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Entries in conservation (144)

Thursday
Jul312014

Sport Fishing Advocate Retires With Warning for Anglers

Gordon Robertson, retiring vice president and lead for government affairs at American Sportfishing Association

First, I was saddened to learn that recreational fishing’s champion in Washington, D.C., was retiring, effective June 30. Then he told me something that disturbed me even more.

“The angler’s image as a conservationist needs to be rescued,” said Gordon Robertson, who officially stepped down June 30 from his post as a vice president and lead for government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

“Conservation once meant wise use of our natural resources,” he continued. “The word ‘conservation’ has been hijacked by the preservationist community and now policy makers don’t see anglers as conservationists.”

Instead, many politicians now view groups such as the Ocean Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council as having “conservation” agendas. Unless we reclaim what is ours through vocal activism, we will suffer loss of access and angling opportunities. As a consequence, the health of aquatic resources will suffer, because recreational fishermen are the nation’s first and foremost conservationists.

On the positive side, Robertson, who spent a dozen years at ASA, pointed out that recreational fishing continues to enjoy “an enormously positive image” among the public. We must capitalize on that, he added, “to make better habitat, more anglers, and an even stronger image.”

The West Virginia native also cautioned that we should not neglect working with the environmental community when we do share common interests on broad issues, such as water quality. “We need to strike a relationship that fosters those bigger accomplishments while gaining recognition for the role of the angler in conservation,” he said.

What I’ll remember Robertson most for was his leadership in creation of the Keep America Fishing (KAF) program in 2010. It’s now the largest angler advocacy group in the country, representing more than one million.

As KAF coordinated efforts to combat efforts to ban lead fishing tackle and restrict access, Robertson learning something that helped convince him that the image of the angler as a conservationist needs to be revitalized. “Too many anglers are apathetic and geographic,” he said.

“Some issues, like lead, resonate better than others. But collectively we need to think about the future of the sport.”

That’s just what Robertson did during his years with ASA, according to those who worked with him, including two former national conservation directors for B.A.S.S.

“Gordon Robertson has done more for anglers and sportfishing in this country than most will ever know,” said Noreen Clough. “Among other things, in his quiet but extremely effective way, he guided the last reauthorization of federal legislation that provides funding for Wallop-Breaux federal (Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program), which makes significant grants to states to manage their fisheries and fishing programs.”

She added that his ability “to work effectively on Capitol Hill, even in this climate, is testimony to his political savvy and patience.”

Bruce Shupp added, “Gordon, and his predecessors, were always the first, best, and most important contact for me to get B.A.S.S. engaged in the most effective way to advocate and/or combat issues affecting the resource and industry.”

Both during his time at B.A.S.S. and as New York fisheries chief, Shupp said, “Gil Radonski, Norville Prosser, and Gordon filled the same ASA role. They were all excellent at their jobs, served the industry very well, and are among the most respected professionals I had the pleasure of working with. I hope ASA will find a similar caliber replacement.”

In that regard, ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman pointed out that Robertson “set a high bar when it came to professional excellence, which had a significant influence on everyone with whom he worked. His ability to work with Congress and federal and state agencies on complex resource issues is unparalleled.”

Fortunately for anglers, Robertson won’t step away immediately from ASA. Working a reduced schedule, he will continue to assist with on-going projects, as well as in the search for his replacement.

Whoever is selected to replacement him, however, certainly will have big boat shoes to fill.

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

Sunday
Jul062014

Kendall Jones, Conservation, and the Arrogance of the Ignorant

A farmer wants to harvest more corn from a field so he grows more plants. But he doesn’t get more corn. Why?

More plants diminished the nutrients that each received, lessening production.

In other words, he couldn’t grow more corn because his field had a finite carrying capacity.

Farmers understand this.

So do wildlife managers. That’s why we have hunting seasons for deer, turkey, and other game. That’s also one of the main reasons that big game hunting is allowed in Africa.

I mention this for two reasons:

1. The furor that Kendall Jones has created recently among “animal lovers” by posting photos of her big game kills in Africa.

2. These same people, who know nothing about wildlife management and ecological balance, would like nothing better than to prohibit both hunting and recreational fishing worldwide.

And they are hateful, malicious, and unrelenting in their zeal and ignorance.

A tweet (now deleted) from singer Diane Warren: “I wish someone would hunt that texas cheerleader bitch animal murderer and hang her head in a lions den. But what do I really think…— Diane Warren

A petition at Change.org to ban Jones from Africa collected more than 100,000 signatures with this incredibly naïve concept of wildlife management:

“Kendall Jones is an American-born hunter who has entered the continent and has been hunting African wildlife under the facade of conservation. She has publicly stated that she hopes to have a television hunting show and she is using endangered and helpless African animals as a stepping stone to further her popularity on social media platforms . . .

