Tuesday, January 14, 2020: A couple things of immediate import.
A DEEP CUT OFF OUR COAST: I was asked why the research vessel Neptune has been spending tons of time methodically moving about off LBI – mid-Island waters as of today. I went through the progression of possibilities, ranging from data collecting for a future wind farm to preparation for threatened oil/gas exploration to bottom contour recording for the about-to-start Atlantic City wind farm. Bingo on that final one, though it could distantly relate to a wind farm off LBI.
Writer Pat Johnson found out the Neptune is graphing the bottom in preparation for the laying of a big ass power cable, roughly the size of an arm circle you can make with your fingers just touching. It will carry the wind energy gleaned from Ørsted’s A.C. turbine field. The cable will be trenched under the ocean bottom. Unknown how deep. I’m working on details.
The big issue for me is where the cable will turn inland -- toward the power collection point at the former Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant. It WILL NOT go through Barnegat Inlet. The inlet is too busy and likely too dynamic. Knowing it can’t cross through LBI, any landward trenching will surely cross Island Beach State Park … and beeline across one of Barnegat Bay’s widest points.
Such a Park and bay trenching seems to be quite an eco-issue, though it will ostensible have the same impact as the natural gas pipeline currently being placed between West Creek and the Beach Haven Park section of Long Beach Township -- providing a similar tunneling technique is used. Yep, the same technique that has essentially stalled, mid-bay, due to equipment failure Photo below.
I’m also researching how far out the power cable will be placed off LBI. Could be as far as 5 nautical miles? Even there, might it present a snag threat for both commercial and recreational fishermen, especially dredgers and bottom drifters? I’m told it will be “covered.” Will it stay that way? The ocean bottom, once you get out a ways, is not all that dynamic, suggesting – but not assuring – a big buried cable will remain buried. The same can’t be said when the cable turns westward and passes over/through some of the most dynamic bottom and shoreline on the entire coastline. I can’t see how this cable laying won’t have some impact on Island Beach State Park. Admittedly, it could be minor – and done in winter.
To those eco-folks who incredulously ask, “How can this trenching across Barnegat Bay be permissible?” I can only point out that the above-mentioned natural gas line was a done deal in nothing flat, falling under a mandate of public safety and such. In the effort to allow Ørsted to build the largest wind farm in America, I believe some state (DEP) leniencies may be in play, though I’m certain all state agencies involved will argue that every "i" has been dotted and "t" crossed.
I’ve yet to run any of this past the folks with Save Barnegat Bay since I’m still in the early data-finding phase. That said, I do know the blueprints for the laying of the energy cable are already in place. There’s no saying if they’re granitized. Seeing things with a half-empty eye, there seems little chance of reversing them now.
BUGGY BILL FAVORS DISABLED: Our state reps, the team of Connors, Rumpf and Gove, have proposed legislation that would allow disabled military veterans to buggy the beaches for free. Great idea. Get it done, folks.
But, why not all vets, you ask, despite knowing you haven’t got a prayer of ever again fitting into that mothballed uniform? That would be a bit too costly – and crowded. That’s my guess, mind you.
Beach buggy fees offer a decent little influx of ready money for towns, though I’m sure they’ll duly counterpoint that the collected fees barely cover the cost of keeping buggy ramps open -- even though that openness must be mandatorily done to assure beach access for emergency vehicles.
I don’t mind paying the permit piper for the privilege of semi-exclusively driving chosen beaches. That said, I can’t afford to go the full Monte route by buying five separate permits to drive all the beaches from Loveladies through Holgate. I also relate to those buggyists annually pissed at getting hit left and right when it comes to legally navigating the entire LBI beachline. How about a one Island/one buggy permit? Sure, that’ll happen right after we achieve the one Island/one beach badge, i.e. until the twelfth of fuhgeddaboudit.
