Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday, February 26, 2014: A whiff of snow ... and a slew of stories off the news wires

(Above) Pray for spring

Wednesday, February 26, 2014: A whiff of snow, aka dusting, is still enough to irk my winter-wracked brain. Add some nasty-ass cold to come and all remains unwell in my realm. Oh, I’m’ getting out (Holgate or the outback) most every day but it’s frigid, soggy and wildlife is wrapped up tight as a drum. There have been recent winters when we’d already have bulbs bursting and frogs singing by now.

Yes, things will modify a bit by the weekend but looking at jet stream projections and – say it ain’t so Jay – we could see some of the coldest temps of the entire winter next week. Are you s****** me!!?? Oh, there’s also there is the unslight matter of a major winter storm next week. Despite that forecasted cold, we could still be on the rain/snow cuff for a storm, mainly if the winds come off the ocean early-on.

NEED SOME INFO: I was chatting with a horticulturist regarding the possible die-off of some invasive insects with this killer winter. He has some doubts but is hoping the boring beetles will be greatly reduced. “The bad part is even a few survivors can multiply fast,” he said, adding, “I hate to say this but we need a couple freezing winters in a row to do the trick.”

Interestingly, this fellow taps Jersey’s maple trees and says this cold can make for real good flows. I believe he works trees further north, Sussex county way. (He was called away as we were chatting so I couldn’t get any more info.)

I’m wondering if anyone within range of this post taps any maples – usually done in March? I’d like to learn the rudimentaries - on-scene and hands-on. Sure, there are tons of how-to videos on YouTube but getting a real feel for the art demands seeing what the maple trees look like – winterized. You gotta know your tree stuff to pick maples out of all the other leafless trees in the winter forest. What’s more, I know we don’t have a ton of larger maples in our neck of the woods. Still, maybe I can use a little tap on little trees. I don’t eat many pancakes at one sitting. I’m spending time at   http://www.bascommaple.com/.


There’s a new swinging gate at the parking lot entrance onto Holgate Refuge area. Seems folks are stealing the moveable signs that LBT has been using. I guess they’re some sorta souvenir or something. The new gate won’t be going anywhere too soon. http://youtu.be/3T_tHrpVSJ0.

This video doesn’t show the posts that will be driven in to secure the gates when open.


John Kerry calls for massive expansion of global marine reserves

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Business Green] - February 26, 2014 - 

John Kerry has called for a huge expansion of marine reserves as concerns about the state of the world's oceans and the potential impact on the global economy grow.

Fresh from this month's rallying call for international action on climate change, the US Secretary of State yesterday urged countries to work together to manage fish stocks and protect oceans from pollution, while also better assessing how climate change is affecting the marine environment.

"Keeping our oceans healthy is a food security issue and therefore a global security issue," Kerry said in a video address to a high-level oceans meeting hosted by the Economist and National Geographic.

"Today, less than three per cent of the world's oceans are part of a marine protected area or a marine reserve," he added. "Think about the progress we could make if just 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas were protected. I think that's a goal that we could accomplish and it's one we ought to set for ourselves."

Marine protection zones are thought to help replenish fish stocks and conserve coral reefs. Studies suggest around 90 per cent of the populations of the largest fish species have disappeared since the 1960s due to overfishing and environmental degradation, while up to two thirds of the world's coral reefs are thought to be damaged by acidic waters caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

Last week, a European Commission report warned member states are not doing enough to tackle declining fish stocks and improve the health of the ocean, adding "urgent efforts" are required to restore marine ecosystem to a "good status" by 2020.

Almost 200 countries agreed four years ago to expand marine protection zones in Nagoya, Japan - a treaty that the US has yet to ratify. However, Kerry insisted President Barack Obama was in favour of greater global efforts to protect oceans and announced the US would host a two day international ocean conference this summer to build momentum towards his goal of drastically expanding marine reserves.

"I absolutely endorse the notion, as does President Obama, that we need some kind of global understanding about how we will enforce... regulations and what rules we will put in place in order to preserve our fisheries and manage our coastlines and do the things necessary to reduce the pollution and preserve these ecosystems," Kerry said. "I know people resist and hate the idea. Each country wants to exercise its own sovereignty, but that's not the way the ocean works."

Boosting marine reserves formed the first strand of a plan Kerry outlined to safeguard the oceans, alongside measures to reduce agricultural run-off thought be responsible for marine 'dead zones', reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and a push to crack down on illegal fishing and other crimes.

