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Noise Pollution Can Hinder Fish Reproduction

We know that water pollution can harm the ability of fish to reproduce. But noise?

Yes, noise pollution can as well, according to scientists at the University of Auburn who looked at blacktail shiners spawning in tributaries of the Chattahoochee River.

To attract mates, male shiners emit bursts of sounds, similar to a cat’s purr, and, to help protect eggs in the nest, they make popping sounds that warn away intruders. They do so in streams that already are “noisy” with water flowing over rocks and down small waterfalls.

And nearby road traffic noise can mask shiner communication even more, reported Daniel Holt and Carol Johnston in Biological Conservation.

Using hydrophones, the researchers determined that the shiners, similar to other species, have developed an ability to communicate via a “quiet window” in the spectrum of natural noise. But road traffic noise, especially trucks crossing nearby bridges, overlap that window and potentially drown out the fish talk as far as 12 kilometers away.

“In order for an acoustic signal to be an effective source of communication, the signal must be successfully detected and interpreted by the intended receiver. One potential barrier to acoustic communication is background noise,” the scientists said.

“Our calculations suggest that road traffic noise propagates to an extent that virtually entire watersheds are impacted by this noise pollution, especially in urban areas.”


As Predictable as Summer: Another Toothy Exotic Caught in U.S. Waters

Every year, anglers catch tropical pacu, a vegetarian cousin of the piranha, in waters across the United States.  For example, Holley Luft caught a 14-inch specimen in Michigan’s Lake St. Clair last July. They do so because irresponsible aquarium owners release them into lakes and rivers.

And more infrequently, for the same reason, anglers catch one of those fish with the razor-sharp teeth and a reputation for tearing flesh to shreds. That’s what happened late this spring, when Roger Headley pulled a piranha from Arkansas’ Lake Bentonville.

“I about messed my pants,” Headley said.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed the catch and a spokesman said the fish was “probably a pet that got too large or difficult to manage.” He added that a variety of exotic species are found in state waters annually, including an octopus in Lake Conway in 2003.

Another piranha was caught at Hickory Creek Marina on Beaver Lake in 2014. Several have been found at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks since 2007.

In trying to allay fears, especially regarding piranhas, fisheries managers always are quick to point out these tropical invaders can’t overwinter and reproduce because they are intolerant of cold.

But that is not always the case, as B.A.S.S. Times revealed two years ago. The Jack Dempsey, a tropical predatory fish related to the peacock bass, is thriving in South Dakota’s Fall River. How is that possible?

“The hot springs in the river makes it perfect for cichlids,” Mike Smith, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, said in 2012. “We first found a Jack Dempsey there in 2009. Then, two weeks ago, we found multiple-year classes.”

“And there’s no way that the fish could have gotten there except aquarium release.”

In that case, the Jack Dempsey’s impact on native species likely will be minimal. Few other predators live in the shallow water, and forage species gobbled up by the aggressive cichlid can be replenished from populations outside the range of the hot spring’s influence.

But the discovery was significant because it confirms that exotics can use thermal refuges provided by springs or warm-water releases from power plants to survive in cold climates. Will pacu be the next South American exotic to find such a hospitable environment?

Or maybe piranha?


California Could Ban Lead, Zinc, Copper Fishing Tackle

Unless public outcry forces a reversal by the California Department of Toxic Substances (CDTS),  the state is moving ahead with regulations that could ban fishing gear that contains lead, zinc, and copper. This follows quickly after the recent announcement that lead ammunition will not be allowed on state property and for all bighorn sheep hunting.

“It appears that politics, rather than science, was the basis for CDTS’s decision. While there are many sources of pollution that pose a serious threat to California’s ocean and streams, anglers are not among them,” said David Dickerson, president of the California Sportfishing League (CSL), which is spearheading opposition to the potential ban.

An environmental attorney and former CDTS director added that sellers and retailers of fishing tackle likely will be subjected to costly and onerous regulations, as well as potential fines.

“The result could be a wide range of enforcement options requiring restrictions or bans on sale, product reformulation, additional environmental impact studies, development of disposal programs, or funding for fundamental research and development,” said Maureen Gorsen. “The bottom line is that the cost of manufacturing fishing gear will increase significantly and these costs will be passed on to consumers.”

