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Live Fish Found in Tsunami Debris on West Coast

You knew that it was going to happen, and it finally has. On the West Coast, scientists have found live fish in debris from what they believe was the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Previously, they had found only invertebrates.

The fish has been identified as a striped beakfish, also known as a barred knifejaw. Five of them were found in a half-flooded boat of Japanese registration, with one kept alive at Oregon’s Seaside Aquarium and four euthanized for study. The live specimen is about 5 inches long.

"The reproductive status and age will help us figure out if they rode the entire way from Japan starting over two years ago, or most likely they came from Hawaii," said Allen Pleus, aquatic invasive species coordinator at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Even from Hawaii, the fish would have survived a journey of nearly 3,000 miles.

It's unlikely that any fish that escaped the boat will survive in the cool waters off the Washington and Oregon coastlines, Pleus said. Had the boat landed further south, it's possible the fish could have established themselves.

Go here to learn more.



Discovery of New Black Bass Species Revealed by FWC

Scientists collected this Choctaw bass from Florida's Holmes Creek in February 2012.

Those interested in the “big picture” regarding fisheries will be excited to learn that Florida scientists have discovered what they believe is a new species of black bass. It’s very close in appearance to the spotted bass, which probably it never was recognized before.

Recognition of this new species won't make much, if any, difference for recreational fishing, but it does suggest that we still have much to learn below the surface, not only in far-away and exotic places such as the Amazon, but right here at home.

“We didn’t set out to find a new species,” said Mike Tringali, who heads the genetics laboratory at the Florida fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “It found us.”

Scientists have proposed naming the new species the “Choctaw bass” and recommended the scientific name of Micropterus haiaka. The American Fisheries Society must approve the proposed scientific name for it to take effect.

The discovery was made when researchers noted a DNA profile that did not belong to any recognized species while testing a bass specimen from the Chipola River in 2007, as part of a broader genetic study of bass.

They then searched for the DNA profile in bass caught in nearby rivers to determine the species’ range. They found that the Choctaw bass inhabits coastal river systems in Alabama and along the western Florida panhandle, including the Choctawhatchee River.

“We chose the name ‘Choctaw bass’ because the species’ range overlaps the historic range of the Choctaw Indians,” said Tringali. “As for our recommended scientific name, Micropterus haiaka, ‘haiaka’ is a Choctaw word that means ‘revealed.’”

For more information, go here.


Giant Snail Is Yet Another Invader That Threatens Florida

If you live in a stucco house in south Florida, good luck. You’re going to need it.

As if Burmese pythons moving out of the Everglades weren’t enough to worry about, an explosion of African land snails is occurring. Growing to the size of a rat, these exotic mollusks will chew up stucco and plaster for the calcium that they contain, as well as devour plants --- lots and lots of plants.

Scientists estimate that they will feed on more than 500 species. In other words, just about anything that's green, and that could have catastrophic consequences for Florida agriculture and horticulture. And, oh yeah, they also carry a parasite that can cause illness in humans.

Reuters says this about the snails:

“ In some Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, which are overrun with the creatures, the snails' shells blow out tires on the highway and turn into hurling projectiles from lawnmower blades, while their slime and excrement coat walls and pavement.”

To watch a video about this invader, go here.


Analysis Confirms Economic Importance of Recreational Fishing

Sport fishing advocates have long made the argument that recreational fishing in our oceans is just as valuable economically as commercial fishing, while having a much smaller impact on the resource.

Now there’s a first-of-its kind analysis confirming that assessment.

“Comparing NOAA’s Recreational and Commercial Fishing Economic Data, May 2013” provides an “apples-to-apples" comparison of recreational fishing and commercial marine fishing from an economic perspective, using NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Services (NOAA Fisheries) 2011 data, according to the American Sportfishing Association.

 “It’s something we’ve suspected for some time, but NOAA’s own data clearly shows that recreational saltwater fishing needs to be held in the same regard as commercial fishing,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman.

“The current federal saltwater fisheries management system has historically focused the vast majority of its resources on the commercial sector, when recreational fishing is found to have just as significant an economic impact on jobs and the nation’s economy.”

Findings in the report prepared by Southwick Associates include the following: 

  • Anglers landed just two percent of the total saltwater finfish landings compared to ninety-eight percent caught by the commercial fishing industry.
  • Saltwater landings by anglers contributed three times more to the national gross domestic product (GDP, or value-added) than commercial landings.
  • The recreational sector added $152.24 in value-added, or GDP, for one pound of fish landed, compared to the commercial sector’s $1.57 for a single pound of fish.
  • Within the jobs market, the recreational sector made up fifty-four percent of all jobs, both recreational and commercial. This amounts to 455,000 recreational jobs compared to 381,000 on the commercial side.
  • For every 100,000 pounds landed there were 210 recreational fishing jobs but only 4.5 jobs in the commercial fishing industry.

 “We’re not releasing this report in an effort to demean commercial fishing,” Nussman added.  “Commercial fishing is very important to our nation’s economy.

“Our goal is to highlight the importance of recreational fishing to the nation. As our coastal populations continue to grow, along with saltwater recreational fishing, significant improvements must be made to shape the nation’s federal fisheries system in a way that recognizes and responds to the needs of the recreational fishing community.”

The executive summary and full report are available here.


Lake Erie Smallmouth Fishery Remains Strong Despite Goby Invasion

 As the population of invasive round gobies exploded in the mid to late 1990s in Lake Erie, resource managers feared trouble ahead for the smallmouth bass population.

“Agencies (all around the lake) went into protective mode for smallmouth bass,” said Kevin Kayle, a biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at the Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

They did so by implementing restrictive harvest regulations during spring. By reducing angler effort, they hoped, aggressive male bass wouldn’t be as likely to be pulled off nests, leaving eggs vulnerable to goby predation.

Fortunately, those fears have proven unfounded. Gobies have not damaged the smallmouth population, and likely they wouldn’t have even without protective spring regulations. Instead, bass have benefitted, as the small, exotic fish is now a dietary staple.

“Where we see the change is in growth of young smallmouth,” said Kayle. “They still top out at about 20 inches. But for the first three years, we’re seeing advanced growth.”

Why is this happening?

Gobies spawn late, while smallmouths spawn early. Thus, young-of-the-year bass can eat nutrient-rich fish --- larval and juvenile gobies --- during their first summer and fall.

But the goby invasion has damaged forage species that bass traditionally depended upon. “We’ve seen a decline in sculpins and darters because of gobies,” Kayle said.

For bass, meanwhile, spring storms seem to be the biggest limiting factor for abundance, the biologist added. Especially with a northeast or northwest wind, waves up to 15 feet go crashing into the near-shore areas, where bass spawn in waters of 20 feet or less.

“That storm surge jostles around the eggs and can force adults to abandon their nests,” Kayle explained.

Upwellings in the Central Basin during late summer and early fall also can harm bass, as well as most other species. Several days of wind out of the north or south pushes the surface water in one direction, while bottom water moves in the other. This churning action forces oxygen-depleted water to the top.

“When this anoxic water comes close to shore, we can see fish kills,” the biologist said. “Some years, it’s drum. But in the worst years, we see smallmouth too.”

Blooms of blue-green algae that die and then decay in deeper water feed the problem. “Bacteria down there decomposes the dead algae and uses up oxygen,” he said. “And no oxygen can come in (from above) because of the thermocline.”

Despite these naturally limiting factors, though, the smallmouth population of Lake Erie is doing well. “Long-term catch rates are relatively good, while total effort has gone down to what we saw in the 1990s,” Kayle said. “We’ve had more young fish in the last few years, after a dry spell in the mid to late 2000s.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)