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Monday
Jul062015

BP will pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages for its role in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, which polluted the Gulf of Mexico five years ago.

“Today‘s settlement moves the wildlife and habitat of the Gulf Coast forward on the road to recovery. It’s time to look ahead to the future and work toward getting real, on-the-ground restoration projects done," said Steve Bender, director of Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of more than 800 sportsman and outdoors groups, organizations and businesses working on Gulf Coast and Mississippi river Delta restoration.

“Because Congress passed the RESTORE Act in 2012, 80 percent of the money BP pays as a result of the Clean Water Act penalty will be returned to the Gulf Coast for much needed restoration and to improve the region’s long-term resiliency. Repairing the ongoing damage from the oil spill is also of utmost importance going forward, and the settlement dollars BP pays through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment will help the areas devastated by the spill – including habitat that supports world-class hunting and fishing."

The Gulf Coast region is an ecological and economic driver for the entire nation, and sportsmen and women care about ensuring this national treasure is restored for future generations to enjoy. With as many as 14 million waterfowl migrating to the Gulf’s warm shores annually, and salt and freshwater fishing unlike anywhere else on the planet, we must make sure this entire region – including the endangered Mississippi River Delta – is on the path forward to long-term health and recovery. We look forward to working with federal and state officials and the RESTORE Council to make sure every dime of oil disaster money goes to meaningful, comprehensive restoration.”

Background

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ongoing findings deliver truths omitted by BP’s ads: the oil disaster’s negative effects are increasingly clear, present and far from resolved.

A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.

A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.

Recent studies estimate 1,000,000 birds died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.

Modeling for a recent stock assessment projected that between 20,000 and 60,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010 as a result of the spill.

A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.

A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.

A recent survey found that 70 percent of Americans believe BP should pay maximum fines under the Clean Water Act for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

VP has identified 19 projects from Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast that have the greatest potential to restore our coast. 

Friday
Jul032015

Happy Fourth of July!

I snapped this photo a few years ago during a rainy day weigh-in at a B.A.S.S. tournament. As the "The Star Spangled Banner" was played, this young man showed his respect during the downpour. Photo reminded me of the following that Thomas Paine wrote on Dec. 23, 1776:

"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

"Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God."

Friday
Jul032015

 




Friday
Jul032015

What's the Best Way to Handle a Big Bass? Help Researchers Find Out

Whether on a weigh-in stand or in front of a camera, holding a fish up for display has become an integral part of angling. But what’s the best way to handle that bass during the short, but critical time it is out of the water, especially if it weighs 5 pounds or more?

Surprisingly, despite the immense popularity of bass fishing, no research has been conducted to determine that --- until now. Scientists at the Florida Bass Conservation Center are investigating the question during a short, but precedent-setting project co-sponsored by the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program at the University of Florida (UF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation (FCF).

During the coming months, they will test three different methods of holding bass, all of which weigh between 4 and 9 pounds. One is by the lower jaw with one hand, while the other is placed near the pelvic fin to fully support the fish’s weight. Another is by a Boga Grip, with the fish hanging vertically. And the third is horizontally by the lower jaw.

The main objective is to determine whether these techniques influence jaw function, and to assess if one is more harmful than another. Many fisheries managers suspect that improper handling can influence feeding effectiveness and jaw mechanics, as well as fish survival.

Evidence to support that is provided by Texas’ ShareLunker Program. This year, three of the first five fish brought in had broken jaws. “The only explanation we have for the broken jaws is fish being held vertically by the lower jaw,” Texas Parks & Wildlife officials said.

“Anglers were expressing concern to FWC about how some big bass were being handled,” said UF’s Mike Allen, who is leading the research. “Studies have been done on other species, such as barramundi in Australia, but we were surprised to find out there is no science on this issue (for bass).

“Now we are hoping that people will get behind this and help support it,” he added. “Also, RocketHub allows us to educate anglers and raise awareness during the project.”

At this fund-raising site, anglers can donate to a scholarship through FCF for a graduate student to help with the laboratory work. Donations also will help with his travel expenses to and from the hatchery, as well as outreach materials to better communicate findings to the public.

A rare opportunity arose to do this work because the hatchery was rotating out about 100 of its brood stock, averaging about 5 pounds each. “That got us on a fast track because the hatchery needs to move those fish,” Allen said.

