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Entries in conservation (131)

Monday
Mar312014

New Mexico's Conway Honored for Conservation Efforts

New Mexico Conservation Director Earl Conway.

Fisheries in New Mexico are improving because of Earl Conway. And as they are, his efforts have shown other state conservation directors how much can be accomplished through initiative and persistence.

For contributions both to his own state and to B.A.S.S. Nation, Conway was honored as Conservation Director of the Year during Bassmaster Classic Week here.

That award and four others were presented at the Conservation Awards Banquet sponsored by the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation and the Aquatic Plant Management Society.

“Earl has done a really great job of working with agencies, cities, schools, and others,” said Gene Gilliland, new National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. “He has run into roadblocks everywhere he has turned and found ways around them.

“He has leveraged grants to get more grants and found outside sources for funding in places conservation directors would never think to look. And he has built partnerships.”

Conway said that he was “surprised and humbled” by the award.

“There are so many others that I know worked harder, sacrificed time with their families, and gave up many days on the water to accomplish real ‘boots on the ground’ projects while dealing with policy issues in their region,” he said.

The New Mexico director added that he is motivated by his passion for both conservation and fishing and “equally tenacious when it comes to funding and executing challenging and innovative projects that address the problems we have with our irrigation reservoirs.”

The New York B.A.S.S. Nation (NYBN) and the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation (CBN), meanwhile, received Berkley Conservation Institute awards.

NYBN won the Conservation Award for its Ramp Monkeys and water chestnut removal, while New Mexico earned honorable mention for its floating islands project and Florida for ReBaits, a program for recycling used plastic baits.

Ramp Monkeys were members of youth clubs who removed plant debris from launch areas and cleaned, drained, and dried boats and trailers as they left the water.

CBN earned the Angler Recruitment/Retention Award for innovative marketing strategies to gain new members.  They included an Uncle Sam poster with the words “The BN Wants You,” maps to help potential members find the clubs nearest them, and a PowerPoint explaining what the organization is all about.

The New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation won the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund Award and will use the $5,000 prize for a radio telemetry study. Simms Fishing provided the funds with a 2012 donation.

“The results will be used to evaluate appropriate bass tournament rules as well as provide the public with a better understanding of the effects of tournaments on their resource,” said Gilliland. “The project has potential far beyond New Hampshire.”

Georgia’s Lake Oconee Bassmasters received $1,500 for winning the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Foundation/Aquatic Plant Management Society/B.A.S.S. Conservation Aquatic Vegetation Management Award. The money will be used to help establish native aquatic vegetation in that fishery, as well as Lake Richard B. Russell and Lake Jackson.

Additionally, Nationwide Insurance announced its donation of $5,000 to the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund. That money will be distributed in grants to clubs and chapters, based on project merit.

Thursday
Mar272014

Policy Proposed to Promote, Preserve Saltwater Fishing

As Congress considers changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act, a commission of outdoors leaders offers a blueprint for ensuring the future of saltwater recreational fishing.

"Congress should establish a national policy to promote saltwater recreational fishing,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “In addition, Congress must open the ‘rusted-shut’ door of marine fisheries allocation to achieve the greatest benefit to the nation.”

“The Magnuson-Stevens Act established a management system for commercial fisheries, which has made great strides in ending commercial overexploitation of our marine fisheries,” added Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “However, for more than three decades it has focused primarily on commercial fishing. It’s time for Congress to do something for saltwater recreational fishing.”

Recommendations in A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries include the following:
• Establishing a national policy for recreational fishing
• Adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management
• Allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation
• Creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines
• Codifying a process for cooperative management
• Managing for the forage base

“Our commission offers a clear path to better stewardship of America’s marine fishery resources,” said Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops at a presentation earlier this week. “Today we ask Congress to join us on that path. We extend the invitation on behalf of all current anglers and future generations of anglers who will enjoy our nation’s resources for many years to come.”

“This is the first time that the recreational fishing and boating community has set forth a comprehensive vision,” said Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats and co-chair with Morris of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries. “I’m honored to be a part of this effort and proud to help lead our collective industries in ensuring that Congress hears our voices.”

The economic impact of saltwater angling in the U.S. is considerable. In 2011, approximately 11 million Americans saltwater fished recreationally, spending $27 billion in pursuit of their sport. That activity generated more than $70 billion in economic output and sustained 450,000 jobs. Anglers contribute more than $1.5 billion annually to fisheries habitat and conservation via excise taxes, donations and license fees alone.