Mildly defending buggy permits, I see the fees as a viable means of minimizing the number of buggyists skillessly zipping onto the beachfront -- though we’ll never stem the flow of scofflaws who hit the beaches feigning ignorance of the buggy permitting process. They’re the number one sinkers, most often unaware of airing down tires.
Speaking of surfside sink jobs, when I find permitless folks hopelessly stuck in the sand, l tell them -- in a smiling way -- if they’ll admit they knew they shouldn’t be driving the beach without a permit, I’ll try to dig/pull them out. Unspoken: "Only don't tell me you're innocent. Because it insults my intelligence," spoken in a Michael Corleone timbre.
To date, every single stuck soul, most often offering a sheepish grin of guilt, has gone the mia culpa guilt route. I’m not sure if they know the gig is up or they’ll say anything to avoid a costly pullout.
By the by, I never accept a single offered penny for pullout help. It’s a karma thing. However, I do have offerers promise me they’ll donate the money to a good cause, like tithe time at church. I know what you’re thinking: fat chance. Hey, a man is only as good as his promise, right? And did I mention that karma thing?
Ocean tide artwork ...
Dick Russell is the author of “Striper Wars: An American Fish Story” and lives part of the year on Martha’s Vineyard. This column first appeared in The Vineyard Gazette.
Column: It's time to let stripers be
Thirty-five years ago this January, a five-year moratorium on the taking of striped bass went into effect in the state of Maryland.
Other states, including Massachusetts, soon followed suit with regulations resulting in a near-total shutdown of fishing for the vaunted species across the 11 coastal states where it migrates.
There was no scientific consensus on what was causing the disastrous decline of stripers. Pollution on the Chesapeake Bay spawning grounds was surely a factor, but solving that problem would take years — and by then, it would be too late. The only realistic solution was to stop the fishing pressure from commercial and recreational anglers.
My family and I, longtime Vineyard fishermen, played an integral role in fighting for this to happen. And it worked, beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. A striped bass population estimated to contain about 4.6 million fish in 1982 would reach a historic peak of an astounding 56.7 million fish in 2004.
The resurgence of the striper was hailed by Scientific American magazine as “the best example in the world of a species that was allowed to recoup through tough management and an intelligent rebuilding plan.”
Now in a painful déjà vu, another dire crisis is occurring. Once again, the reasons are unclear. New threats have arisen, including not enough available food due to overfishing of menhaden and the aquatic environment being detrimentally affected by climate change. So, once again, all we can do immediately is drastically reduce fishing mortality.
A recent study of female spawning stock biomass revealed a sudden drop of levels deemed strong enough to sustain the species. An overfishing threshold estimated at 202 million pounds in 2017 fell to 151 million pounds this year. In the realm of the fish, that’s a lot.
In response, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission mandated an 18% cut in allowable harvest quotas for 2020. This includes an addendum that will hold sports fishermen to keeping one striper per day and require the release of any fish measuring less than 28 inches and more than 35 inches.
Obviously, the Vineyard derby’s prizes for the largest stripers, daily and overall, fly in the face of the new conservation measures. This past autumn, the derby weighed in 146 striped bass, the majority being precisely those females bearing the most eggs.
It’s time to take the bass out of the derby. A precedent already exists.
Back in 1985, and for the eight years that followed, derby officials removed endangered stripers from the competition and made it a bluefish derby.
The decision did not come easily. A full-page ad in The Vineyard Gazette signed by more than 50 fishermen and conservationists, including seven former derby grand prize winners, had called for this to happen a year earlier.
When the derby committee and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce were not swayed, sponsors began to withdraw their support. Saltwater Sportsman magazine led the way, followed by three leading fishing gear manufacturers including the world’s largest rod and reel maker, Zebco. The town of Chilmark formally declared it could no longer in good conscience support a bass derby.
On May 23, 1985, the derby committee reversed itself. Striped bass would be dropped from the tournament, not to be included again until the fishery recovered. With that, all the sponsors moved to renew their support. The bluefish-focused event continued to thrive, and the Vineyard assumed a role as a conservation leader.
