Sat. March 12, 2011 -- Great day, once you adapted to the chilly wind. I was a tad under the weather but made a quick jaunt over to an interesting wilderness parcel in Manahawkin, saved from development by the Ocean County Board of Freeholders. It's located off Old Bay Avenue and is loaded with wetlands. Its outback look belies the rapid gush of highway traffic within easy hearing distance. While there, I saw/heard the season's first bank frogs -- hitting the water after I spooked them. Hard to guess the species. Thanks to the folks who sent me emails about the spring peepers already sounding off near their homes -- mainly well inland.
Like everyone, I'm stunned -- and a tad freaked out -- by the Japan earthquake and accompanying tsunamis. We gotta help those folks out, but, make sure you know where you're sending relief money. Scumbags are getting sneakier and sneakier when ripping off donations.
As most of us know all too well, thanks in large part to the Science Channel, there is an island in the Azores literally teetering on the point of monumentally landsliding into the Atlantic. Per scientists who luxuriate in frightening little children and related adults, that soon-to-slip peice of geology will generate a tsunami of 1,000 feet, give or take a football field.
No, there is no NJ coastal warning system in place to let us know when that piece loses its grip. Word of mouth, mainly. When I wrote about that doomsday scenario last year, there was total balkage and ridicule at my totally serious suggestion that the only way to survive that wave onslaught was to bolt straight out to sea, like there's no tomorrow (bad expression). Then, in this latest tsunami threat from the Japanese earthquake, mariners did just that. Some vessels even in the vicinity of the quake managed to make it out far enough to avoid the 20-foot surge.
[Baltimore Sun] By Candus Thomson - March 11, 2011 -
Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun
A three-year federal undercover investigation into charter boats illegally fishing for striped bass in a closed area off the Atlantic coast led to the seizure Thursday of electronics and records from a number of vessels in Virginia.
Special agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration served search warrants on at least four boats that primarily operate out of the Northern Neck and Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach. The vessels' port of origin is not known, but as many as 35 Maryland charter boats spend a month or two during the winter in Virginia.
Seizures included GPS units, cell phones, fuel logs, radios, ship logs, manifests and client lists, a source who has been briefed on the investigation said.
Officers posing as clients have been able to take photos and videos of illegal fishing; those materials helped build the case.
The sting is being supervised by the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section, which last year successfully prosecuted the massive Potomac River striped bass poaching operation. A Justice Department spokesman said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation. NOAA officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
'I hope this is a wake-up call for everybody,' said Brian Keehn, president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association. 'We need to start paying attention to the striped bass before we have another moratorium and no one fishes. Illegal fishing hurts everybody.'
Winter fishing is a lucrative business in the waters off Virginia Beach and North Carolina, where big striped bass migrate to await spawning season in the Chesapeake Bay. When the fish are close to shore, catching is easy and legal. But when they swim in search of warmer water they move into the Exclusive Economic Zone, a wide swath of water three miles to 200 miles off the coast that is off limits to striped bass fishing.
Many boats follow, lured by the promise of fish weighing 50 to 70 pounds.
'Recreational, commercial, charter boats, it's everyone. No one is less guilty than anyone else,' said one Maryland charter boat captain, who requested anonymity because of fear for his safety.
Police say poachers use spotters and satellite phones to watch for law enforcement boats and Coast Guard helicopters and planes. When patrol boats approach, poachers dump fish overboard in weighted containers to destroy the evidence.
If they elude capture, paying clients take some fish but some fish are filleted and illegally sold to restaurants in Maryland and Virginia, police said.
Last fall, members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission complained about illegal fishing in the EEZ, calling the poaching 'problematic.' In letters to NOAA and the Coast Guard they asked for an increase in penalties and enforcement.
Striped bass on the wintering grounds off the Virginia coast are 'especially vulnerable to harvest,' ASMFC Executive Director Vince O'Shea wrote. 'Depending on their magnitude, unreported landings have the potential to jeopardize the status of the stock.' (((((((((((((((((((((())))))))))))))))))))))))
March 11, 2011 - A Chinese lawmaker has proposed that the country's top legislature ban the trade of shark fin, a high-end delicacy consumed by wealthy people in China and East Asia.
Shark-fin trading generates enormous profits, but encourages overfishing and brutal slaughter of sharks, of which some 30 species are near extinction, said Ding Liguo, deputy to the National People's Congress, the top legislature.
He has filed a formal written proposal to the legislature, together with a dozen of other lawmakers.
China is now the biggest market for shark fin, consuming 95 percent of the world's total with Taiwan, Hong Kong counted, said Ding Wednesday, a billionaire and executive chairman of Delong Holdings Limited, at a panel discussion of the ongoing parliament session.
Shark fin soup has become an essential part of any respectable banquet in China over the years. And there are no laws in China banning shark fin trading, he said, adding that a publicity campaign against shark fin consumption has had limited impact.
'Only legislation can stop shark fin trading and reduce the killings of sharks,' Ding said, adding China should take the lead in banning the trade.
Shark fin soup represents wealth, prestige and honor as the gourment food was coveted by emperors in China's Ming Dynasty because it was rare, delicious and required elaborate preparation.
With both culinary and symbolic significance, the dish is popular at important occasions such as weddings, banquets and important business deals.
The price of shark fins is up to 4,000 yuan (about 600 U.S. dollars) per kilogram, said Huang Liming, duty manager at the medium-level Hongxing Seafood Restaurant in southern Guangzhou city. Shark fins could be sold up to 10,000 yuan per kilogram in upscale restaurants, Huang said.
But sales of shark fins have declined 30 percent recently from a year earlier to at most 0.5 kilogram each day as people prefer healthier and environmental-friendly food, Huang said, adding most of the delicacy is consumed by businessmen.
'People are mistaken by the supposed nutritional value of shark fin,' Ding said.
'Research shows the nutritional value of shark fin is similar to that of poultry, fish skin, meat and eggs. It is tasteless and its low level nutritional value is hard to absorb by the body.' He said.
Further, it contains high levels of lead and mercury, which most people know little about, he said, adding he neither eats shark fins nor treats guests with the dish.
Ding proposed that governmental officials take the lead in stopping the consumption of shark fin, and that state-owned hotels and restaurants stop serving shark fin.
Ding, who ranks 25th in the 2009 Hurun Steel Rich List with 1.5 billion yuan of wealth, is a member of the China Entrepreneur Club, which joined with the Wildaid, an international NGO, to launch a champaign in Beijing in 2009 to call on the public to protect sharks and reject shark fins.