Contributors to the Commission’s recommendations included the following:

American Sportfishing Association
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Berkley Conservation Institute
Center for Coastal Conservation
Coastal Conservation Association
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
National Marine Manufacturers Association
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Bass Pro Shops
Maverick Boats

Tuesday
Mar252014

Conservation Directors 'Energized' by Summit

Conservation is a priority for B.A.S.S. and its members, as evidenced by this habitat work at Georgia's Lake Allatoona by the Marietta BassMasters. Photo by Dale McPherson.

As the new National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S., Gene Gilliland’s first Conservation Summit was a stimulating success, according to state directors who attended during Bassmaster Classic week here.

“Some of our sessions were very educational and others were just intense, as we gathered our thoughts about where we need to go from here,” said New Mexico’s Earl Conway, winner of the Conservation Director of the Year Award.

 “I left very energized with new perspectives about our goals.”

West Virginia’s Jerod Harman added, “Because every person involved brought his A-game,”there honestly was not  one single thing that really stands above the rest throughout the Summit.  Speaking on behalf of the B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Directors in attendance, we are really looking forward to taking our new-found knowledge back to our states and getting to work!”

Gilliland, meanwhile, did highlight a time Friday, when the tone was set for the program. That was when B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin stopped by to speak for 15 minutes, but ended up staying for an hour to talk about promoting the organization and its conservation work, especially through partnerships.

“He answered all of their questions and they appreciated that,” the National Conservation Director said. “That set the stage and encouraged everyone that conservation has the support of management.”

The first-day “business session” also included an update about the college and high school programs from Tournament Manager Jon Stewart and insights from B.A.S.S. Social Media and B.A.S.S. Nation Editor Tyler Reed on providing content for articles and updates.

Saturday began with a presentation by Gordon Robertson from the American Sportfishing Association and Chris Horton from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. They encouraged the 30 or conservation directors, and a nearly equal number of state fisheries chiefs and biologists, to better communicate with one another. They also reminded conservation directors that their jobs include dealing with political issues, Gilliland said.

Later in the morning, Jim Martin of the Berkley Conservation Institute led a brainstorming session about how to move the conservation agenda into cooperative ventures, looking at the bigger issues, including watersheds, water quality, and access.

“It was a very engaging discussion, with a lot of good ideas that helped energize people,” the National Conservation Director said.

Following lunch sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Mike Netherland from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Craig Martin from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updated attendees about issues related to invasive plants and aquatic life.

Sunday featured  a grant-writing seminar that Harman described as “fantastic.” Chris Edmonston of the BoatUS Foundation emphasized attention to detail and shared specifics for writing winning proposals.

During lunch sponsored by Alabama Power, Drs. Hobson Bryan and Thomas Wells from the University of Alabama explained how siltation is destroying important backwaters in many of our rivers.

In summarizing the event, North Carolina’s Bill Frazier said, “There’s a noticeable increase in enthusiasm since the inaugural rebirth at Shreveport. There are many very effective programs emerging out of the conservation mission and the state conservation directors are stepping up.”

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

Sunday
Mar232014

Maine Fisheries Opposes Plastics Ban, But Anglers Need to Be Better Stewards

Eamon Bolten started the ReBaits program in Florida.

In deciding not to recommend a ban on soft plastic baits to the state legislature, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) followed the science. Biologist Dana DeGraaf, who is the trout and landlocked salmon specialist, especially deserves recognition for his diligence in compiling data, researching composition of plastic and biodegradable baits, and donning SCUBA gear to get a first-hand look at discarded baits in Maine fisheries.

It remains to be seen, though, whether those in the legislature who pushed for the ban in 2013 will accept the recommendation and alternative actions suggested by IFW. As in the Pacific Northwest, prejudice is strong against bass, an introduced species in many Maine waters. Coldwater anglers argue that if the bass weren’t there, neither would the discarded plastics.

One study cited by those who want the ban involved hatchery brook trout in a laboratory, with 63 percent of the 38 fish eating plastics. But that shouldn’t be at all surprising since the baits were mixed in with pelletized food.

As with bass, only anecdotal evidence exists that wild trout and salmon eat the discards. For example, in nearby Vermont, biologist Shawn Good said that he has received reports of trout with baits in their stomachs, and he’s also seen some abnormally skinny bass.

