Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
I'd advise heading way south ...
LOCAL NOTE: This coming Friday/Saturday marks the initiation of the Stafford Township single-use plastic bag ban. By my thinking, it is one of the largest such municipal bans in the entire state, based on population and number of businesses effected. There is also an abiding senior citizen component among the shoppership, which could make it contentious at the registers. Here’s hoping it goes off without a hitch. Even if it does, there will be a huge influx of seasonal folks come spring/summer, requiring shops to re-experience some of the ban’s initial impacts on customers.
Tuesday, December 04, 2018: It has turned decentish out there … but who’s caring? The beaches are abandoned, as in nary a surfcasting soul. The water is also moderately turbid, with a diminishing 3-foot east swell.
The heightening west winds have the ocean surface barely showing stripering boats. Last I heard, there are plenty of schoolie bass on the open sea.
We’ll be seeing piggyback cold fronts, two in close succession. That will keep the offshore winds honking. The air temps will be quite chilly during the day (barely 40s) but not diving that low at night (upper 20s).
There is much being hinted at regarding a possible coastal storm by this weekend. I don’t see that southland storm system moving all that close to us, i.e. northward. Of course, its waves will likely pound us, as has been the case with virtually any offshore storm.
Ocean water temps have varied from the low 50s to the upper 40s. Cleaner waters have been slightly milder.
HOLGATE HAPPENINGS: Another snowy owl spotted in Holgate. Not the one I photographed, based on body markings. The two I spotted last week quickly moved onward -- and likely southward.
I’ll be doing a goodly amount of Holgate time starting tomorrow, so I’ll keep an eye open and alert to any birdlife of interest. I’m told seals are showing. It could be a banner year for them, based on populations just to our north. This 2016 newscast has gone viral, showing the somewhat ominous increase in seals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePY0YbfIGCk
Clamming is on my Holgate agenda but the walk-in to where the better clamming abides is hideously muddy and sinky. You gotta want bivalves real badly to make the half-mile haul out to the far back flats. There had been some talk of the Refuge allowing a crossover point, across its property, from the front beach (4,000-foot or so) – where the erosion now rules – to the adjacent bayside mudflats. Nothing came of it.
I’m not real sure how the law reads regarding coastal beachline areas so frequently overwashed that they no longer qualify as uplands, or even vegetated areas. Vegetation is sometime used as an indicator of uplands. Not my battle, though. I now go to Holgate to relax -- and not fret over erosion and public ingress/egress issues.
The far south end -- adjacent to the inlet and Rip -- has been accruing more and more sand before my very eyes. I kid you not. It is growing in sandy leaps and bounds from recent storms, moving the Island's most southward point by almost 50 yards. That growth is obviously due to the replenishment material migrating in from the north. Just as impressive within that building-up-fast area are new dunes, now sporting grass. It’s remarkable … at least to me. I’ll shoot a video to show the sand buildup. You’ve likely already seen my videos of the erosion toward the north part of the refuge. I had a couple folks agree is does look a bit like a sandy wasteland, especially when west winds are blowing sand across it like drifting snow.
CLASSIC … OR NOT (Nov. 30): There have been 39 stripers entered into the 2018 LBI Surf Fishing Classic, after 59 days. The nine-week contest is moving toward completion this weekend. A decent showing of 686 anglers have signed up. Chris Masino’s 43.06 remains in the driver’s seat for best bass. I won’t rate the event since it’s fairly obvious the fish have failed us, miserably. Where have we sinned. I will note that other surflines in NJ have seen striper declines this year but nothing on par with our dizzying drop-off. While boat bassing had some fine moments, I’m getting reports that things did not stick around overly long, though the piss-poor weather stints surely disguised the actual breadth of the bass presence out a short ways.
From this week’s weekly column:
RUNDOWN: If you like tog and have a tough enough boat to handle bouncy seas while heading out to structure, you’re lovin’ angling life. Some of the blackfish takes have been extraordinary, with double-digit poundage on many a trophy tog. The number of keeper-sized tog have also been sweet.
I’ll re-mention that the value of tog, when delivered live down south, is easily up there with the best grouper. It is sometimes sold as same. How anyone can mistake tog meat for grouper is baffling, simply due to differing flavors. It is tougher to tell the two apart when served as sashimi. I greatly prefer raw tog over raw grouper, though a couple tiny pieces – with wasabi – is my limit.