We would do well to heed the lesson of history, seeking to ensure that despite the many obstacles in its path, this most majestic of inshore creatures will continue to survive if given a chance by their primary predator. Stronger protections will no doubt need to be put in place. Recreational fishermen must realize their role in the decline and utilize less damaging circle hooks while practicing catch and release.
It makes no sense that commercial fishermen in Massachusetts still be allowed to take 15 fish a day twice a week with a 34-inch minimum size limit, when the larger females are desperately needed to keep the population afloat. The fact that the allocated catch hasn’t even been reached for the past two years should be a sign that business as usual can’t continue.
In October, the annual survey tracking reproduction success for juvenile striped bass in Maryland fell to 3.4 fish per scientific haul, well below the 66-year average of 11.6.
So it’s quite likely that the current quota cutbacks called for across the Atlantic coast and in the Chesapeake Bay do not go far enough. This was the case in the mid-1980s, when it became apparent that a 55% reduction in fishing pressure wasn’t going to keep the bass off the Endangered Species List.
We must prepare for another complete moratorium. Until then, it is unconscionable to keep striped bass in the Vineyard derby.
HERE'S THE NEW WORLD RECORD BLACK CRAPPIE THAT WAS CAUGHT IN TENNESSEE
Editorial note: This post has been updated since the record was confirmed.
Genetic testing revealed that the black crappie that Jam Ferguson caught in May, 2018 is indeed a new world record.
Spring time is that short window where many anglers take advantage of the crappie spawn and the adrenaline-rushed bait thump that they bring. Big crappie are enough to send many anglers into a frenzy. And this possible new world record crappie is about to take the fishing world by storm.
An absolute giant of a crappie was caught in a pond in Paint Rock, East Tennessee by angler Jam Ferguson. That giant weighed in at a whopping 5.46 pounds.
For those of you who aren't familiar with crappie fishing or fishing in general, this is groundbreaking. Absolutely huge. The fish is now the World Record Black Crappie.
June 6, 1913 – Beach Haven Residents and Hotels Attack Fish Factory on Story’s Island
Trenton, May 29
The Atlantic Fisheries company, a $300,000 corporation with headquarters in Atlantic City, has been made defendant in a suit in the court of chancery brought by hotel and cottage owners in Beach Haven for an injunction to restrain the fisheries company from operating a fertilizer and fish oil factory on Story’s island in Little Egg Harbor bay. The complainants are the Engleside company, which conducts the Engleside hotel, Beach Haven; Robert F. Engle, manager of this hotel; James Baird, owner of the hotel Baldwin; W. Mercer Bayard, a Beach Haven cottager; Chas. W. Grafley of Philadelphia who has a summer cottage in Long Beach township, near Beach Haven.
The bill of complaint filed in chancery shows that the fish oil and fertilizer factory of the defendant corporation is about two miles distant from the Engleside hotel and the cottages referred to, and it is alleged that during the summer of 1912, the oil and fertilizer were manufactured from fish which was brought to the factory in large quantities in boats. The complainants charge that during the process of manufacture there arose from the fish and from the particles of decomposed fish at all times lying about the factory and stored there an odor which was not only nauseous, foul and disagreeable, but also extremely unwholesome and that this odor was blown by the winds over Beach Haven, penetrating the hotels and residences of the complainants, causing them and their guests great annoyance and distress. It is charged that frequently the stench was so great last summer that the complainants were compelled to retire within their houses and close the windows. It is charged further that the Engleside hotel and the Hotel Baldwin lost guests because of the odor. It is claimed that the value of the complainants’ property is being depreciated by the foul odors from the factory.
The complainants aver that the defendant company is about to reopen the factory for the summer and therefore they ask the court for an injunction to restrain the company from conducting its business in such manner as to become a nuisance to the residents of Beach Haven.