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Entries in fisheries management (166)


Virus May Be Way To Control Carp, Mussels, Other Exotic Species

University of Minnesota researchers may be able to use a recent fish virus outbreak to combat an invasive species plaguing state lakes.

Researchers with the university's Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center are studying Koi herpesvirus to see if it can be used to control the invasive carp population, Minnesota Daily reported.

"We want to find ways to kill carp and zebra mussels and all these invasive species," said MAISRC Director Nick Phelps. "We started this particular project in 2014 — went two years and didn't see (the virus) anywhere, then saw it in seven to eight lakes in a matter of a month and a half."


The center first confirmed a naturally-occurring case of the virus in early August. Researchers confirmed several more cases in early October.

Carp have been in the area for more than 180 years and can disturb lake environments, said Isaiah Tolo a first-year doctoral student with the research center.

"It's a big problem here," Tolo said.

Phelps said his team hopes to release the virus into Minnesota lakes to stop the spread of invasive carp. Koi fish are a subspecies of common carp so they're both susceptible to the virus. The disease won't harm other fish because it specifically targets carp, he said.

"We've never found it in a walleye, musky or bait fish," Phelps said.

Phelps said Australian researchers have spent a decade looking into bio-control to eliminate carp. Australian researchers plan to release the virus into the environment next year, he said.

"It'll be the first time that pathogens will be used for aquatic animal control," he said. "They're pushing the envelope a bit, so we're sitting back and learning what we can from that experiment."


Reef Fish Mortality Reduced by Angler Education, Conservation Measures

A cooperative effort among the recreational fishing industry, anglers and state and federal agencies has resulted in reduced mortality for thousands of red snapper and other reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic.

Throughout 2015-2017, the FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project, coordinated through the FishAmerica Foundation, engaged more than 1,100 anglers in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions to improve the survival of angler caught-and-released fish. Participants in the project were provided with information on best practices for handling and releasing fish and with SeaQualizer descending devices. They were then asked to evaluate their experience.

Through the FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project, anglers collectively reported releasing 16,000 – 28,000 red snapper and 13,000 - 22,000 other fish by applying best practices techniques and using the SeaQualizer when needed. Based on the most recent research on the benefits of descending fish under conditions typically encountered in the Gulf of Mexico, an estimated 3,000 - 9,000 red snapper survived during this project period through the use of the SeaQualizer alone, plus an unknown number of fish that survived as a result of improved handling techniques.

“Through the FishSmart project, the recreational fishing industry is leading the way to improve the survival of caught-and-released fish and help ensure the future of our sport” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “The FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project represents the continued growth and evolution of this program, which reflects anglers’ and the industry’s longstanding and continued commitment to fisheries conservation.”

One of the key findings of the four regional workshops was that returning saltwater fish caught in deep water to the depth at which they were caught – or as close as possible – can significantly improve their chances of survival. In the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, many reef fish such as red snapper are being released due to increasingly shorter seasons and higher rates of encounter. Without proper handling techniques, such as use of descending devices, a significant percentage of released fish die, to the detriment of fisheries conservation and future fishing opportunities.

However, since release mortality in recreational fisheries is the culmination of millions of individual encounters between anglers and fish, true conservation benefits will be achieved by empowering individual anglers with information, training and tools to improve the survival of each individual fish that they return to the water.

“Some of the key findings of the project involved the changes that anglers voluntarily made in the way that they released fish,” remarked Mike Leonard, ASA’s Conservation director. “The vast majority of project participants found that information provided on how to properly handle fish improved the way that they release fish.”

Leonard added, “Nearly 75 percent had little or no knowledge of descender devices prior to participating in this project and indicated that are now likely to use a descender device to release most or all fish when needed. This reinforces the well-known fact that anglers are true conservationists at heart: provide them with the tools and techniques to do the right thing and they readily embrace it.”

Additional information about the results of the project are included in this information sheet.

This FishSmart Best Practices and Descender Education project was the result of numerous partnerships. Major funding support was provided through the American Sportfishing Association, the Brunswick Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, SeaQualizer, LLC, and Grizzly Smokeless Tobacco.  Educational materials and descending devices were distributed through the assistance of partners including Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association. International Game Fish Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Georgia Coastal Resources Division, Florida Sea Grant, South Carolina DNR, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Alabama Department of Conservation, and Texas A&M/Harte Research Institute.