Kerry's comments follow former UK foreign secretary David Miliband's call for a seagoing international police force to deal with illegal overfishing and pollution, which he warned were putting the world's food supplies at risk.

Two-thirds of the fish taken on the high seas are from stocks that are already dangerous depleted, while estimates for the value of the unreported and illegal catches on the high seas range between $10bn and $24bn a year.

"The high seas are seriously under-governed," Miliband, now co-chair of the Global Oceans Commission told the Guardian. "If you are to have an enforcement regime, it needs to be policed."


'Cold Water Cowboys" features Newfoundland fishermen in Discovery series

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Postmedia] By Ruth Myles - February 25, 2014 -    

Viewers expect subtitles when they're watching the Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film, but a series filmed in Canada?

The text that occasionally scrolls across the bottom of the screen on Cold Water Cowboys isn't an issue, says one of the fishermen on the new series that documents a season on the waters off Newfoundland.

"That wasn't no surprise," Richard Gillett says with a laugh, his down 'ome accent as thick as ever (to me, at least). "When we get a little bit excited, we tend to talk a little bit fast and shorten everything up. So it wasn't a surprise, definitely not.

"If you were here when my dad and I were talking, you would say, 'What language are they talking?' "

Showcasing Newfoundland's unique culture - including "our own language," according to Gillett - is one of the reasons the captain agreed to be on the show. Gillett is a fifth-generation fisherman, working the waters out of Twillingate Harbour on the Midnight Shadow. He's one of six crews the 10-part series follows.

In addition to showcasing the area's spectacular natural beauty, Cold Water Cowboys brings viewers along for a season of fishing. It starts at the beginning of last year's season in April, as Gillett heads out for crab. On the way to the grounds, he and his crew have to deal with pack ice and icebergs.

"You strike one of those, it'll open you up like a can opener," Gillette says on the episode.

He speaks from experience. Now 42, he's worked every season since he was 13. At 25, he lost his first boat to an iceberg. Thankfully, he and his crew escaped with their lives. It doesn't always end so well.

"I've had really close friends, they've steamed out of the harbour expecting a routine trip, to be back in three or four days, and they've never been heard talk of again," he says, and it's an experience shared by the people of all the fishing communities.

"At some point in time, people go down. The sea, every year, takes so many people. It's the most dangerous occupation in the world, no doubt about it.

"You're out in gale-force seas, with waves come at you the size of three- to four-storey buildings. It's not for the faint of heart. It's not for everybody, that's for sure."

That said, Gillett says he would never do anything else. Chasing riches in the oilfields of Alberta is not for him, even with how depressed the fishing industry has been. (Another crew on the series includes Hurricane Dave, newly returned from 20 years working in the oilpatch. Things do not go smoothly for Mr. Hurricane.)

Gillett is passing the trade on to his son and two daughters. It will be up to them if they want to carry on the family tradition, though. It's a hard life, and the show doesn't sugar coat what the fishers deal with.

One crew, already struggling to get by, has to free a catch worth $5,000 when their net captures a shark along with a school of capelin.

The shark could tear the fine net, which runs $40,000, something the beleaguered captain can't afford to gamble on.

Gillett hopes viewers gain a new appreciation for what he and his colleagues bring to the dinner table.

"A lot of people go to the supermarket and pick up fish or crab or whatever. They don't give a second thought to where that came from. I would like for people to realize what it takes to get that fish to your plate."

Cold Water Cowboys premieres Tuesday, Feb. 26 on Discovery.


Wildlife officials say hard to determine if shark fin ban has just moved trade underground

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Wall Street Journal] By Zusha Elinson - February 25, 2014 -   

SAN FRANCISCO, On a recent morning in this city's bustling Chinatown, a state wildlife official peeked into plastic bins filled with live bullfrogs and glass jars stuffed with dried abalone at various shops, searching for illicit shark fins. There were none to be found.

It was perhaps a sign that the state's eight-month-old ban on shark fins, a traditional Chinese delicacy served in soup, was working, said the inspector, Robert Farrell, an assistant chief at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Or it could mean that the lucrative trade has been effectively pushed underground.

Just which is the case is difficult to determine, Mr. Farrell said, as his department contends with a growing list of such laws to enforce.

"We hover around the same number of officers in the field and every year we just get more and more stuff piled on," said Mr. Farrell, a 21-year-veteran at the department. Among other recently added duties: patrolling 19 new protected areas along the Northern California coast and a package of rules governing Dungeness crab trapping.

