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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday, April 21, 2020: Did anyone besides me read the advisory for men to not go to the mailbox in just skivvies?

This week's "I meant to do that" award. 

Below: Let's see Farmer's make a "We covered it" commercial out of this one. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020: Did anyone besides me read the advisory for men to not go out to the mailbox in just skivvies? Google “Taneytown Police remind residents to wear pants while checking mailboxes.” I’ll bet those scantily clothed mailbox checkers assumed nobody was out and about -- or watching. Well, if we’re learning anything from this shelter-at-home thing, it’s the mind-boggling amount of time internalized people tend to spending looking out windows. The call-ins to police and media outlets are saturated with “I saw this and that.”

While in Tuckerton, there just might be something to see out there: (Alert: This is a bit over-the-top freaky) ... 

https://www.facebook.com/100007985626785/videos/2626225650986930/

I was serious when I wrote that we might become a nation of snitches. And I’m not talking about people calling in bona fide criminal activity or suspicious behavior. That’s smart block watching. I'm concerned about the spy versus spy attitude -- marked by neighbor spying on neighbor, looking for even the smallest irregularity to sound off about -- or call in about. I’m sure hearing it.

The latest you-can’t-be-serious complaint was someone who is blaming his neighbor's planting of trees – “Digging holes to China!” – for making his tap water rusty. Methinks there’s more history behind that story than mere gardening. The local PD can thank me since I warned him NOT to bother the police or town hall … all other more serious things considered. He did agree to see if his water cleared up. Dang if he didn’t call back (left a message) to say it had. All I can say is be safe ... it's getting weirder and weirder out there. 

ABOVE: Surf City beaches remain open and ready to entertain. Though we're still awaiting bluefish -- Please come, choppers -- occasional beach bass make surfcasting interesting. 

A nice near-tiderunner bayside weakie was taken (and released). Hey, every caught (and released) fish is noteworthy in this day and age. Anything bridge-wise, Tony? 

First fluke are moving in. Not that it matters. I only know this based on catches by birds. 

Backbay buddy talking about some astoundingly clear bay water. That's par for this time of year though we had virtually no prolonged deep freezes, which are major water cleaners. 

Two DOA domestic rabbits on Causeway, near Bonnet Island. Not sure why there's a flareup of these hoppers -- once raised there back in the distant day. Their insta-increase might have something to do with the Environmental Trail south of 72 ... or the construction related to The Boatyard, north of 72. And I have no idea what those concrete silo-like things are now being build by Chris Vernon on The Boatyard property. I know a load of folks who will make The Boatyard their first stop when the all-clear is sounded. 

(I was going to put this in my weekly column but it didn’t make it.)

 

I’ve gotten reports of a coyote pussyfooting around the mid-Island region. Based on observations, which are plentiful with so many shelter-at-home folks looking longingly out windows, this is not North End Wiley, which is a large coywolf-grade wild canine seen on many occasions in the Barnegat Light area. Speaking of which, it is very likely – and possibly proven photographically --- that coyotes have been frequenting the north end for a couple/few years.  The fact more and more observations are being made of them could be due to the increasing size of the well-fed creatures or, just as possible, the coming and going of assorted coyotes.

This begs the question of how mainlandish coyotes can come and go. While a winter iceway from mainland-to-Island offers easy passage (when things are cold enough), I can attest to the fact foxes simply swim over, taking breaks on sedge islands along the way. But a well-documented crossover point is the Causeway. Even before the updated Causeway’s easy-cross walkway came into being, many an adventuresome mainland creature would undertake a bold run of the bridges. This often led to taking up temporary residency on the Bonnet Islands, before the irresistible smells of LBI wafted over and the last bridges were eventually crossed. The new EZ walkway offers a slam dunk crossing, with thick rails protecting against traffic while also presenting excellent cover for even the less-daring critters.

As to the Ocean County coyote population, it is quite large, but seemingly not growing at a fast rate, as indicated by tracks. To be sure, every inch of Ocean County has its quota of coyotes making territorial claim to anything edible within. But as is the case with powerful predators – coyotes are able to take down deer -- nature has its own population controls. Part and parcel to that control is the emergence of more powerful coyote hybrids, known as coywolves. Push comes to shove, smaller coyote will be forced to get risky when seeking private territories, possibly forced to seek digs on LBI.

No, the Island is not prime survival ground for naturally nervous coyotes. In fact, it must be nerve wracking for Island yotes to avoid humanity’s well-trodden paths.