Boat bassing is no longer bangingly big, though schoolie bass are occasionally overwhelming in numbers. Finding a keeper is tough. With many a boat now being yanked out for the season, it’s tougher getting a read on bass whereabouts. Any of you hardcore guys want to give me at least a general read on hooking, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surf fishing remains horrid, not that many folks are even going the surfcasting route, with the 2018 LBI Surf Fishing Classic ending this weekend. As of 12/4, 39 bass have been weighed in by 686 entrants. For a 65-day event … well, you can do the fractional per-day striper-take math. Hey, I hear next fall is going to go gonzo on the surfcasting striper front. Just sayin’.
Cape Charles, VA Chris’ Bait and Tackle- best Rock Fish Season they have seen in years! #75
Happy boys. Should sleep good tonight.
Huge thank you to jp and Amanda Peterson for a day to remember. Initially We got a weight and snapped a picture and wanted to release it but Unfortunately this beauty was bleeding too bad and releasing it wasn't a option. I ended the day with limit + orl and new PB
Copyright 2018, The Washington Post Co.
By Darryl Fears
December 3, 2018
The Trump administration took an important step toward future oil and natural gas drilling off the Atlantic shore, approving five requests allowing companies to conduct deafening seismic surveys that could harm tens of thousands of dolphins, whales and other marine animals, according to studies.
In an announcement Friday, the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, declared that it issued final "incidental take" authorizations permitting companies conducting the surveys to harm wildlife if its unintentional.
"NOAA Fisheries is clear in the documentation related to [incidental take authorizations] that we do not expect mortality to occur as a result of these surveys," said a spokeswoman, Katherine Brogan. But numerous scientific studies show acoustic sound can harm and potentially kill animals.
The decision is likely to further antagonize governors in states along the Eastern Seaboard who strongly oppose the administration's proposal to expand federal oil and gas leases to the Atlantic. The authorizations clear the way for surveys across a stretch of ocean between Delaware and Florida.
Every state executive on the coast below Maine opposed the plan. Federal leases could lead to exploratory drilling for the first time in more than a half-century. Several Democrats representing those states in the House and Senate decried the authorizations.
In addition to harming sea life, acoustic tests — in which acoustic waves are sent through water 10 to 12 seconds apart to image the sea floor — can disrupt thriving commercial fisheries. Governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general along the Atlantic coast say drilling threatens beach tourism that has flourished on the coast in the absence of oil production.
Seismic testing maps the ocean floor and estimates the whereabouts of oil and gas, but only exploratory drilling can confirm their presence. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that soiled the Gulf of Mexico resulted from an exploratory drill. Another gulf disaster that looms almost as large has spewed oil for more than 14 years. The Taylor Energy spill of up to an estimated 700 barrels a day started when a hurricane ripped up production wells and could continue for the rest of the century, according to the Interior Department.
The National Marine Fisheries Service announcement comes a week after the Trump administration released a report by the U.S. Geological Survey showing that excavating and burning fossil fuels from federal land made up nearly a fourth of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States over a decade ending in 2014.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the administration published a much larger report by 13 federal agencies projecting the severe economic costs of climate change as coastal flooding and wildfires worsen and hurricanes are becoming more severe. After the administration's critics accused it of trying to bury the report with a release on Black Friday, President Trump dismissed it out of hand.
"One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we're not necessarily such believers," Trump said during a freewheeling 20-minute interview with Washington Post reporters.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee who will probably take over as chair in the next Congress, blasted the administration's decision to permit acoustic testing as "an alarming sign of [its] indifference to the fate of coastal communities and marine life, including the endangered north Atlantic right whale."
He criticized the timing of the announcement shortly after the climate report's release, saying, "There is nothing this administration won't do for the fossil fuel industry, including destroying local economies and ruining endangered species habitats."
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) called for congressional action to regulate seismic testing in a tweet Friday. "Since Donald Trump has decided to ignore the concerns of residents and stakeholders directly impacted by seismic blasting and offshore drilling," he said, "it is time for Congress to step in and put a stop to this by passing my bill, the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection Act."
Numerous other Democrats, including Sen. Edward J. Markey (Mass.) and Rep. A. Donald McEachin (Va.), also criticized the administration's decision in tweets.
According to one model prediction used in a 2014 study by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in 2014, nearly 2.5 million dolphins would be harassed or possibly killed by acoustic sound blasts each year in the middle and southern Atlantic, and nearly a half-million pilot whales would be affected.
