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Entries in conservation (145)

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).

Friday
May302014

Magnuson-Stevens Needs to Address Goals, Needs of Recreational Anglers

Photo by Robert Montgomery

As Congress considers changes in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), a coalition of angling advocate groups says that not enough consideration is being given to recreational fishing.

“Since its inception, the Magnuson-Stevens Act has focused primarily on commercial fisheries to the detriment of the nation’s 11 million recreational fishermen and the nearly half a million jobs they support,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.

“Revising the law in a way that incorporates the goals and needs of anglers is long overdue. Our community has put forward the policy changes that will set the foundation for an effective saltwater fisheries management system, but we need Congress’ help by enacting these common sense and non-partisan policies.”

The recommendations offered by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, commonly known as the Morris-Deal Commission, 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

MSA is the primary law governing management of marine fisheries, and critics argue that On May 30, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a reauthorization bill, H.R. 4742, also entitled the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.”

 “While we appreciate Chairman Doc Hasting’s interest and efforts in Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization, we would like to have seen more done in this bill to address the needs of the recreational fishing community,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.

“This bill includes several provisions that we support, such as easing the strict implementation of annual catch limits and improving stock assessments for data poor fisheries, but unfortunately our top priorities are not meaningfully addressed.”

“In addition to overlooking the priorities of the Morris-Deal Commission, we are also disappointed that the federal management failure with red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico is not resolved in H.R. 4742,” added Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association.

“A comprehensive overhaul of red snapper management is the only way to get us out of this mess. It’s vital that Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization addresses this management train-wreck by transferring Gulf red snapper management over to the states, which are much better equipped to successfully manage this important fishery.”

After passing out of committee, H.R. 4742 now awaits a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to unveil its Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization bill in the near future. With limited floor time before the November elections, many experts believe that full Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization may not occur until the next session of Congress.

“We understand that Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization likely has a long road ahead before a final bill gets signed into law, so we are hopeful that working with our friends in Congress, we can get the recreational fishing and boating community’s priorities addressed,” said Angers.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to bring focus toward improving saltwater recreational fisheries management, and there’s too much at stake to let this reauthorization pass without making the necessary changes that will establish a management system that works for – not against – recreational fishermen.”

Wednesday
May212014

Fishing Line Perilous for Pelicans, Herons, Other Wildlife

That’s a dead heron hanging in the tree, strangled to death by monofilament fishing line. I took the photo a few years ago.

I was reminded of it recently by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Here’s what agency has to say:

Fishing is an important part of the Florida lifestyle as well as its economy. In spite of the obvious benefits, this leisure-time activity, on occasion, can lead to problems for birds and other wildlife such as sea turtles and manatees. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists, monofilament fishing line and fishing hooks can entangle these animals, leading to injury and even death.

The brown pelican is one species that is especially impacted by monofilament line. These birds frequently spend time looking for an easy meal at piers and other fishing hotspots, where they are often hooked accidently when trying to grab bait off an angler’s line.

Additionally, discarded monofilament line hanging from trees, piers and other structures can ensnare these birds. Once entangled, pelicans can have a difficult time flying and feeding.

“It is not uncommon to find dead pelicans entangled with fishing line and hooks,” said FWC biologist Ricardo Zambrano. “If they are not rescued, these birds may suffer for days before succumbing to injury or starvation.”

Here are some simple things people can do to help protect brown pelicans and other wildlife:

  • Properly dispose of monofilament line. Store unwanted line safely and securely until it can be placed in a recycling bin.
  • Don’t leave fishing line unattended, as pelicans may be tempted to steal the bait on the end of the line.
  • Avoid casting near trees, utility lines and other areas where line may get caught.
  • Check tackle frequently for frayed line that may easily break.
  • Do not feed pelicans or other wildlife, since it encourages them to approach fishing boats, piers and anglers. If available, use fish-scrap repositories. If they are not available, discard fish scraps in a garbage can or at home.

If you do accidentally hook a pelican, you should avoid cutting the line. Gently remove the hook if you feel confident you can do so without causing harm to yourself or the bird. If you cannot safely remove the hook and line from the pelican, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.