Coyote with cat in mouth

It is very likely that feral cats are a prime source – make that the prime source -- of nutrition for Island coyotes. That's problematic since there was the initial feline buffet for early-arriving coyotes, that source has been eaten to the bone. As to domestic cats, they aren’t nearly as easy to come by. Possums are dang tasty but know how to flee into drains and sewer gratings, leaving far less dexterous coyotes looking into the black pipes, empty-bellied. Island rabbits are fading fast as coyote fare. And those damn squirrels are fast as greased lightning. Wharf rats are a quick bite in a crunch – and might be yet another way coyote help mankind. Racoons? They’re still plentiful on LBI for a fightingly good reason. Except for the toughest coywolves, coons can put a hurting on a single canine adversary.  

Birds aren’t big on a coyote’s lengthy list of omnivore comestibles, though they’ll gladly grab eggs or roadkill birds in a heartbeat. What’s more, big-ass gulls make a decent mouthful – once the feathers are painstakingly spit out.

Surprisingly to many, coyotes are not trash-eatin’ types, especially when compared to possums and racoons. Oh, they’ll make power moves on any goodies turned over by more common forms of trash invading wildlife.

Sticking with wildlife during COVID, aforementioned trash pickers are going gonzo, as possums and raccoons cash in on both massive amounts of thrown out family foodstuff. Just as filling are now more frequently refilled porch food bowls, meant to feed “neighborhood” feral cats. More often than not, they’re now being emptied by wildlife, especially with the feral cat count dropping daily.

On the mainland, coyote haters are loving the drastic drop in roadkill deer due to less traffic. Deer carcasses comprise the number one (by far) food source for mainland coyotes.

Carl Hartmann to American Angler
Coming to a beach near you.
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New Jersey Sets Regulations for Marinas, Bans Charter and Rental Boats

A marina in Brick Township, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A marina in Brick Township, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

New Jersey boaters will not be barred from the water this summer, however marinas, boat ramps and boat yards must comply with a number of regulations announced Saturday until they are lifted. No end date was included in the state’s announcement.

Murphy, along with the governors of New York and Connecticut, announced joint regulations that will be in effect for all three states. Marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers will be allowed open “for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed,” a statement said.

Chartered watercraft services or rentals will not be allowed, the announcement said, and restaurant activity at such sites must be limited to take-out or delivery only, like anywhere else in the three states.

“We’ve committed to working with our regional partners throughout this crisis to align our policies when and where appropriate,”said Governor Murphy. “A unified approach is the most effective way to alleviate confusion for the residents of our states during the ongoing public health emergency.”

The statement from Murphy did not address on-water regulations, though a previous executive order prohibits boats from being operated within the jurisdiction of state parks. Shorebeat has reached out to authorities to clarify whether the waters of Tices Shoal, off Island Beach State Park, would be off limits, but have yet to receive a response.

In a sign of regulations to come, Florida has prohibited vessels from rafting up and bars boats from being within 50 feet of one another when not underway. New Jersey has yet to adopt similar policies.

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Big thanks to Numbskull for showing me the in’s and out’s of building these. Was a real fun build and now I don’t have to worry about losing the only one I had that he gave me years ago. Now I can lose my own. In the bag these go.

No photo description available.

Pandemic Spreads Uncertainty in All Directions for Seafood Sector

By John Sackton
Founder, SeafoodNews
April 14, 2020

[The Winding Glass is the opinion and commentary column by John Sackton, Founder of SeafoodNews.]

It is now nearly 11 weeks since I first wrote “could the economic impact of the coronavirus tip the U.S. and the rest of the world into recession” in this column. At issue then was price stability and a potential fall in demand.

Since then, the impact of the largest global pandemic since 1918 has devastated health, economies, and production. The U.S. now has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world.

For the seafood sector, our thinking has evolved.

First, the concern was over inventories that suddenly ballooned as travel and tourism was shut down. Then in February we asked “imagine how American consumers might react should a local cluster in the U.S. require a quarantine.”

That column focused on the hit to foodservice, comparing it to the financial crash in 2008.

By mid-March the issue was how to address a market collapse as customers shut down. Could fisheries that had short term seasons, but were sold year-round, operate successfully with the market uncertainty?

By April, it had become a question of survival. Would government assistance tide companies over? Could harvesters and processors reach agreements to limit production?