Six of the impacted mammals in the study area were endangered species, the report said, including four types of whales. The species most impacted would be humpback whales, 12 of which could be killed each year it said. However, BOEM has asserted that there is no confirmed evidence that animals are actually harmed by seismic mapping and considers the threat "negligible."
But that assessment has not comforted opponents of seismic activity. Fewer than two weeks ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service pleaded with commercial fishermen to be careful not to harm Atlantic right whales after an unprecedented 20 deaths in 2016 and 2017 reduced their numbers to a mere 400 in the wild.
"We are very concerned about the future of North Atlantic right whales," Barb Zoodsma, right whale biologist for NOAA Fisheries, said in a Nov. 15 statement. "We lost 20 right whales in U.S. and Canadian waters since 2017 during an Unusual Mortality Event. The number of right whale deaths is troubling for a population of a little more than 400 animals, particularly because we estimate that there are only about 100 breeding females who are producing fewer calves each year."
Out of concern for wildlife and fisheries, the Obama administration denied six permits for seismic testing weeks before Trump took office in 2017. "In the present circumstances and guided by an abundance of caution, we believe that the value of obtaining the geophysical and geological information from new air-gun seismic surveys in the Atlantic does not outweigh the potential risks of those surveys' acoustic pulse impacts on marine life," said Abigail Ross Hopper, the bureau's director at the time.
Shortly after that decision, the American Petroleum Institute condemned it as wrongheaded, saying it would increase energy costs for consumers and shut the door to job creation. The institute, a lobby for the oil and gas industry, pinned its fortunes on the incoming president.
"We are hopeful the incoming administration will reverse this shortsighted course and base its decisions on facts so that we can have a forward-looking energy policy to help keep energy affordable for American consumers and business, create jobs and strengthen our national security," spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said at the time.
The American Petroleum Institute welcomed Friday's decision in a statement provided by a spokesman, Reid Porter. "The U.S. needs to know what energy resources exist off of our shores and we are hopeful that permits for surveying for offshore oil and natural gas and a full national offshore leasing plan to explore and develop the outer continental shelf will move forward soon."
Not surprisingly, conservation groups denounced it. "This action flies in the face of massive opposition to offshore drilling and exploration from over 90 percent of the coastal communities in the proposed blast zone," said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, a nonprofit. "President Trump is essentially giving these companies permission to harass, harm and possibly even kill marine life."
The Natural Resources Defense Council echoed Grijalva's observation. "Just one week after issuing dire warnings on the catastrophic fallout of climate change . . . the Trump administration is opening our coastlines to for-profit companies to prospect for oil and gas — and is willing to sacrifice marine life, our coastal communities and fisheries in the process," said Michael Jasny, director of the group's Marine Mammal Protection Project.
An alliance of businesses and chambers of commerce aligned to protect the Atlantic coast, known as BAPAC, also condemned the decision. "The Outer Banks business community depends on a clean and beautiful coast to support our multibillion-dollar tourism, recreation and fishing industries," said Karen Brown, president and chief executive of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. "The release of these permits puts us one step closer to oil-covered beaches and economic disaster."
Photo: NOAA monitoring for oil exposure (NOAA)
Copyright © 2018 Insider
By Chris Snyder
December 4, 2018
Narrator: In 2013, a 489-pound tuna sold for a whopping $1.8 million. But you can buy a can of tuna fish at the grocery store for under $2. So, what's the difference?
For starters, it's not the same fish. Canned tuna typically comes from albacore. They're small, grow fast, and are abundant for fishing. And they certainly don't weigh 489 pounds. There's only one type of tuna in the world that grows that big, bluefin tuna. And if you wanna try some, it's gonna cost you.
Derek Wilcox: We could buy tuna from Japan that we'd have to charge maybe $80 for one piece of otoro.
Narrator: Derek Wilcox is a chef at Shoji, a Japanese restaurant in New York. He was trained in Japan and worked there for more than 10 years. Restaurants like Shoji serve raw bluefin tuna, or what's called kuro maguro in Japanese.
They get their tuna from a number of different sources, including Japan's Tsukiji fish market.
There are several different varieties of tuna, but bluefin is what you're most likely to find at high-end sushi restaurants.
Wilcox: Bluefin is the most sought after. Only bluefin has the intense marbling. Bluefin also, when it's aged properly, has a particular balance of flavors.
Narrator: A large adult bluefin can weigh around 450 pounds or more, and the price of the fish varies based on a number of different factors.
