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Texas Nets Long Liners in Operation Shark Fin

Sharks found on illegal long line in the Gulf. TPWD photo.

In Texas waters, Operation Shark Fin has resulted in the seizure of 17,500 feet of long lines and two vessels, as well as 15 citations or arrests.

“TPWD game wardens are committed to protecting our natural recourses across the state,” said Special Operations Chief Grahame Jones of the Law Enforcement Division for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“Operation Shark Fin focused on the lower coast border region where commercial fishing vessels from Mexico known as ‘launchas’ enter our state and federal waters illegally. The launcha crews use gill nets and long lines to catch whatever they can, including many shark species and red drum.”

More than 50 state game wardens and 10 TPWD vessels participated in the four-day, around-the-clock enforcement effort.

TPWD adds the following:

“During the special operation, game wardens made contact with 65 vessels, 5 vehicles, and 206 people.

“Wardens seized two launchas from Mexico (one on the Gulf of Mexico and one on Lake Falcon) and the U.S. Coast Guard seized a third vessel on the Gulf. In addition, wardens seized 17,500 feet of long lines in the Gulf, 6,300 feet of gill nets in the Rio Grande and Lake Falcon and 19 abandoned crab traps in the lower Rio Grande.

“‘In many cases,’ Jones said, ‘Mexican waters have been overfished. Because of that, we are now seeing an increasing number of vessels from Mexico illegally fishing in Texas or federal waters.’

 “Citations or arrests included four for sport fishing violations; two commercial fishing violations (possession of headed/tailed snapper, fillets seized from shrimp boat); two drug-related arrests; three alcohol-related arrests; and two local warrant arrests. In addition, two juvenile runaways were located.

“Fish recovered from illegal long lines and gill net included Atlantic sharpnose sharks, black tip sharks, and red drum.

 “Sharks, the most common target of these vessels, are harvested not only for their meat, but also for their fins. Shark fins, used for soup, are considered some of the world’s most expensive seafood and high demand for it supports a world-wide black market.

“Arrests in gill netting or long line cases are rare. When commercial fishermen from Mexico are caught in the act in Texas or U.S. waters, the only charges that can be filed are misdemeanors punishable by fines. However, the illegal fishing equipment and vessel can be seized.

“Marine interests spotting gill nets or long lines in Texas waters are urged to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-792GAME (4263), contact a game warden or notify the U.S. Coast Guard.”


New York Permits Retail Sale of Bass, Encourages Black Market

Hickling's Fish Farm photo of hatchery-raised bass

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has approved a regulation that will allow the retail sale of hatchery-raised largemouth bass.

The move had been opposed by sport fishing advocates who argued that the rule change will create a black market that will damage the state’s recreational fisheries. That’s because hatcheries are not required to mark the fish to confirm their origin.

“It’s rather disheartening to see the state’s absolute unwillingness to impose a regulation that would have required individualized tagging (serial numbers),” said Mike Cusano, former president of the New York B.A.S.S. Nation (NYBN) and chairman of the Onondaga County Fisheries Advisory Board.

“This regulation is going to impact bass populations across the state as market owners realize that wild-caught black bass are a much cheaper alternative than the hatchery-raised fish,” he continued.

And as more and more anglers realize that they can make $50 or $60 for selling a limit of bass at the back door of a fish market. 

“The sad part is that the New York DEC will have no ability to meet these changes in demand, no funding, and no hatchery,” Cusano explained.

Right now, New York’s bass fishery is totally self-sustaining and worth about $250 million annually, he added.

On the positive side, Barb Elliott, NYBN conservation director, did manage a small victory for anglers and protection of a public resource. The original regulation was written to allow sale of “black bass,” which would have included smallmouths. She convinced state officials to change the wording to “largemouth bass.”

“The hatcheries were not interested in growing smallmouths for sale and I wanted as many bass off the table as possible,” she said.

One argument that she used was that if any smallmouth bass showed up in markets then law enforcement would have proof that poaching is occurring.

In announcing the new regulation for largemouth bass only, DEC Commission Joe Martens said, “The regulations will make it easier for aquaculturists and fish markets within and outside the state to sell hatchery-reared largemouth bass for food, while continuing to protect wild bass populations that are the foundation of our popular and economically important bass fisheries.”

But all that’s required is “labeling largemouth bass containers used for transportation, retaining purchase and sales records by distributors, and requiring that largemouth bass being sold live in retail markets must be killed before being transferred to retail customers.”

As Cusano and other critics point out, documentation easily can be manipulated. For example, the owner of a fish market can buy bass from a hatchery, providing him with the necessary paperwork. He can sell those bass, destroy the sales receipts, and buy black-market bass at a cheaper price. He then can allege that he bought those fish from a hatchery, with no way to prove otherwise.

“It’s very disheartening that over 300,000 New York State bass anglers, who spend upwards of $250 to $500 million each year in New York State alone in pursuit of their favorite game fish, could have such little impact on influencing this regulation change,” Cusano said.

Here is an argument against the regulation by the Onondaga County Fisheries Advisory Board.

Here’s is a newspaper article about the change. Be sure to read the comments.

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


Fisheries Are Collateral Damage in Sequestration

The wisdom and/or stupidity of sequestration as a means of cutting federal spending won’t be analyzed here. But here’s something related to sequestration that will make your blood boil:

Fisheries and wildlife management will be collateral damage to the tune of more than $46 million.

 This is not money that would come from the general budget. This is money already collected as excise taxes on fishing and hunting gear and motorboat fuel by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And this is money reserved, by law, to be used only for fisheries and wildlife management under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

But because of poorly written legislation, 5.1 percent of it can be withheld from the states as part of the sequestration process.

What sense does that make? None, of course.  But that’s par for the course in Washington, D.C. these days.

Go here and click the “clean air and water” tab to see how much money for fisheries and wildlife management that your state will lose unless politicians regain their senses and fix this idiotic and unnecessary damage to the nation’s natural resources.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.


Ike Speaks Out for Clean Water

During the Bassmaster Classic, Bass pro Mike Iaconelli talks about importance of clean water.

Check it out on YouTube.


Drought Threatens Future for Fishermen, Fisheries

A water crisis is looming, with sport fisheries and anglers as the likely losers, according to Jim Martin, conservation director for the Berkley Conservation Institute.

“It’s a problem that no one wants to talk about,” he said, pointing out that have of the continental U.S. now is under drought conditions.

“We have to start talking about it.”

Martin gave that message at a freshwater summit sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership during the recent Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa, Okla.

The country needs a plan to prioritize the use of water and to manage development, he said. And the sooner the discussion begins, the more influence that outdoor enthusiasts will have.

Once the crisis hits and recreational use of water is competing against agriculture, manufacturing and urban populations, the fishing industry won't have the votes to compete.

 "A hundred million sportsmen are going to be lost in the shuffle," he said.

Read more in Tulsa World