This week, uncertainty is mounting in practically every direction. However, it is increasingly clear that areas with divided leadership or weak and uncertain crisis management are suffering more. 

Here is a quick roundup:

Pricing: Many seafood items have not had rapid changes in price, even as the supply chain behind them was convulsing.  What initially looked like oversupply for some products could quickly transform into shortage. This is most evident in shrimp, where importers brought in record amounts to the U.S. in the first quarter, but fear that disruptions in India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Ecuador will have potential major impacts on production going forward. There is no visibility into what is happening in ponds. Six months from now, shrimp supplies could be very tight, or not. We just don't know.

The key point is that in seafood many items can swing from over-production to shortage almost overnight as conditions change. Right now, those with snow crab and frozen lobster inventories still have room to make some sales.  It is possible that lack of production will mean these items remain near their current price ranges, despite the 70% drop in demand.

Production: The focus has shifted from the question of what are we going to sell to whether we can produce. In a number of food plants, outbreaks of infection have shut down all operations.

Some examples include the Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The plant now has a cluster of over 350 infections, the community is in total disarray, and the mayor is pleading with a recalcitrant governor to declare a mandatory stay at home order. This is likely too late. The community is becoming one of the rural hotspots in the U.S., and the plant will probably remain closed for the foreseeable future until the situation has gotten back under control.

Another example is in New Brunswick. The E. Gagnon plant, which usually has 400 workers during the snow crab and lobster seasons, started out during the first opening in Quebec with only 80 workers. However, a cluster of more than six infections quickly developed, and then there were infections on a crab boat.  The plant had hoped to close for a temporary period, but the virus got ahead of them and they remain closed after two weeks.

In Chile, Blumar was ordered to quarantine 250 workers for 14 days after an outbreak, and much of the industry is operating at about 50% of capacity.

In New Bedford, workers at many plants have begun protesting the lack of safe working conditions. They have been rebuffed, with some companies telling them to go talk to their employment contractors. Employment contractors provide most of the plant workers, who are not direct employees of the processing companies. Lack of protective gear, sanitizers and accommodation to slow work flow with social distancing is likely to produce a reaction, both in the plants and in the community. The lack of a united response is a real weakness. The processors must develop a unified way to address these concerns, or face escalating disruption.

In Cordova, Alaska, the Copper River season appears set to go, with only a short time remaining before workers who will need to sit through a 14 day quarantine begin to show up in the community. There is great tension around the influx of workers into a community with limited health resources.

On the West Coast, there is an unbelievable standoff where NOAA is insisting on observers on small boats where social distancing is impossible, unlike other parts of the country where observer requirements have been waived.

In PEI, it is now evident that the number of foreign workers needed for lobster processing won’t be available. This has led to a widespread regional coalition in Atlantic Canada, including the MFU and many other lobster associations to call on the government to delay the May 1 start by at least two weeks, or possibly cancel the season altogether.

Plant operators, already facing huge cost increases and uncertain markets, cannot afford the uncertainty of opening for two weeks, and then being shut down again if infections spiral out of control. Yet the most likely places for this to happen is where there is divided leadership and no clear plans in place, as happened in Sioux Falls.

Biologically, salmon and shellfish seasons do not wait on planning. Yet the influx of workers to fish processing plants in Canada and Alaska is like a giant experiment in whether it is possible to operate at all in a climate of great uncertainty around the virus.

The reason is that the normal tools that might be used to mitigate risk simply are not available. Even temperature checks aren’t always reliable, as asymptomatic individuals can easily spread the infection. The absence of reliable tests has meant that only social isolation can slow the spread; yet factories cannot operate with social isolation.

The likely result is that there will be numerous failures of control, and some plants will be forced to halt operations intermittently. This means we have no idea how much fish and shellfish will be produced this season, and we don’t know the value. 

Processors are trying as hard as they can to set up operations that work; but they cannot do it alone. They need the cooperation of governments and communities, and where there is a common purpose there is more likely to be success.

Where there is fear, suspicion and mistrust, it will be far harder to operate successfully. 

Unfortunately, today those successes seem few and hard to come by.

However, there are some good examples of cooperation.  One is the group of lobster harvesters and processors who are making a concerted effort to force Ottawa to come up with a real plan for their industry, especially those who fish for the processing industry. This includes a plan for the necessary financial support.  So far, Ottawa has resisted a unified approach, instead leaving things up to local fishing areas. This is a recipe for disaster, as once one area is fishing, others feel they have to go ahead regardless of the cost and risk. At this point, it will be up to Ottawa to respond to this display of unity by the industry.