Wilcox: It completely depends upon where you get it from, but it's never cheap. A local bluefin on the east coast will run anywhere between $20 and $40 a pound. You could be paying north of $200 a pound for bluefin from Japan.
Narrator: According to Wilcox, tuna from Japan is better than American tuna during the peak winter months. While Boston tuna is best during summer and fall. But it's the tuna that comes from Oma in Japan that's widely considered to be some of the best in the world.
Wilcox: Peak-season Oma tuna will, in Japan, cost 400-450 a kilo. Which means by the time it gets here, it'll cost close to $400 a pound.
Narrator: Besides its superior fat content, another reason fish is more expensive from Japan is that it has further to travel, and it goes through a rather lengthy process before making its way to your plate.
Wilcox: There's more hands that it passes through in Japan, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Narrator: Wilcox says the fish is also handled better in Japan than the US. So there's less damage and more precise cutting.
Wilcox: We get like a Boston bluefin, it goes from the fisherman, to the distributor, to our door. Whereas in Japan, it's going from the fisherman, usually to a collective or cooperative, to the government that's running the auction, to a middle wholesaler, to a final wholesaler, to a restaurant or a hotel.
All high-end fish are auctioned in Japan. Fish that's more sought after, that's caught in a better place, that's handled better, that's clearly better quality will go for a higher price, and that fisherman will get more of the money.
Narrator: The first auction of the year in Japan is when you'll see ridiculously high prices for fish. Mostly as a symbolic gesture, or a publicity stunt. Which is partly why the 489-pound tuna sold for $1.8 million in 2013. And the first fish of 2018 sold for $323,000.
Wilcox: In Japanese culture, that first thing you do all year is the most important. It sets the tone for the whole year. That first tuna of the year always goes for the highest price that any tuna will go for the whole rest of the year.
Narrator: And the different parts of a bluefin tuna also vary drastically in price.
Wilcox: If you imagine a tuna as like a torpedo, they'll split it into quarters lengthwise, cut off the head, and the collar, and we will take one of the two belly quarters.
Narrator: Here's what one quarter looks like when it's delivered. This piece came from Boston, and was caught the previous day. Wilcox splits up the meat based on type.
Wilcox: It's just like sides of beef. You know, you buy a side of beef, it's all the same, but once you break it down, the filet ends up being the most expensive part, because it's the most desirable. It's also small, and it requires a lot of labor to peel off the silver skin. Otoro is the fattiest part of the tuna outside of the head and collar area.
Narrator: This is the most expensive. And depending on where it's from, and where the fish was raised, the price can vary anywhere from $10 a piece to upwards of $80.
Wilcox: The chutoro is getting around toward the side of the tuna, and it doesn't have the striations of fat, but it still has fat within the red of the meat, so you get a mix of fat and red. And then, akami which means, literally, red meat in Japanese, is the leanest part which you find more towards the center of the tuna closer to the backbone.
Narrator: Akami is the most common and cheapest part of the fish, but it's still more expensive than that can of albacore at your local market.
Wilcox: When you're assessing the quality of the tuna, you wanna taste the red meat, the akami. It's a wild animal, so it tells you whether it had a good diet, whether it had a good life, and it got exercise, and it lived in clean waters, and was able to swim around a lot. So, a farm-raised tuna is, generally, force-fed sardines, and you can actually taste sardines in the fat of a farm-raised tuna. Whereas a wild tuna has a varied diet, and has a much cleaner and milder flavor to the fat.
Narrator: But for decades, wild bluefin tuna were over-fished in the Pacific, which was harming their population and making it more difficult to come by. However, more recently tighter controls on fishing have led to a resurgence in the population. But they could still be better, Wilcox says. In fact, Wilcox avoids any Pacific bluefin that is not from Japan, and says you should too.
Wilcox: If you eat Pacific bluefin, not specifically from Japan, then that's really irresponsible.
© 2018 Johnston Publishing Limited
December 3, 2018
Wild Scottish salmon is officially off the menu after the last netting station closed because there are so few fish left to catch.
The fishery owned by Kinnaber Ltd on the North Esk near Montrose, Angus, once caught around 1,700 salmon a year, most of which were sent to Billingsgate market, London, to be sold to restaurants and fishmongers.
It has now closed on conservation grounds because wild salmon numbers have fallen so low. Wild salmon can only be sold if it is caught and killed at strictly regulated netting stations.
The Esk District Salmon Fishery Board is now poised to buy the fishing rights from Kinnaber.
The deal will effectively end the sale of wild salmon for consumption as the board will no longer permit net fishing on the river.