“I’ve killed a number of them over the years just to open them up and try to see what’s wrong with them,” he said. “A lot of these fish had two or three soft plastics in their stomachs. So we know they can affect individual fish.”

But, as in Maine, no research supports the notion that entire fisheries are being harmed by the discards. “I don’t think banning them is necessarily the right move,” Good explained. “But it’s something we should keep an eye on and let anglers know about, so they can try to reduce the amount that ends up in lakes.”

Which is exactly what DeGraaf and IFW recommended to the Maine legislature. “It’s mostly a littering problem,” the biologist said.

Sad to say, of that there was ample evidence, both from visual checks at launch sites and from underwater observations.

“Many discarded SPLs were readily observed visually from the boat prior to the diver survey,” the report said. “Hundreds of additional discarded SPLs were observed at Tricky Pond but were uncounted outside the initial survey area due to time limitations.

“In addition, multiple piles of discarded SPLs were observed at the toe of the Tricky Pond public boat ramp. This was indicative of anglers purposely dumping used SPLs after fishing and prior to trailering their boat(s) out of the water.”

Some soft plastics unavoidably will be lost while fishing. But, as the IFW discovered, some anglers continue to improperly dispose of their used plastics. In doing so, they needlessly contribute to the litter problem and provide ammunition to those will continue to push for a ban, not only in Maine but in other states as well.

Consequently, IFW’s recommendation of a public education campaign is a good one and something that other states should initiate as well.

“The Department could establish a process for public education and outreach regarding the effects of discarded SPLs and the process by which anglers should discard or recycle used SPLs,” the agency said in the report now posted on its website.

It proposed signs and collections boxes for baits at ramps, as well as media advertisements and printed material in the fishing regulations book. And it recommended that anglers “participate in SPL recycling programs such as the B.A.S.S. ReBaits SPL recycling program. This could include providing collection bags with each purchase of a Maine fishing license and/or advertising the Re-Baits program in print on the Maine fishing license.” (This is my B.A.S.S. Times column about Eamon Bolten starting the ReBaits program in Florida.)

A final reason that IFW does not recommend a ban on soft plastic baits should be of special interest to bass anglers nationwide. It said that a viable biodegradable option doesn’t exist, despite advertising claims to the contrary. “After one week, one month, and eight months post-treatment, the biodegradable SPL showed no signs of degradation,” the report said, adding that no national or international standard exists for “ what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic’ and SPLs specifically.”

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

Thursday
Mar202014

Angler Leads Way to Protect Dolphins

Dolphins trapped in a tuna net. Photo courtesy of Divine Dolphin, Drake Bay

Some of the most spectacular things that I have ever seen while fishing are the pods of spinner dolphins that swim alongside the boat in the Pacific waters of Costa Rica.  Watching them leap, twirl, and dive just a few feet away, I can’t help but feel the joy that they so enthusiastically exhibit.

Sadly, not enough is being done to protect these marine mammals, which are “collateral damage” when foreign commercial fishermen come into Costa Rica waters to net tuna.

As fishing director at Crocodile Bay Resort, my friend Todd Staley is trying his best to gain protection for the spinner dolphins, by forcing the commercial netters farther offshore. In a letter to Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla, he said this:

“Most people have no idea how tuna are captured. More often than not in Costa Rica, large ships encircle schools of tuna swimming below massive pods of dolphins. Since 1950, more than 6 million dolphins have died at the hands of the tuna industry.

“Today they claim they have methods to release the dolphins before taking the tuna onboard the ship. Even though the majority of these dolphins may be released alive, the panic and stress put on these animals is horrendous while they are held prisoner in the nets. When released, the pods of dolphins are separated, often leaving mothers and young apart.

“Commercial and sport fishermen who have spent lots of time on the ocean see firsthand how these tuna ships operate. They have helicopters to spot the dolphins. Then they drop explosives on top of the dolphins to drive the tuna toward the ship. This practice is illegal in Costa Rica but often used . . .

“By moving the tuna boats out to at least 100 miles, which is only another 40 miles in an ocean of territorial water, you can effectively protect an entire subspecies of dolphins. In a country famous for its protection of natural resources, this is little for the Costa Rican people to ask.”

Todd Staley with Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla.

For his tireless efforts to educate about sustainable fishing practices and to keep Costa Rica’s fish, dolphin, and sea turtle populations healthy and robust, Todd has been nominated for the IGFA Chester H. Wolfe Sportsman of the Year Award by the Redbone@Large Tournament Group.