With cameras recording everything, researchers will test 30 bass at a time, 10 with each method, holding the fish for 60 seconds. The bass then will be placed in raceways for five days to allow them recover from the stress, before they are fed for two days. Finally, they will be moved to a pond to look at long-term survival. Each bass is identified by a bit of colored yarn tied to its dorsal fin. During feeding, scientists will analyze the number of effective strikes on prey, the jaw movement rate (time required to open and close the mouth in feeding), and the behavior of the fish around the feeding process (for example, the time it takes to consume the minnow).   

“We want to see if there’s any harm to the jaw musculature, any damage to the feeding mechanism,” Allen said.

“What’s really going to take some time is looking at all the videos, watching how the fish hold their jaws, seeing if they ‘yawn’ more, looking at whether there’s any effect on the percentage of time that strikes are successful, and how they do long term.”

Wednesday
Jul012015

We're All in this Together for Fisheries Conservation

Bass fishing on the Sabine River. Photo by Robert Montgomery

When it comes to conservation, we're all in this together, and bass fishermen have decided it’s time to start acting that way.

That’s why B.A.S.S. is joining with other industry and angler groups to form a coalition to fight for and defend saltwater access and conservation.

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation (BASC) was created because professional anglers noticed the need to get more involved in policy discussions and speak up for recreational fishing.

“My theory is that all water flows downstream, and it eventually reaches the ocean,” said Jared Miller, Elite Series pro. “The laws that are damaging recreational saltwater fishing could also eventually affect the freshwater part of the equation.

“It’s so important for us all to work together to protection our national fisheries and our rights to fish. Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation gives us the chance to do just that.”

BASC will center around a website by the same name. In addition to alerting anglers to issues involving access, conservation, economics, and safety, it will provide them with contact information for their members of Congress and even pre-written letters that they can sign and send. The site also will send “action alerts” from the pros so anglers will know when and how to speak out on an issue, and Dean Rojas likely will be one of those spokesmen.

“As recreational anglers, we need to make it our business to be aware of the laws and regulations that govern our fisheries,” said the Elite Series pro who has competed in 13 Bassmaster Classics. “All of us have a responsibility to push for sensible regulations that look out for recreational anglers, as well manage the commercial aspects of fishing.

But one of the biggest challenges for recreational fishermen is to come together as one voice, added Jeff Kriet, also an Elite Series competitor.“Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation gives all anglers the opportunity to represent their interests and protect their rights to fish.

“We need to protect it, we need to make our voices heard, and now is the time. If we don’t advocate now, we will begin to lose the sport we all love.”

Gene Gilliland, national conservation director for B.A.S.S., echoed that sentiment and added that marine fisheries management is at a critical crossroads right now, as Congress debates reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (M-S).

“Recreational interests have long taken a back seat to commercial fisheries so now is the time for anglers to speak up and make their voices heard,” he said.

“The Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation website makes it easy (for anglers) to keep up with the issues and take action when the call comes to contact your representatives in Congress.”

Consequently, one of the first battles for BASC will be to improve M-S. To do that, anglers must convince lawmakers of the importance of marine recreational fisheries, both in terms of popularity and economic benefits. Already the red snapper season has been reduced to just a few days a year, even though many believe that the stock is the healthiest that it has been in decades.

“The current structure of recreational offshore fishing is really limiting and one-sided,” said Bobby Lane, Elite Series pro. “What was once a great family sport has become an activity fewer and fewer anglers are choosing because they are not allowed to catch fish that are obviously abundant.”

If fresh and saltwater anglers don’t stand together, he added, “The outdated regulations that limit saltwater fishing will eventually bleed over into freshwater fishing.”

Fortunately, recreational fishing leaders already have put together a blueprint for improving M-S, entitled “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” Its recommendations include establishing a national policy for recreational fishing, allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit of the nation, and adopting a revised approach for saltwater recreational fisheries management.”

Under current regulations (for some species), said Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins, “It’s not even worth it to take a trip out to try and catch fish. If recreational anglers decide not to fish, it hurts boat sales, tackle sales, fuel sales . . . and the list goes on. It’s time for us to speak up and keep offshore recreational fishing alive.”

Along with B.A.S.S., American Sport Fishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, these already fishermen have signed on in support of BASC: Cliff Crochet, Kelly Jordon, Jeff Kriet, Mike Iaconelli, Bobby Lane, Jared Miller, Brandon Palaniuk, Dean Rojas, Marty Robinson, and Terry Scroggins.

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)