The situation is mirrored in the seven other states with bans on the pricey fins, which sold for up to $500 a pound in California before its ban went into full effect. Just a handful of violators were caught last year.

Wildlife officers and experts in the field say the results underscore the difficulty of trying to police laws resulting from the public's growing enthusiasm for protecting critters of all types.

Since 2010, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, California, Maryland, New York and Delaware have passed prohibitions on the sale of shark fins and food containing them. Efforts to pass bans in four other states are gaining traction as wildlife advocates make the case that killing sharks for their fins is cruel and contributes to a drop in the animal's numbers.

But just how the bans are affecting the shark-fin trade isn't entirely clear.

Pointing to the dearth of citations, officials in several states said that shopkeepers, restaurateurs and fishermen appear to have fallen into line with the new laws. Publicity surrounding the bans -- including graphic videos of fishermen slicing off fins and tossing mutilated sharks back into the ocean to die -- appears to have decreased demand here and in Asia, according to fin traders and wildlife advocates.

Still, imports of dried shark fins into the U.S. haven't fallen, hovering at around 57 metric tons since bans started going into effect in 2011, according to the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. And advocacy groups report receiving regular complaints about shark-fin soup sales in restaurants.

Globally, 26 million to 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed every year just for their fins, according to a 2006 study at the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii. The market is worth $400 million to $550 million annually, according to marine biologist Shelley Clarke, who conducted the study.

A quarter of the world's shark and ray species are threatened with extinction due to overfishing and other factors, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which maintains the Red List of Threatened Species that many scientists consider a standard.

Shark-finning was banned in U.S. waters in 2000, but the law doesn't ban fin imports or serving the fins in food. That prompted wildlife advocates to push for individual state bans.

Officials in the six states where bans were in effect in 2013 reported issuing a total of seven citations last year, with potential penalties of fines or jail time. Four citations were issued in Washington and one in California. In Illinois, a Chicago restaurant owner got a $120 ticket. In Hawaii, a fisherman accused of directing his crew to de-fin sharks and toss them overboard got a $100 fine.

Last week, California wildlife officers announced their first big shark-fin bust. Seafood distributor Michael Kwong was allegedly caught with more than 2,000 pounds of what is believed to be shark fins in a San Francisco warehouse. Mr. Farrell said a restaurant cited for serving shark-fin soup pointed officers to Mr. Kwong, who didn't return calls for comment. No attorney for Mr. Kwong could be located. He faces up to six months in prison, a fine up to $1,000 or both.

Mr. Farrell said the bust was especially hard-won given the size of California's staff of wildlife officers. The state has about 240 on-the-ground wardens -- 35 fewer than in 1990 -- to cover 159,000 square miles of land, 29,000 miles of streams and rivers and 220,000 square miles of ocean, says the California Fish and Game Wardens Association.

Policing the ban on shark-fin soup here also has been politically sensitive because of the dish's long-standing place among San Francisco's large Chinese population. Merchants in Chinatown have bristled at inspections. A nonprofit advocacy group, the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, is fighting the ban in federal court, claiming it amounts to discrimination. The state is seeking to dismiss the suit.


ISSF finds bulk of global commercial tuna landings come from well-managed skip jack fisheries

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SCOM] February 24, 2014

In 2012 a majority of the tuna commercially caught and sold in the international market comes from healthy stocks said the International Seafood Sustainabiliy Foundation (ISSF) in its annual stock summary report.

The Foundation said 4.5 million tons of tuna was fished across the 23 stocks of major species which include alabacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin.

Over half the catch, around 56 percent of the landings, were made up of skipjack, followed by yellowfin at 27 percent, bigeye at 10 percent and albacore at 5 percent.  Bluefin tuna landings accounted for 1 percent of the global catch the ISSF said.

Globally, the Foundation said 65 percent of the stocks were at healthy abundance levels; 22 percent were overfished and 13 percent are an intermediate level.  Meanwhile, 43 percent of global tuna stocks are expereinceing a low fishing mortality, 22 percent are overfished and 35 percent have a high fishing mortality that is being managed adequately. 

But the highlight from the findings was 94 percent of the commercially used catch comes from healthy stocks.  This is largely the result of the skipjack fishery acounting for the bulk of the landings.   In contrast, most bluefin stocks and 2 out of 6 albacore stocks are overfished, but combined they make a relatively small fraction of the total catch.


Economist Ocean Summit: Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (news analysis)

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  BY John Sackton  [News Analysis] Feb 26, 2014

The Economist Ocean summit being held in California is a high level meeting - with involvement from the deputy chief of the UN, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and some of the heads of Fortune 500 hospitality and energy companies, as well as some heads of state.