For a list of wildlife rehabilitators in your area, contact any of the FWC’s five regional offices or visit MyFWC.com/Conservation and select “How You Can Conserve” then “Wildlife Assistance.”

For more information go to Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program

Friday
May162014

Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes in Bass Regulations

If you fish for bass in Florida, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants your input regarding a change being considered for the five-bass daily bag limit.

The statewide bag limit of five would not be altered, but each angler would be allowed to keep up to five bass of less than 16 inches each or four less than 16 and one more than 16.

“Limited exceptions for specific fisheries that have special needs or opportunities would still be possible, such as high-profile, catch-and-release fisheries that need such a management approach, or even a few more liberal regulations where bass may be overabundant,” FWC said. “Those would be limited exceptions and generally associated with fish management areas.

“In addition, it is important to note that there is no intent to alter the simple Bass Tournament Exemption Permit process.”

Go here to take the survey.

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) takes public opinions very seriously,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. “Combined with the best science and case studies that we have to go on, public input helps us strive for optimal sustained use of these popular and valuable fish.”

As someone who fishes Florida waters as often as I can and knows the biologists at FWC, I respect the job that they do and hope that you will help with this.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Birds, Bears, and Balance

Cormorant photos by Robert Montgomery

Early this spring, hunters killed 11,653 double-crested cormorants on Lakes Marion and Moultrie (Santee Cooper) in South Carolina. Such an event would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. That’s because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

But in recent years both federal and state resource managers recognized that these fishing-eating birds are causing problems for our fisheries, as their populations explode. Vocal, angry anglers played no small part in that recognition.

More recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife killed five black bears after a woman was attacked at her home in central Florida.

What do these two incidents have in common? They highlight who we are as a species and what we must do if we are to share land and water with other species.

We are beings who alter our environment to meet our needs. We clear the land to farm and to build cities, homes, and highways. We erect dams to control floods, irrigate formerly arid lands, and generate hydropower.

And when we do those things, we take away the habitat of other species, such as black bears in Florida.

Many think that we manage only domestic animals. In truth, if we are to have healthy populations of most wildlife species, we must manage them as well.

And that means sometimes that we must kill some of them because their numbers are too great to be sustained in their remaining habitat and/or they pose a threat to us.

As they were relentlessly hunted and their habitat destroyed, buffalo, deer, and turkey nearly disappeared. But enlightened management has brought them back, and now regular hunts keep their numbers at sustainable levels for their available habitat.

The cormorant is an interesting exception to the rule. That’s because it habitat has not been diminished by us, but rather greatly expanded by the reservoirs behind all of those dams that we’ve built. That’s why it has become such a nuisance species. Many no longer migrate, but instead stay year-around, feasting on fish and expanding their numbers.

Of course, many of those who call themselves animal lovers do not want to hear such rational arguments. They did not like the killing of so many cormorants in South Carolina, and I’ve no doubt that Florida Fish and Wildlife will endure sharp criticism for killing so many bears.

These people want us to either ignore the problem or attempt to solve it in an impractical way.

For example, the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to do something about the overpopulation of deer in suburban St. Louis awhile back. Its first choice was to have a managed hunt. But bowing to pressures from animal lovers, it went with the much more expensive option of trapping and moving the deer.

The agency later discovered that most of those transplanted deer starved to death because their new habitat contained little to none of the types of plants that they were accustomed to eating in the suburbs.

Moving bears won’t solve the problem in Florida either. Suitable bear habitat in the state already is at peak population. Otherwise the animals wouldn’t have moved in so close to humans in the first place.

Additionally, those that have ventured into civilization now grow fat as they scavenge garbage around homes or are intentionally fed by these same animal lovers who have exacerbated the problem with their compassion. In other words, the bears now associate humans with food and if trapped and moved, they’ll just head for the nearest subdivision.

The reality is that we must live with the consequences of our actions as a species that alters its environment, and one of those consequences is that we must manage the other species that share the land and water.