ensure the experimental beds continue. But the DEP contends it cannot patrol the beds and there is nothing to protect them from poachers.

'The biggest problem when oysters are poached from polluted waters is, if they get to an irreputable dealer, they are going to put a tag on them saying they came from a legitimate harvester - and if someone gets sick, boom, everything is shut down,' said Steve Fleetwood, whose Bivalve Packing Company has harvested oysters from the Delaware Bay for 30 years.

About 20 percent of state coastal waters are off limits to mollusk harvesting, yet 66 people were caught poaching in those waters last year.

'We're not trying to beat up on a research organization. But there are hundreds of people involved in our shellfish industry, not conglomerates, but small businesses and families who rely on us to meet the federal standards so this $790 million industry stays open - and we have to address this immediately,' said DEP spokesman Lawrence Ragonese.

The Baykeeper reluctantly agreed Friday to pull out its oyster beds after receiving a DEP notice of violation Thursday.

'While we are deeply upset that DEP has refused to discuss alternatives to removal of the oysters and instead insists upon a course of action that ultimately will be harmful to the Raritan Bay and its ecosystem, we will nevertheless agree under duress to the timeline set out by yesterday's notice of violation,' said executive director Deborah Mans, who said she will submit a removal plan by Tuesday.

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Copyright 2010 The Los Angeles Times

President Obama on Monday is set to create a national stewardship policy for America's oceans and Great Lakes, including a type of zoning that could dramatically rebalance the way government regulates offshore drilling, fishing and other marine activities.

The policy would not create new regulations or immediately alter drilling plans or fisheries management. But White House documents and senior administration officials suggest it would strengthen conservation and ecosystem protection.

The initiative culminates more than a year of work by a federal Ocean Policy Task Force, which Obama established last year. After the task force releases its final recommendations, the president is expected to sign an executive order directing federal agencies to adopt and implement them.

Calling the BP oil spill ravaging the Gulf of Mexico a 'stark reminder of how vulnerable our marine environments are,' the recommendations center on creating a National Ocean Council to coordinate regulation of oceans and the Great Lakes, and on a principle of 'ecosystem-based management' for marine areas.

The council would include top federal scientists and officials from a variety of agencies, including national security experts, environmental regulators and managers of ocean commerce.

The recommendations embrace marine spatial planning, a controversial zoning process of sorts that seeks to manage waters in the way some cities manage factories and strip malls. The process could result in confining activities such as drilling, shipping and conservation to areas the planners deem best-suited to each use.

Nine regional groups -- consisting of state, federal and tribal officials -- would draft plans for conservation and use of ocean resources that would have to be approved by the National Ocean Council. Federal agencies have agreed to abide by the plans.

If the Great Lakes regional body designated certain lake areas for offshore wind farms, for example, the Interior Department would agree to approve wind farms only within those areas.

The same would be true for any new offshore drilling projects. Currently, Interior officials develop drilling plans under a public comment process within their department.

In Southern California, the focus on ecosystem-based management could cause the U.S. Navy to retool its fleet deployment, with an eye on how its operations affect water quality or whales.

The recommendations do not specify their effect on offshore drilling. Administration officials said the policy would not prejudge or conflict with future findings of a bipartisan commission Obama had charged with investigating the oil gusher.

But the administration says coordinated, stewardship-heavy ocean management is likely to 'really change' practices in nearly every marine activity, drilling included. The final task force report predicts that the changes would help restore fish populations, protect human health and 'rationally allow' for ocean uses such as energy production.

'This sets the nation on a path toward much more comprehensive planning to both conservation and sustainable use of [ocean] resources,' said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy had not been officially announced.

The first draft of the policy, released in September, drew heavy criticism from some quarters, including industry and recreational anglers concerned that sport fishing might be restricted or banned.

After meetings with fishing and boating groups, the administration modified the recommendations to emphasize the importance of fishing and ocean recreation, calling them 'critical to the economic, social and cultural fabric of our country.'

The recommendations do not include curbs on recreational fishing. But the mere prospect of marine spatial planning has drawn skepticism.

Oil and gas officials are concerned too. They have repeatedly urged the administration not to adopt any planning process that could restrict offshore drilling.

Last fall, an American Petroleum Institute representative testified at a task force field hearing that 'the oil and natural gas industry's presence in the Gulf [of Mexico] has successfully coexisted with other ocean uses like tourism, fishing, the U.S. military and shipping for many years, demonstrating that the current system of governance works well.'

The plan would emphasize nine areas under the banner of marine stewardship and conservation, including improved scientific research and mapping; helping coastal communities adapt to climate change and ocean acidification, particularly in the Arctic; and enhancing water quality on land to boost ocean water quality.

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