Of course it is also a preening ground for NGO’s who both want to emphasize the message of disaster - the oceans are collapsing, while taking credit for being able to fix them.


We have given this meeting a lot of coverage today with stories and presentations from John KerryJulie Packard, and the Economist. The reason is that we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  We may have a reflexive dislike of Enviornmental NGO preening at the conference, but that should not detract from supporting some of the legitimate ideas that will build long term ocean ecosystem viability. 


John Kerry, in contrast to the other speakers, correctly identified that only around 1/3 of fisheries are overexploited, as confirmed by the FAO, and did not fall into the trap of calling fully exploited fisheries unsustainable.


He also highlighted two other important impacts on ocean health: agricultural runoff, and climate change including ocean acidification, brought about by uncontrolled carbon emissions.


The Economist magazine has also made some sensible suggestions, that should have wide industry and government support.  They include an end to fishing subsidies- especially in the EU, which support overcapacity in high seas fisheries as well as in fisheries off Africa, and a required international registry of fishing vessels - similar to that which exists with cargo ships.


Both things will help reduce IUU fishing.


John Kerry also supported steps to improve government regulation and fight IUU fishing.  He commented that he and Ted Stevens had worked to get the UN ban on driftnet fishing ratified.


There are also some more questionable ideas being floated at the conference.  One involves developing a UN Ocean agency.  It is not clear that the ocean itself is a good organizing principle, when we already have initiatives through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, the FAO, the UN environmental program, the Intergovernmental Commission on Climate Change, the Law of the Sea treaty, and various international shipping regulatory bodies.   All of these efforts could be improved without a new agency.


There is also a reflexive support for Marine reserves.  Kerry made the point that about 8% to 10% of terrestrial land is protected in some fashion, but for the oceans it is only around 1%.


The seafood industry in both Alaska and California has supported the creation of some marine reserves, but only in Australia has there been a large scale push to create reserves that seriously cut back on fishing.  The issue with reserves is that undefined, marine reserves are a catchall phrase like motherhood and apple pie - that automatically are good.


Yet the actual issues in marine reserves are more complicated.  What is the scientific goal?  Will it be accomplished through a reserve?  How will that be measured.  What activities will contribute to that goal, and what will not impact it.


The fishing industry has a long record of making huge contributions in terms of accepting restrictions, higher costs, limits on gear, on vessel type and fishing seasons and methods, because in most cases there is a direct connection between the action and the result.


Marine reserves fall outside of this system.  So that is why the seafood industry is more skeptical about reserves: they have to be better defined.


The very lack of definition also makes them attractive to environmental groups who want to claim a victory for conservation; but may not want to do the hard work of evaluating the trade offs.


All the speakers at the conference have underplayed the role of seafood in global food security except for the World Bank, and any large scale move towards more marine reserves should happen in the context of evaluating the needs for global food security as well.


Finally, most speakers have not  really acknowledged the fact that increased demand for seafood is being fulfilled by aquaculture - not more pressure on wild stocks. Those in the industry are already seeing climate change, ocean acidification, and illegal fishing as all having more impact than the simple minded statement that global fisheries are overfished.


So in evaluating the conference, it is important not to through the baby out with the bathwater.  There are some good ideas here worthy of broad support, and governments should implement them.


FDA agrees to deadlines for proposed regulations under Food Safety Modernization Act

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Supermarket News] February 24, 2014 - 

As part of a settlement agreement with the advocacy group Center for Food Safety (CFS), the FDA has set firm deadlines for final Food Safety Modernization Act rules.

The FDA agreed to develop rules for preventative controls for human and animal food by August 30, 2015, for imported food and foreign suppliers by October 31, 2015, for produce safety by October 31, 2015, for food transportation by March 31, 2016 and for intentional adulteration of food by May 31, 2016, according to a release by CFS.

“This is the best possible result, because it provides for robust public participation in the process, yet ensures certainty for its timely conclusion. CFS remains committed to protecting the rights of small farms and organic farms during the process,” said George Kimbrell, the CFS senior attorney who led the case, in a press release.

The CFS had original sued the FDA when it did not meet a congressional order to create the safety rules within 18 months after the FSMA Act passed in 2011. CFS won the case, but FDA appealed the federal court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals. FDA dropped the appeal after settling the case.

