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More Coastal Habitat Means More Fish

Photo by Robert Montgomery

No great surprise in the findings of a report entitled “More Habitat Means More Fish.”

Still, it lends strong evidence to the argument that investing in our nation’s coastal areas and estuaries leads to healthy habitat and robust fisheries, which positively impact local communities and economies dependent on recreational and commercial fishing.

Released by Restore America’s Estuaries and the American Sportfishing Association, the report includes the following: 

  • More than 75 percent of our nation’s catch of commercial fish and 80-90 percent of the catch of recreational fish depend on key estuary habitat at some point in their lifecycle.
  • Fish populations can respond quickly to habitat improvement and the impact will endure. Rebounds in fish populations can occur within months and persist for years.
  • In San Francisco Bay, restored salt marshes have improved 41 fish species including steelhead trout, Pacific herring, green sturgeon and Chinook salmon.
  • Since 2000, in Massachusetts and New York, herring, shad and sturgeon have doubled and tripled in population due to habitat restoration projects. Just two years after a single culvert was repaired, connecting Bride Brook to Long Island Sound, the herring population more than tripled from 75,000 to 287,000.
  • An oyster reef restoration project in Alabama increased populations of several economically important species, including blue crab, red drum, spotted seatrout, and flounder. 

“Investing in coastal and estuarine habitat restoration is essential not only for the long-term future of our fisheries but also because it helps support economies and communities through the recreational and commercial fishing industries,” said Jeff Benoit, president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries. “In order to have fish, we have to have healthy habitat. If we want more fish, we need healthier habitat.”

American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman noted, “As an industry, we are keenly aware of the impact that sportfishing has on our nation’s habitat restoration efforts. In many ways, America’s anglers are the nation’s most powerful force for conserving our nation’s fisheries and waters, investing more than $1 billion dollars each year in fisheries management and conservation through taxes on fishing equipment and state fishing license sales.”

Go here to see the full report.


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.