CDTS’s intentions were revealed in its draft of a Priority Product Work Plan for the Green Chemistry Initiative, which identifies seven product types, including fishing gear, for regulation and/or ban. Legislation authorizing the initiative was passed in 2008, but implementation was delayed for more than five years because of complexity and the potential for massive costs to small businesses, according to John Kabateck, California executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

“Green Chemistry is yet another example of Sacramento pursuing its agenda of environmental extremism without any concern for costs to consumers or California’s economic future,” he wrote in the Sacramento Business Journal in 2013.

 “The department has issued a broad proposal that will enable it to regulate the manufacturing and distribution of any product it chooses that could impose unworkable burdens on tens of thousands of small businesses in the state.”

And CDTS is doing so with fishing tackle even though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2010 that lead gear does not pose an unreasonable risk to wildlife.  Also, a recently passed budget bill contains a provision to prohibit the use of federal dollars to ban lead fishing tackle.

In public hearings, the department admitted that it has no scientific studies to show that lead poses an environmental problem in California, added Dickerson. “State regulators failed to comply with state law that requires them to conduct an independent analysis before including any product in this regulatory process,” he said.

The CSL president predicted that additional regulations will encourage businesses to flee California to more business friendly states. “Furthermore, when fishing is no longer an accessible and affordable source of recreation for millions of anglers, it will have a substantial impact on California’s economy and jobs.”

A recent CSL study revealed that fishing license sales have dropped more than 55 percent since 1980, with the state ranking last nationally in fishing participation by percentage of its population.

“The high cost of fishing licenses and unwarranted limits on fishing have contributed to a significant decline in participation,” Dickerson said. “Increasing the cost of gear and potential bans will only accelerate the decline, and threaten California jobs that are dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism.”

In addition to CSL, others lobbying for delisting of fishing gear include the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Travel Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the California Parks Hospitality Association, the California Association for Recreational Fishing, the American Sportfishing Association,  and Coastside Fishing Club.

Anglers who want to voice their opposition to a lead ban can sign at petition on CSL’s website.

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



BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Gulf Oil Spill

BP will pay $18.7 billion in penalties and damages for its role in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, which polluted the Gulf of Mexico five years ago.

“Today‘s settlement moves the wildlife and habitat of the Gulf Coast forward on the road to recovery. It’s time to look ahead to the future and work toward getting real, on-the-ground restoration projects done," said Steve Bender, director of Vanishing Paradise, a coalition of more than 800 sportsman and outdoors groups, organizations and businesses working on Gulf Coast and Mississippi river Delta restoration.

“Because Congress passed the RESTORE Act in 2012, 80 percent of the money BP pays as a result of the Clean Water Act penalty will be returned to the Gulf Coast for much needed restoration and to improve the region’s long-term resiliency. Repairing the ongoing damage from the oil spill is also of utmost importance going forward, and the settlement dollars BP pays through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment will help the areas devastated by the spill – including habitat that supports world-class hunting and fishing."

The Gulf Coast region is an ecological and economic driver for the entire nation, and sportsmen and women care about ensuring this national treasure is restored for future generations to enjoy. With as many as 14 million waterfowl migrating to the Gulf’s warm shores annually, and salt and freshwater fishing unlike anywhere else on the planet, we must make sure this entire region – including the endangered Mississippi River Delta – is on the path forward to long-term health and recovery. We look forward to working with federal and state officials and the RESTORE Council to make sure every dime of oil disaster money goes to meaningful, comprehensive restoration.”


Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ongoing findings deliver truths omitted by BP’s ads: the oil disaster’s negative effects are increasingly clear, present and far from resolved.

A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.

A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.

Recent studies estimate 1,000,000 birds died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.

Modeling for a recent stock assessment projected that between 20,000 and 60,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles died in 2010 as a result of the spill.

A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.

A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.

A recent survey found that 70 percent of Americans believe BP should pay maximum fines under the Clean Water Act for its role in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

VP has identified 19 projects from Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast that have the greatest potential to restore our coast. 


Happy Fourth of July!

I snapped this photo a few years ago during a rainy day weigh-in at a B.A.S.S. tournament. As the "The Star Spangled Banner" was played, this young man showed his respect during the downpour. Photo reminded me of the following that Thomas Paine wrote on Dec. 23, 1776:

"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

"Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God."