“With enough support globally we can take a step in the right direction with regards to animal conservation, and help put an end to practices such as these, in hopes of conserving what precious little is left of our natural world.”

And a caption of Jones with an elephant in the International Business Times said this: “African elephants are being hunted to extinction and are  now critically endangered.”

That’s not true. In some countries, they were nearly poached to extinction. In others, their numbers must be reduced regularly. Jones did not kill a “critically endangered” elephant.

This post, however, is not about Kendall Jones, her character, or her motivation. It’s about hunting in the 21st century.

The truth is that we cannot have healthy and sustainable populations of many wildlife species without management. That’s because we share this planet with them, and, with our cities and farms, have diminished the habitat available for them. Just as a field can’t grow an infinite amount of corn, a forest can’t sustain an infinite number of deer.

What happens when wildlife aren’t harvested by hunters to manage their numbers? Conflicts increase, often with harm occurring to both animals and people, as well as property. Also, more animals are likely to die of disease and starvation when their numbers reach unsustainable levels.

Additionally, as hunters and anglers already know, they are the real conservationists because they put their money where their mouth is. What they spend to hunt and fish goes directly for management, betterment, and, yes, even protection of wildlife, whether in the United States or Africa. In this country, hundreds of millions of dollars annually are collected through excise taxes on hunting gear and fishing tackle and then distributed to the states through the Wildlife and Fish Restoration Program.

In many countries of Africa, meanwhile, the huge fees that big game hunters pay to shoot individual animals go to overall protection of the species. And they do not shoot “endangered” species, as Change.org alleged.

Also, animals shot legally are worth much more to local economies than those that are illegally poached. And as hunters keep numbers to what is sustainable for the habitat available, they reduce wildlife damage to crops and villages.

But facts mean little to the millions of people like Diane Warren who know nothing about ecological balance and what we must do if we want to continue sharing the finite resources of this planet with a multitude of wildlife species.

They don’t want us to hunt and fish, and, as I’ve said before, they are unrelenting. While we are out enjoying a day in the woods or on the water, they are working actively to soil our image, and, ultimately, prohibit us from enjoying those pastimes that define us as a nation of sportsmen and conservationists.

And if we aren’t ever vigilant in promoting hunting and fishing, and the many benefits that they provide both to us as a society and to wildlife in general, we will lose.

 

Tuesday
Jul012014

Loss of Access Threatens Future of Fishing

Anglers are losing access to their favorite fisheries.

Sometimes, it’s because of development or budget cuts. Other times it’s because government bodies or even private groups have shut down public launch areas.

The latter is happening with increasing frequency because of a fear that invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil will be accidentally introduced via contaminated boats and trailers. Sometimes the concern is legitimate. Other times, it’s simply an excuse to keep out the public.

This threat has grown so severe that one in five anglers surveyed by AnglerSurvey.com reported having to cancel or quit fishing a particular location in 2011 because they lost access to it. Most were able to shift their fishing to another location, but a third of affected anglers said that the loss caused them to quite fishing altogether.

“While access issues can often be overcome by fishing somewhere else, we are still losing some anglers each year due to problems with fishing access,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which conducts the surveys at AnglerSurvey.com.

“When we add up the anglers lost year after year, whether as a result of marine fishery closures or dilapidated boat ramps, access remains a major long-term problem for sportfishing and fisheries conservation.”

You can help slow down this loss of access and possibly even reverse the trend.

First, be a responsible angler by making certain that you do not allow invasive species to hitchhike on your boat and/or trailer, and encourage others to do the same. When fishermen set good examples, those in power have less reason to try to deny access. Additionally, if you belong to a fishing club, encourage it to work cooperatively with lake associations and government bodies on plans to keep out invasive species.

Also, familiarize yourself with access issues, both locally and nationally. Attend public meetings when access issues are on the agenda. Write letters, send e-mails, and make phone calls to officials, emphasizing that quality access is important.

Solution: Make sure you leave every area better than you found it, be committed and vocal about preventing the spread of invasive species, and get involved locally so that angler interests are represented when decisions on access are made.

Check out five more threats facing fishing at Recycled Fish.

Friday
Jun062014

Connecticut, Georgia, New Mexico Win BASS/Shimano Grants

The Georgia B.A.S.S. Nation was one of the recipients of the Shimano/B.A.S.S. Youth Conservation Initiative Grant. The project that earned the award involves high school and college students growing aquatic vegetation and transplanting it in West Point Reservoir, adding cover and habitat for bass. Photo by Tony Beck/Bassmaster

Three B.A.S.S. Nation chapters are the 2014 recipients of grants offered through the new Shimano/B.A.S.S. Youth Conservation Initiative. New Mexico, Georgia. and Connecticut are the states receiving funds.