Board director Dr Craig MacIntyre said: "For wild Scottish salmon this is pretty much it. This was the last salmon netting station in Scotland. It could end it for consumption as it's illegal to sell rod-caught salmon."
Dr MacIntyre added: "The reason we're buying these netting rights is twofold. There's one for conservation of salmon to protect future stocks and the board also has a policy that if a netting station comes up for sale then we will try to buy it, which is what we've done here.
"Also, the value of a rod-caught salmon is far in excess to the local economy and the river than one that's caught in a net.
"Each salmon caught to the rod would be maybe worth £2,000 to the local economy.
"When you factor in rents and people coming to visit and staying in hotels and going out for meals then the multiplier really takes effect."
Bob Ritchie, 73, who ran R&S Fisheries, which leased the Esk fishing rights from Kinnaber, said he was saddened by the demise of the netting industry.
He said: "It's the end of an era. I don't know where the customers will get wild salmon from now. We could have sold double what we were catching."
A single netting operation will remain on the River Tweed which can sell wild Scottish salmon but its fish are caught in England. By law, wild salmon can only be caught and killed in rivers but it is illegal to sell rod-caught salmon. Fishermen have been banned from catching and killing salmon in coastal waters since 2016.
Copyright © 2018 The New York Times Company
By Emily S. Rueb
December 4, 2018
Why are we suddenly talking about canned tuna and millennials?
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that overall consumption of the packaged fish has declined by more than 40 percent in the United States over the last three decades, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Among the reasons that people are less inclined to reach for a can of Bumble Bee: It isn't convenient enough for younger consumers. Many people ''can't be bothered to open and drain the cans, or fetch utensils and dishes to eat the tuna,'' The Journal reported.
But the rationale that cut hardest, it seems, was a quotation from a vice president for marketing and innovation for StarKist, one of the big three tuna purveyors.
''A lot of millennials don't even own can openers,'' he said.
This explanation did not smell right to many on Twitter.
Some cried ageism.
Millennials have been blamed for the death of cereal, napkins, sex, churchgoing, marriage, and face-to-face interaction, among other things. They have also been tarred for investing in avocado toast instead of real estate.
So who or what is really to blame for the decline in this canned classic, which has been a staple inside American lunchboxes and cupboards since the early 1900s?
In the past, fear of mercury poisoning scared tuna eaters and tarnished the industry's reputation. Many customers turned to light tuna, which experts say has less mercury.
Images of mangled dolphins in nets led to a countrywide boycott in the late 1980s, spearheaded by ''youths,'' according to The New York Times.
Tuna disappeared from lunch menus, movies and comic strips after schoolchildren and others staged letter-writing campaigns.
Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a senator from Delaware, introduced a bill requiring tuna labels to show whether dolphins were killed after his 8-year-old daughter badgered him about the slaughter.
More recently, the decline in interest among consumers aged 18 to 34 can be attributed to a preference for frozen or fresh fish, according to a report by Mintel, a market-research firm cited in the Journal article.
That explanation did not hold water for some, either:
''So we're too lazy to open a can of tuna, but when it comes to breaking out the sauté pan and busting open the spice drawer motivation abounds,'' @mcJakeSportz wrote on Twitter.
Established tuna brands like Bumble Bee, StarKist and Chicken of the Sea, which control most of the market, are facing increased competition from smaller brands that are offering twice-cooked tuna and tuna caught with more sustainable practices, The Journal said.
In order to cater to utensil-challenged consumers, Big Tuna brands are introducing new types of packaging, like easy-open pouches, kits that include crackers and a fork, as well as resealable packages designed to fit into car cupholders.
StarKist is hoping to lure in consumers with spicy flavors like hot buffalo and sriracha. It barely tastes like fish anymore.
You may even see tuna in the impulse-buy aisle near the checkout.
While consumers may be rebelling against the edibility of tuna, cost may also be a factor.
Since 2015, Big Tuna has been on the hook with federal investigators for engaging in a broad conspiracy to rig prices of canned tuna. In October, StarKist acknowledged wrongdoing and pleaded guilty to a felony charge for its role in forcing shoppers to pay inflated prices.
''The conspiracy to fix prices on these household staples had direct effects on the pocketbooks of American consumers,'' said a lawyer from the Justice Department's antitrust division.
Are millennials really to blame for Big Tuna's woes?
An informal survey conducted by editors and writers at New York Magazine's ''The Cut'' on Monday revealed a more complex answer.
