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Tuesday
Jan202015

Boaters Suffer Defeat in Ethanol Lawsuit

The damage done to outboard engines by ethanol was given little consideration recently, as the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia threw out a lawsuit that sought to force better labeling at pumps carrying ethanol mixtures of 15 percent (E15).

“E15 isn’t approved to be used in any marine engine and doesn’t work to the point of being toxic,” said Randy Pulley of Precision Marine in Goldsboro, N.C.

“E15 isn’t even approved for all automotive engines. We really don’t want it at all, but if it is going to be forced on us, gas pumps need to be labeled large and prominently to show it is not for marine and other small engines.”

Since its introduction, E10 has caused problems for thousands of boat owners, as it dissolves plastic parts and eats through hoses and other components in fuel systems. E15 will be even more destructive.

But the court ruled that the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the American Petroleum Institute, and others who brought the suit don’t have standing because they “cannot show members have suffered or are suffering with an injury that is traceable to the misfueling regulations.”  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved gasoline with 15 percent ethanol for use in cars year 2001 or newer.

“But while the agency prohibits its use in mowers and other power equipment, the EPA’s warning label on so-called blender pumps (carrying mixtures of 15 percent ethanol, E15, or higher), is easy to miss amid all the advertising and other labeling on the pump,” said Consumer Reports.

NMMA’s Nicole Vasilaros said that NMMA is not involved in additional curt cases regarding E15, but added that the organization is reviewing additional legal options to force EPA to better label and warn consumers about the dangerous of misfueling their outboards and other engines with E15.

Monday
Jan192015

Divers Capture Another Invader in Florida Waters

Surgeon fish photo by Deb Devers

Congratulations to two divers who had the good sense to report and then capture an exotic fish. Their actions might have prevented its establishment in Florida waters.

The two first noted the small, bright yellow fish while SCUBA diving beneath Palm Beach County’s Blue Heron Bridge, and realized that they never had seen one like it. They took photos and later reported what they had seen to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a non-profit that keeps track of exotic marine fish species.

According to the Miami Herald, REEF identified the fish as a mimic lemon peel surgeonfish, also known as a chocolate surgeonfish. It’s native to the Indo-Pacific, and this was its first sighting in Florida waters. Upon learning that, the divers returned to where they had first seen the fish and captured it.

"We don’t know what the effects would have been if the fish had become established and began reproducing,” REEF said. “But if we wait to find out, then it’s too late.”

Taking out the surgeonfish could prove to be the fourth preemptive strike against a non-native marine fish species in Florida coastal waters, according to the organization.

In 1999 and 2002, REEF staff and volunteers captured four large Indo-Pacific batfish from Molasses Reef in Key Largo. In 2009, they removed a whitetail dascyllus damselfish from the east side of the Blue Heron Bridge. In 2012, Miami divers Greg Caterino and Wayne Grammes speared an exotic humpback grouper on a reef off Biscayne National Park and turned the carcass over to REEF. None of those three species are known to have reappeared in Florida waters since their removals.

“Some people might say, ‘Oh big deal, we took this little fish out of the water,’” REEF said. “But that’s the way the lionfish got started. If only we could have taken the first few lionfish out of the water in the first place. We’re relying on divers, snorkelers and fishermen to be our eyes and ears on the water. It’s a perfect example of how early detection and rapid removal can be successful in stemming an invasion.”

Anyone who spots a strange-looking fish that they suspect is invasive is advised to take a photo and report the sighting to REEF.

Friday
Jan162015

A Sportsman's Lesson in Love

I looked down at my dying friend. His breathing was loud and labored now. My heart seemed only a beat away from bursting. All around us, crickets chirped, unaware of what was about to happen.

I put the barrel an inch from Tiger’s head. Then I turned my face away, closed my eyes, and squeezed. The crack was hard and loud, stilling not only the crickets, but what seemed like the whole world for a split second.

I turned back to see Mrs. Thompson and the girls staring down at Tiger. Mrs. Thompson didn’t even look at me when she spoke. “You killed my cat,” she said. “We loved him too much to do anything like that.”

(This is an excerpt from the short story "A Sportsman's Lesson in Love" from my new book, Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies --- Growing Up With Nature.)

Thursday
Jan152015

New Threat Revealed Against Florida's Rodman Reservoir

Florida's Rodman Reservoir is a paradise for fishing, wildlife watching, and outdoor recreation in general. It is a diverse ecosystem, with many more species of fish and wildlife living there than in the river above and below it. Its dam saves the St. Johns River from nutrient overload. It will prove invaluable one day as a water supply reservoir for a state with an insatiable thirst.

But none of that matters for the ideologues who want to tear down Rodman. To them, it simply is unnatural, doesn't belong there, and they want it gone.

And now they've found a new angle: Jacksonville wants to dredge the mouth of the St. Johns to accommodate mega-container ships. The St. Johns Riverkeeper threatened to sue to stop the dredging.

As a result, the two have created an unholy alliance with Rodman Reservoir as the sacrificial lamb. In return for the Riverkeeper allowing dredging for the ocean-going ships, the City of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Port Authority, and the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding to create “a collaborative framework for the parties to coordinate their efforts and resources to expedite the restoration of the Ocklawaha River by removing/closing impoundments.”

In other words, you help us tear down Rodman and we’ll let your dredge. The collaborators hope to get funding through a line item listing in the state budget.

To learn more and to help the fight to save Rodman, go to Save Rodman Reservoir.

Wednesday
Jan142015

Sediment Removed to Restore Habitat on Lower Missouri River

This past fall, work began to remove more than 130,000 cubic yards of sediment from two backwaters and access areas, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to rehabilitate the lower Missouri River.

“Backwaters are huge reproductive areas,” said Luke Wallace, a Corps biologist. “I’ve heard them described as the grocery for the river.”

Many of these prime feeding, spawning and winter refuge areas were lost in 2011, when the swollen river smothered them with tons of dirt and cut off side channels from the main river. That occurred mostly because a year’s worth of rain fell during the second half of May on the upper basin, adding to a melting snow pack that was 212 percent above average in the Rocky Mountains.

Since then, the Corps has spent between $14 and $16 million to restore 17 of these places between Sioux City and the Iowa-Missouri border. As work continues, another $3 million to $5 million likely will be spent.

Most all of the areas are popular for fishing and hunting.

 “I think in general, the importance of backwaters has been underemphasized,” said Dave Swanson, director of the Missouri River Institute. “They’re important as nurseries for fish, important for insects. They really need these areas to do what they do.”

In the latest effort, contractors are removing 45,000 cubic yards of sediment from a 9-acre site known as Hole-in-the-Rock, near Macy. Deeping that pool should benefit bass, as well as an additional 59 forage, game, and rough species.

They also are cleaning out 88,000 cubic yards from a side channel at Middle Decatur Bend. That will lower the entrance by two feet to once again allow water to enter the channel.

Scheduled to be completed in June, the two projects will cost an estimated $972,000.

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