The grant program is designed to focus on involving young B.A.S.S. members in projects to conserve and restore fisheries habitat and aquatic resources. The initiative was introduced at the 2014 Bass Fishing Hall of Fame induction dinner, held in conjunction with the B.A.S.S. Conservation Summit and the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro.

“The proposals from New Mexico, Georgia and Connecticut were outstanding,” said Phil Morlock, director of environmental affairs for Shimano. “They have the right level of youth involvement, partnerships and impact that follow the goals of the initiative. All of us at Shimano look forward to watching the progress on these projects.”

New Mexico’s grant is earmarked for the Adopt-a-Cove habitat enhancement project on Elephant Butte Reservoir. It will involve the Albuquerque Hawg Hunters adult club, along with members of both the New Mexico State University Bass Team and the Mesilla Valley High School Bass Anglers. The plan is to restore shoreline vegetation, plant native aquatic vegetation and install a variety of artificial structures to encourage sport and forage fish spawning.

Georgia’s grant goes to a native aquatic plant introduction project on West Point Reservoir. The Lake Oconee Bassmasters will mentor student anglers from Alexander and Chapel Hill high schools, as well as from the University of West Georgia. Students will help with propagation of plants at an aquatic nursery and transplant cuttings into the reservoir to establish stands of vegetation. This project will provide the needed cover and nursery habitat for juvenile bass and forage fishes.

Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation members from the Bass Lightning club will partner with youth from Berlin, Ellington, Fairfield, Nonewaug and Suffield high schools to install artificial habitat structures in several community fishing ponds. The group plans to produce and distribute a how-to video that will serve as a guide for other communities wishing to improve the habitat and productivity of their local fishing ponds.

“This is only the beginning,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. conservation director. “Shimano has a solid commitment to youth and conservation, and we want to encourage B.A.S.S. Nation chapters to begin crafting ideas for 2015 proposals.”

Gilliland said a Request for Proposals will be announced later this fall. The following criteria are used in judging projects:

  • The project should make a significant contribution to the establishment, maintenance, restoration or protection of fish habitat.
  • The project must directly involve B.A.S.S. youth members (Junior Bassmasters, High School or College) in such a way as to teach by example the importance of resource stewardship and the leadership role that anglers play as conservationists.
  • The project must have the endorsement of the local, state or provincial fisheries management agency.
  • The project must be an important action to ensure long-term sustainability of habitat or ecosystem functions and should have an evaluation component to determine success.
  • Where possible, the project should be linked to existing landscape-level conservation or stewardship efforts or other habitat enhancement projects.
  • Working with partners is strongly encouraged. Obtaining significant matching funds and/or donations of materials and/or in-kind services will increase chances of receiving an award.


For more information on the Shimano/B.A.S.S. Youth Conservation Initiative and other B.A.S.S. Conservation programs and activities, go to B.A.S.S. Conservation, or email Gilliland at ggilliland@bassmaster.com.

Tuesday
Jun032014

B.A.S.S. Valuable Partner for Fish Sampling

Photo by Robert Montgomery

As he released sampling results recently, Ohio biologist Travis Hartman praised B.A.S.S. for its assistance in a survey during the Bassmaster Pro Shops Northern Open on Lake Erie last fall.

“We get more smallmouth and largemouth biological samples from your tournaments than we get anywhere else,” said the fisheries expert for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Sandusky Fish Research Unit.

“We greatly appreciate your cooperation.”

Incredibly, competitors caught smallmouth bass from 16 year classes, with the oldest 17 years old.

“A lot of the trophy fish are 10 to 15 years old,” Hartman said. “Usually the older fish aren’t the largest, because they are slower growing.”

The most productive year classes for smallmouths were 2005 and 2007.

Anglers brought in largemouth bass from nine year classes, with the oldest being 12. Year classes 2007, 2008, and 2009 yielded the most fish.

The event provided more largemouths than biologists had seen in the past, Hartman pointed out, including some that measured 19 inches. He added that anglers have been catching more in recent years near shore and around islands, “getting good numbers and size.”

The mean length for the 758 smallmouth bass measured was 16.6 inches (the average of all lengths divided by the number of fish), while the mean length for 53 largemouths was 16 inches.

Biologists originally planned to measure all fish caught on the first two days and keep the deceased. Then with the field reduced to 12 competitors on the final day, all bass would be kept and taken to the lab to determine age and gender, as well as length and weight.

But with the second day of the tournament cancelled, they decided to keep 136 bass on Thursday.  Biologists measured and weighed these fish, as well as determined sex and age (from otoliths, or ear bones).