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Tuesday
Feb172015

Coral Diseases Threaten Marine Fisheries

 

Coral reefs, among the most valuable marine habitats for fisheries, are suffering. Overfishing, world climate change, and other stressors likely are contributing to their degradation and increasing susceptibility to disease. 

One of the most recent examples comes from Hawaii, where a new disease has been found on coral colonies.

This disease can spread fast and has the ability to kill a small coral colony within a week,” said Anne Rosinski, a marine resource specialist with the state’s Division of Aquatic Resources.

Additionally, the state reported that a “mass bleaching event” of coral colonies occurred last fall. Scientists don’t know if there is a direct connection between the disease and the bleaching, “though bleached coral is generally more susceptible to diseases.”

Here is what NOAA says about the value of coral reefs:

  • The commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is more than $100 million. In addition, the annual value of reef-dependent recreational fisheries probably exceeds $100 million per year.
  • Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be another 1 to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs.
  •  Storehouses of immense biological wealth, reefs also provide economic and environmental services to millions of people. Coral reefs may provide goods and services worth $375 billion each year.
  • Millions of people visit coral reefs in the Florida Keys every year. These reefs alone are estimated to have an asset value of $7.6 billion.
  • Coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage, and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support.

 

Sunday
Feb152015

Historic Access Site on Potomac to Re-Open in March

Dock repairs have begun.

Shut down in the fall because of safety concerns, one of the most popular and historic access sites on the Potomac River will re-open in March, according to the National Park Service (NPS).

Still,  resource managers are uncertain how they will  provide a long-term solution to the siltation, which forced closure of The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove in October. At that time, NPS declared the dock unsafe for public use, two weeks before the end of the season, and an official revealed the agency does not have the money to dredge the cove and make lasting repairs.

In response to concerns expressed in a petition by the Friends of Fletcher's Cove, a coalition of more than 400 organizations and individuals, NPS sponsored a public meeting in December, and agreed to re-open Fletcher’s in the spring.

“The Park Service made clear its commitment to fund and implement a plan that addresses the immediate need for safe access to the Fletcher’s dock,” coalition leadership told its supporters, which include Keep America Fishing, Trout Unlimited, and the Potomac River Smallmouth club.

“The more complex long-term solution to the siltation at Fletcher’s Cove will require your continued persistence and support. The Park Service anticipates a comprehensive study is needed and will develop a scope-of-work as a first step.

“Our coalition must continue to assist with this vital effort to preserve the Fletcher’s Cove experience for future generations to come.”

Important financial assistance could come from the Washington, D.C. Fisheries & Wildlife Division, according to its director, Bryan King. He said that the city has funds not being used that are “strictly for boating access.” Consequently, “we could have a grant (for Fletcher’s) off our desks in a matter of weeks.”

One possible complication is that commercial activity is not allowed where federal funds are used, and the concession at Fletcher’s is a private corporation. 

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

Friday
Feb132015

The Best Time to Fish . . . 

"Angling is extremely time-consuming. That's sort of the whole point."  Thomas McGuane

“The two best times to fish is when it’s rainin’ and when it ain’t.” Patrick F. McManus

Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen

“Nothing grows faster than a fish from when it bites until it gets away.” Anonymous

“Catch and Release fishing is a lot like golf. You don’t have to eat the ball to have a good time.” Anonymous

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies --- Growing Up With Nature

“If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business.” Alfred W. Miller

 

Thursday
Feb122015

National Policy for Saltwater Fishing Revealed

Advocates for saltwater fishing are applauding the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy rolled out this week at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show.

“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “For the first time, NOAA Fisheries officially acknowledges the inherent differences between recreational and commercial fisheries -- and the need to manage the sectors differently.

“The rubber will meet the road in implementation, but this is a good roadmap,” he added.

“This policy represents a milestone in NOAA Fisheries’ relationship with the recreational fishing community,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “While the sportfishing industry and the recreational fishing community have been frustrated with saltwater fisheries management in federal waters, much of it is attributable to the lack of clear guidance within NOAA Fisheries for how to properly manage and consider recreational fishing's interests.

“This new policy sets forth a path for how the agency will elevate recreational fishing in a way that benefits both fisheries resources and public access to them.”

The policy identifies goals and guiding principles related to recreational fishing to be integrated -- top-down -- into NOAA Fisheries planning, budgeting, decision-making, and activities. The goals of the policy include the following:

 1) support and maintain sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, including healthy marine and estuarine habitats

2) promote saltwater recreational fishing for the social, cultural, and economic benefit of the nation; and,

3) enable enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management.

Recreational anglers and boaters identified their primary priorities in the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management’s report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”

The Commission, headed by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, highlighted six key policies that would achieve the Commission’s vision. Establishment of a national policy for recreational saltwater fishing was its No. 1 recommendation. Other key elements include adoption of a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management; allocation of marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, and creation of reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Plastic Better Than Brush for Attracting Bass in Florida Study

FWC places plastic fish attractor in Lake Griffin as part of three-year study.

Aquatic vegetation is abundant in Florida waters, but it doesn’t provide the only cover for bass and other freshwater fish. In fact, more than 150 attractors have been placed in fisheries around the state by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

And now the FWC is trying to determine which types of attractors are the most effective. So far, plastic is winning.

“Preliminary results, from the first year of a three-year study indicate the plastic attractors typically are yielding more bass than brush structures,” said FWC’s Bob Wattendorf. “So, despite the additional material cost, they may be the wave of the future, especially if they prove as durable as hoped, because brush attractors need to be frequently refurbished.”

According to angler surveys, the four attractors with the highest catch rates were plastic. Additionally, fishermen took the most bass near plastic in four of six sample areas. Overall, anglers caught more fish around plastic than brush during 15 of the 22 weeks sampled.

Additional findings:

  • 78 percent of the 197 bass caught were taken on crankbaits.
  • 99 lures were lost in the attractors, but only 10 percent of those were in plastic.
  • Brush attractors with 50 trees had catch rates similar to those with 100, suggesting that more smaller ones might be preferred, at a cost and effort similar to what’s needed for fewer large ones.

 Electrofishing results, meanwhile, revealed that bass and black crappie abundance was similar at plastic and brush.

“Therefore, plastic and natural trees may concentrate similar numbers of bass, but the bass near plastic attractors may be more vulnerable to angling,” Wattendorf said.

Whether brush or plastic, attractors are marked with white or yellow buoys, and he cautioned that anglers should not anchor too near. “This is to prevent damage to the attractor by the anchor and to prevent brush or attractor panels from being dragged away from the main attractor site, reducing effectiveness.”

Both materials work by providing surfaces for algae growth. That draws in insects and other invertebrates, which supply forage for small fish. In turn, minnows and small sunfish attract larger bass and other predator species.

As FWC assesses the effectiveness of brush and plastic, it also continues to create gravel and shell attractors to provide spawning substrate for bass, bluegill, and crappie.

“These are especially effective at concentrating fish during spring in areas that otherwise have mostly muddy bottoms,” Wattendorf said.

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