In Alaska, processors have been proactive in addressing the concerns in Bristol Bay, and pledging to keep workers separate and manage their own demand on resources, including health resources.  What happens in Cordova will likely have an impact on Bristol Bay. If Cordova packers and fishermen can manage a safe start to the season without a spike in infections, this may offer some reassurance.  But if not, there will be strong pressure to limit exposure elsewhere in Alaska. Once again, it is cooperation and leadership that will likely determine any success.

Cooperation means that both the plants and the communities have a clear understanding of first, the mitigation measures put in place to ensure safe working conditions, and secondly, the emergency response measures to take should an outbreak occur. Having agreement, transparancy, and committment to these plans by all parties can keep small problems from escalating into a community crisis.

Success is defined as operating in a manner that does not create clusters of new infections where there is no reliable method for testing or treatment except to shut down activity. At this point we cannot say how much success we may have with operations in rural communities this year.

Photo Credit: ChakisAtelier/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Life in the Times of Coronavirus: How China is Reopening 

April 20, 2020

Editor's Note: Amy Zhong lives in China and is a regular contributor and correspondent of Urner Barry's SeafoodNews.com. Below is her account of living in China during the coronavirus outbreak and how the country is working to reopen.

This is an unusually bad Spring Festival, and it has witnessed the beginning of a period of uncertainties and suffering. Previously hustling streets in China were mostly empty during the holiday, and people no longer splurged to celebrate the most important festival. Now, this healing oriental country is undergoing some changes.

Everything still seemed normal to me around mid-January. Though I heard news about some virus hitting Hubei, I had no idea that it would be that serious. So after returning to my parents’ house in a town about 850 kilometers away from the disease-haunted province, we went on shopping as usual to prepare for the coming festival.

But in late January, I felt worried as I came to realize its destructive effect evidenced by rising death tolls everyday. There were doctors checking body temperature in highway entrances 24/7, and government officials were broadcasting the seriousness of coronavirus in local dialects and with some humor to lighten up people’s anxious mood.

Many are taking measures imaginable to comfort people. However, for personal interest, some immoral media fabricated terrible news, and I felt more upset. Thankfully soon some other media, including state-owned ones, started to refute rumors by explaining the actual situation. Information transparency is a popular topic nowadays, but I think it is not until that point that I really understand its great significance.

People stockpiled food and other necessities, so that they could stay at home for a couple of days. There was obvious increase in prices of some food like pork, but others like seafood, on the other hand, had seen contraction in both demand and prices. That of my favourite shrimps, for example, had dived by about 50% to only around 48 yuan/jin (1 jin=0.5 kilo) in our town.

Face masks and sanitizers outrun others in sales volumes. They were in great shortage, and some companies like beverage or clothes ones began to produce them after updating equipment and getting certificates. But they were still insufficient, and many people had to line up for more in front of pharmacies. To remedy the situation, some cities started a new practice that people drew lots online and winners could pick up face masks in stores or have them delivered home.

New retailers and online shopping platforms like the community-based ones are getting more popular. But brick-and-mortar ones like wholesale and farmers markets have run into trouble, and restaurants had closed down temporarily. Many people had worked from home and they spent less than before. Some communities had even set up regulations to limit residents’ frequency of going out like once every two or three days.

Gradually things were getting better, and though some companies went out of business in this harsh winter, the survivors were fighting for a way out. More and more restaurants in our town reopened in early March, and takeout was recommended. Farmers markets were reviving. Meanwhile, cities have started to issue coupons to boost demand and economic development.

Seemingly all are returning to the ways they were before the influential coronavirus, but a closer look shows some changes to Chinese daily life. For example, face masks are still a must for many people in their outings, and people get more used to working or studying online. First-tier cities are less attractive for some who have or are planning to return to hometowns to work. Cooking is no longer so horrifying for some new generations who got bored with staying at home and gave it a try.

Virtual shopping becomes more widely received among the middle-aged, and live streaming has risen to prominence in marketing campaigns of such products like seafood. Re-celebrating Chinese New Year is one common slogan online. And frozen seafood are bettering their images in this oriental market with great preference to live ones, while supermarkets and e-commerce platforms are becoming a more popular choice in Chinese seafood shopping. Many seem to enter a new era.

12” honkers
Hackle, ostrich, bucktail, jungle cock

No photo description available.

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