Economist Magazine calls for end to fishing subsidies, global fishing vessel registry, and marine re

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Economist]  (Opinion)  Feb 26, 2014

In conjunction with their second seafood summit, the Economist is calling for a global UN ocean agency to enforce regulations beyond the 200 mile limts.  Although this may be far fetched, two of their suggestions deserve support: ending fishing subsidies, and a registry of fishing vessels.   Marine reserves - the other popular solution - need to be designed with scientific credibility, instead of just a hope that they accomplish a vague goal.  


The editorial:


IN 1968 an American ecologist, Garrett Hardin, published an article entitled “The Tragedy of the Commons”. He argued that when a resource is held jointly, it is in individuals’ self-interest to deplete it, so people will tend to undermine their collective long-term interest by over-exploiting rather than protecting that asset. Such a tragedy is now unfolding, causing serious damage to a resource that covers almost half the surface of the Earth.


The high seas—the bit of the oceans that lies beyond coastal states’ 200-mile exclusive economic zones—are a commons. Fishing there is open to all. Countries have declared minerals on the seabed “the common heritage of mankind”. The high seas are of great economic importance to everyone—fish is a more important source of protein than beef—and getting more so. The number of patents using DNA from sea-creatures is rocketing, and one study suggests that marine life is a hundred times more likely to contain material useful for anti-cancer drugs than is terrestrial life.


Yet the state of the high seas is deteriorating. Arctic ice now melts away in summer. Dead zones are spreading. Two-thirds of the fish stocks in the high seas are over-exploited, even more than in the parts of the oceans under national control. And strange things are happening at a microbiological level. The oceans produce half the planet’s supply of oxygen, mostly thanks to chlorophyll in aquatic algae. Concentrations of that chlorophyll are falling. That does not mean life will suffocate. But it could further damage the climate, since less oxygen means more carbon dioxide.


For tragedies of the commons to be averted, rules and institutions are needed to balance the short-term interests of individuals against the long-term interests of all users. That is why the dysfunctional policies and institutions governing the high seas need radical reform.


Net loss


The first target should be fishing subsidies. Fishermen, who often occupy an important place in a country’s self-image, have succeeded in persuading governments to spend other people’s money subsidising an industry that loses billions and does huge environmental damage. Rich nations hand the people who are depleting the high seas $35 billion a year in cheap fuel, insurance and so on. The sum is over a third of the value of the catch. That should stop.


Second, there should be a global register of fishing vessels. These have long been exempt from an international scheme that requires passenger and cargo ships to carry a unique ID number. Last December maritime nations lifted the exemption—a good first step. But it is still up to individual countries to require fishing boats flying their flag to sign up to the ID scheme. Governments should make it mandatory, creating a global record of vessels to help crack down on illegal high-seas fishing. Somalis are not the only pirates out there.


Third, there should be more marine reserves. An eighth of the Earth’s land mass enjoys a measure of legal protection (such as national-park status). Less than 1% of the high seas does. Over the past few years countries have started to set up protected marine areas in their own economic zones. Bodies that regulate fishing in the high seas should copy the idea, giving some space for fish stocks and the environment to recover.


But reforming specific policies will not be enough. Countries also need to improve the system of governance. There is a basic law of the sea signed by most nations (though not America, to its discredit). But it contains no mechanisms to enforce its provisions. Instead, dozens of bodies have sprung up to regulate particular activities, such as shipping, fishing and mining, or specific parts of the oceans. The mandates overlap and conflict. Non-members break the rules with impunity. And no one looks after the oceans as a whole.


A World Oceans Organisation should be set up within the UN. After all, if the UN cannot promote collective self-interest over the individual interests of its members, what is it good for? Such an organisation would have the job of streamlining the impenetrable institutional tangle. But it took 30 years to negotiate the law of the sea. A global oceans body would probably take longer—and the oceans need help now.


So in the meantime the law of the sea should be beefed up. It is a fine achievement, without which the oceans would be in an even worse state. But it was negotiated in the 1970s before the rise of environmental concerns, so contains little on biodiversity. And the regional fishing bodies, currently dominated by fishing interests, should be opened up to scientists and charities. As it is, the sharks are in charge of the fish farm.


This would not solve all the problems of the oceans. Two of the biggest—acidification and pollution—emanate from the land. Much of the damage is done within the 200-mile limit. But institutional reform for the high seas could cut overfishing and, crucially, change attitudes. The high seas are so vast and distant that people behave as though they cannot be protected or do not need protection. Neither is true. Humanity has harmed the high seas, but it can reverse that damage. Unless it does so, there will be trouble brewing beneath the waves.


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