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Good News for the Arapaima

Conservation efforts are paying off for the arapaima, the world's largest scaled freshwater fish, according to a recent study in Brazil's Amazon River basin.

Here's the important takeaway:

The study looked at protected freshwater lakes along the Juruá River in Brazil, a tributary spanning about 2,081 miles. Efforts to preserve these freshwater ecosystems are often hindered by conflicts with commercial fishing. Patterns of community management accounted for almost 72 percent of the variation in arapaima population sizes across 83 lakes studied along the river. 

Each lake managed by residents had an average of about 305 arapaimas, while open-access lakes had only nine, according to the study.

“What we’re documenting, I think for the first time in a freshwater fishery, is that if you move these lakes from an open-access ‘tragedy of the commons’ to the stewardship of a local community, and you regulate the fishing by bringing in the community-based management, these stocks just go through the roof,” Peres told TakePart. “It’s like if you put your money in a bank account, and it earns not 3 or 4 percent a year but 200 or 300 percent a year.”


Report Released to Improve Recreational Access for Saltwater Fisheries

Fishing conservation organizations and trade associations recently released recommendations that they hope the incoming Administration and Congress will follow to improve access to saltwater recreational fishing, create economic growth, and enhance the conservation of marine fish stocks.

"While our highly successful model of inland recreational fisheries management is often envied by countries around the world, in many cases federal management of our marine recreational fisheries continues to struggle in meeting the needs of the angling public," said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation.

 "The Vision document provides recommendations that will bring federal fisheries management into the 21st Century, enhancing both the conservation and economic contributions of America's anglers."

A Vision for Marine Fisheries Management in the 21st Century: Priorities for a New Administration recommends a shift away from using the same tools to manage commercial fishing and recreational fishing at the federal level. New approaches should reflect the reality of demand for recreational access to our marine fishery resources, the current economic activity associated with that access, and the scientific data of the light footprint recreational access has on our fishery resources.

 “While progress has been made in recent years to improve saltwater recreational fisheries management, many important opportunities and challenges remain,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman.

 “We look forward to working with the next Administration to fully develop our outdoor economy including embracing the important role that saltwater recreational fishing plays in creating jobs and promoting sustainable enjoyment of our nation’s fisheries resources.”
The report points out antiquated federal policies that have inhibited a vital source of economic growth and a proud American tradition.  It highlights the economic value of recreational fishing in coastal waters. Today, 11 million American anglers fish for recreation in saltwater. From license sales to retail sales, the recreational saltwater fishing industry contributes more than $70 billion annually in economic activity and generates 455,000 jobs.

However, outdated federal management policies threaten to stem this positive economic trend.
“Fishing is a treasured pastime and tradition for millions of Americans and needs to be treated as such,” said Jeff Anglers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

“The new Administration and Congress should take steps to keep this tradition alive – for the benefit of all those who enjoy fishing, for the hundreds of thousands employed in the recreational fishing industry, and for future generations of anglers who will fall in love with the sea.”


Florida Official Wants Sugar Land for Reservoir to Stop Damaging Diversions

As Lake Okeechobee continues to rank as one of  nation's best bass fisheries, discharges of its nutrient-rich waters  to the east and west are feeding toxic algae blooms that devastate ecosystems on both Florida coasts. And the same time, the Everglades to the south slowly is dying of thirst.

With this year arguably the worst ever for algae blooms, many are demanding quick and decisive action. One of those is new Florida state Senate President Joe Negron, who recently promised to push for a solution that is opposed by Gov. Rick Scott and the sugar industry.

Negron wants to buy 60,000 acres used to grow sugar cane to build a $2.4 billion reservoir to hold Okeechobee water that now is discharged via man-made diversions to both coasts. From the reservoir, it would be released into the Everglades, after pollutants settled to the bottom.

"We must buy land south," he said. "That's what I believe is the next step forward."

Before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led the way in building dikes and replumbing to allow for development and minimize flooding decades ago, that's where water flowed naturally. As the Everglades was replenished, it served as a filter for the water on its way to Florida Bay.

In response to Negron's announcement, the Everglades Foundation said, "This project is vital to re-connecting Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Keys. By storing, cleaning and sending Lake Okeechobee water south, the project significantly reduces the amount of polluted water being dumped east and west."

The environmental organization also called Negron "an Everglades champion."  And it added, "He has placed his political capital on the table in an effort to not only bring relief to his constituency along the east coast, but to begin a project that will provide significant benefits to America's Everglades."

Scott, meanwhile, favors using property the state already owns to finally finish other Everglades restoration reservoirs and water treatment areas.

"We are reviewing his (Negron's) proposal and will continue to review all options that will help with water quality in our state," the governor's office said in a statement released as a response to the new Senate president. "We look forward to working with the legislature as session approaches."


Smallmouth Expansion With Climate Change Not All Positive

At a glance,  what's there not to like about milder winters and warmer waters for northern waters?

"Smallmouth bass, a popular recreational species, are expanding their range northward with climate change," said the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in reporting on findings that it compiled from reviewing 31 studies across the U.S. and Canada that document fish responses to climate change.

But, it cautioned, "one of the takeaway messages is that climate change effects on fish are rarely straightforward, and they affect warmwater and coldwater fish differently."

For example, an expanding smallmouth population  will result in new species interactions and altered predator-prey dynamics. That will  complicate life even more for coldwater fish species already stressed by milder conditions. Thus, managers will be tasked with both accommodating the desires of anglers who want to catch bass and  maintaining native species.

That means managing not only the fish but "the expectations of the stakeholders for fisheries changing with climate change," said USGS.

Fish most at risk are those living in arid environments and coldwater species, including walleye and trout, as well as prey species that these larger fish depend on for food. "Climate change can cause suboptimal habitat for some fish," the agency said. "Warmer water, for example, can stress coldwater fish. When stressed, fish tend to eat less and grow less."

Other climate change consequences:

  • Increased frequency and severity of droughts, especially in arid areas, will exacerbate the impacts of regulations on water flow and use for fish and aquatic systems, as well as people.
  • Altered migration times for some coldwater species will allow species that never spawned together before to hybridize. Native westslope cutthroat trout in the Rocky Mountains already are hybridizing with rainbow trout, a non-native species.
  • Abundance and growth of some coldwater species will be reduced. Changes in range, abundance, migration, growth, and reproduction already are occurring for sockeye salmon.

“Even though climate change can seem overwhelming, fisheries managers have the tools to develop adaptation strategies to conserve and maintain fish populations,” said Craig Paukert, a lead author and fisheries scientist at the USGS Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Missouri.

“Thanks to this synthesis, we can see the effects of climate change on inland fish are no longer just future speculation, but today’s facts, with real economic, social, and ecological impacts,” added Doug Austen, Executive Director of the American Fisheries Society.

 “Now that trends are being revealed, we can start to tease apart the various stressors on inland fish and invest in conservation and research where these programs will really make a difference in both the short and long term.”