''Based on my very limited investigation,'' wrote Anna Silman, ''my peers are just as diverse and multifaceted in their tuna consumption habits as their fellow tuna-eaters throughout history. While most everyone owns a can opener, not everyone likes tuna, while others prefer a bag or even a jar.''
The seas may part for tuna lovers squabbling over oil- or water-packed products. But for others, tuna is a nonstarter. Slate's chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie, a millennial, summarized his feelings.
Copyright © 2018 Cape Cod Times
By Mary Ann Bragg
December 4, 2018
A whale conservationist with a radical style says he intends to move forward with a "whale safety" initiative petition for 2020 in Massachusetts to ban vertical buoy ropes used in commercial fishing, among other efforts to protect whales and sea turtles.
"We have to have a paradigm shift," Richard Maximus Strahan, of Peterborough, New Hampshire, said of his advocacy efforts to stop the death and injury of whales and sea turtles from entanglement in rope used in commercial lobstering, crabbing and gillnetting.
On Oct. 11, Strahan withdrew his lawsuit in federal court in Boston that sought more federal and state enforcement against the use by commercial fishermen of vertical buoy ropes. Vertical buoy ropes are seen by scientists and conservation groups as a source of entanglement and often injury and death of marine animals. In withdrawing the lawsuit, Strahan said that the 2018 fishing season is over and that the court and defendants hindered his lawsuit by actions such as ignoring motions for discovery.
For next year, Strahan says he and Whale Safe USA, a political group of about 200, intend to try a variety of tactics, such as the Whale Safe Fishing Act 2020 initiative petition in Massachusetts. He says he also intends to sue individual or small groups of fishermen and block the issuance of commercial fishing licenses in Massachusetts. He proposes a boycott of purchases of lobster, and he wants to identify "green" commercial fishermen who have environmental goals, such as whale and turtle protection and reduction of plastic in the ocean.
Strahan said he would no longer be filing lawsuits in federal court in Boston.
"We are going to go outside the whale biz," said Strahan, who describes himself as an indigent and a graduate student in the Oct. 11 document.
Generally, Strahan said he views federal and state marine fisheries regulatory agencies as siding with commercial fishing interests rather than marine animal conservation interests. He also said a handful of nonprofit groups in the region, such as the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, are colluding with those regulatory agencies to the detriment of the animals.
"We have been over this with him several times before," Center for Coastal Studies CEO and President Richard Delaney said in an emailed response.
Strahan's reputation stems from the 1990s, when right whale entanglement protections lagged and he filed a lawsuit that forced major, costly changes to the fishing industry in Massachusetts. Those changes include trap gear and gillnet bans in Cape Cod Bay while North Atlantic right whales are present, starting early in the year and ending in May, and gear modifications such as breakaway features for gillnets and weak links for trap gear buoy lines.
Strahan returned to the courtroom in February following what scientists and conservationists considered a devastating loss of 17 right whales in 2017 in Canadian and U.S. waters. Particularly since 2010 the right whale population has been in decline, with decreasing numbers of newborns each year as well as a heavy death toll among adult females.
In the civil case first filed in February, Strahan sued the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the assistant administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Other defendants in the lawsuit were the secretary of the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries, commission members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association. No person was named specifically in the lawsuit other than Strahan, who represented himself.
Strahan sought to have a judge confirm that federal officials were shirking their duties under the Endangered Species Act by authorizing and failing to enforce certain regulations for commercial fishing; that NOAA had shirked its duties by handing over whale and turtle protections to the National Marine Fisheries Service without evaluating the possible harm to the animals; and that all defendants were violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing for the taking of whales and turtles, either by licensing commercial fishing or actually doing the fishing.
In May, a federal judge declined to issue a restraining order Strahan had sought to temporarily stop commercial lobster pot fishing in Massachusetts coastal waters to protect the right whales. In that ruling, the judge said that, unlike the 1996 federal court ruling, Strahan failed to show that he would likely win in the broader case due to the few rope entanglements that had been recently documented and due to the list of regulations now in place, such as annual lobster gear bans from Feb. 1 through April 30.
The Center for Coastal Studies provides airplane survey data on right whale locations to the state Division of Marine Fisheries, which is then used to make decisions about when to lift the trap gear bans in May, among other uses. The center's data was cited in the federal lawsuit in an affidavit of Daniel McKiernan, who is deputy director of the state Divison of Marine Fisheries.
The federal lawsuit officially closed Oct. 18.