Challenge Takes Bite Out Of Lionfish Threat To Fisheries

Recreational participants removed 8,901 lionfish, and  commercials took 15,800 pounds (about 17,420 lionfish) in the 2017 Lionfish Challenge, sponsored by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). That's 26,321 exotic predators eliminated.

Ken Ayers Jr. of Panama City took home the recreational Lionfish King award with a total of 1,250 lionfish harvested. Joshua Livingston of Destin became Florida’s first Commercial Champion for his efforts in removing 4,560 pounds of lionfish (poundage equates to about 5,027 fish). On top of other prizes earned throughout the Challenge, the two winners were presented with a custom-made Fish Bone Design trophy and a “No Shoes Reefs” Engel 85 cooler.

A total of 120 recreational and commercial harvesters participated in the statewide lionfish removal incentive program, which ran from Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day May 20 (first Saturday after Mother’s Day annually) through Sept. 4.

FWC's partners in this effort included  34 dive shops that served as checkpoints for recreational submissions, as well as Engel Coolers, ZombieStickz Lionfish Eliminator and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.

"While this year’s Lionfish Challenge may be over, there are still plenty of other great programs that encourage lionfish removal," FWC said.

Check out the new  Reef Rangers website, which launched in early September. Participants who adopt a reef soon will receive a Reef Rangers Lionfish Control Team T-shirt and tank sticker.

Learn more about lionfish  at


Interior Secretary Addresses Challenges: Entrenched Bureaucrats, Politics In Wildlife Management

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent the majority of his military career as a Navy SEAL. As a SEAL, Zinke was molded to believe in the team concept. And SEAL teams can count on each other, whatever the situation.

That value set isn't doing much to endear him to a large portion of the career members of the Interior Department. And his frank recognition of the fact that he believes that nearly a third of the career bureaucrats in his Department are not "loyal to the flag" nor in lockstep with his leadership and his boss, President Trump, likely isn't going to win him any more friends in that group.

"I got 30 percent of the crew that's not loyal to the flag," Zinke told the National Petroleum Council, "We do have good people, but the direction has got to be clear and you've got to hold people accountable."

In Washington, those are the equivalent of fighting words. It's decidedly not the place where career bureaucrats are accustomed to anything nearly so direct as Zinke's appraisal.

In particular, Zinke was torqued over the fact that delaying tactics are an art form in the federal government. "There's too many ways in the present process for someone who doesn't want to get a regulatory action done to put it in a holding pattern."

Now, he's pushing for a major reorganization that would push much of the agency's decision making outside Washington. In fact, he's proposed moving the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation out of Washington.

Zinke's reasoning is simple: "Push your generals where the fight is. I can't change the culture without changing the structure."

He's also working to speed up the process for permitting oil drilling, logging and other energy development. Today, those processes can take years. "The president," Zinke says, "wants it yesterday, but we have to do it by the law."

During his remarks he also echoed a sentiment that's shared across much of this industry: the Endangered Species Act has been "abused" by bureaucrats and environmental groups. The ESA, Zinke says, needs to be reformed to be less "arbitrary."

There are 70,000 employees in the Interior Department, and that means the former SEAL is looking at a significant number of "disloyal" bureaucrats who will be using their collective experience in how Washington functions (or doesn't) to oppose his reformation ideas. Bureaucrats, unlike the various Secretaries, aren't presidential appointees, and are difficult to motivate, much less move.

Already left-leaning outdoor groups have taken exception with Zinke's characterization of those in the Interior Department who could at best be described as less than enthusiastic about changes proposed by Zinke and the Trump Administration. Those groups, it seems, aren't happy at the prospects of science-based wildlife and resource management values being applied to what has become an area where administrators and bureaucrats have increasingly applied their political viewpoints to the management of areas under their responsibility.

Zinke may find change something that's needed, but he would do well to remember the words of Niccolo Machiavelli: 

"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new." 

Were he alive today, Machiavelli would have been a very successful political consultant, although he would find himself facing situations even a man known for his political machinations might never have anticipated.

Like a lawsuit now before Denver's Federal District Court by a far-left environmental group, Deep Green Resistance,asking a judge to recognize the Colorado River as a "person."

The suit, filed Monday in Federal District Court, names the river ecosystem as the plaintiff and seeks to hold the state of Colorado and Governor John Hickenlooper liable for violating the river's "right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored and naturally evolve."

Sounds crazy, but if the suit were to succeed, it would allow "persons" - meaning rivers, mountains, forests and similar "people"- to sue (with the help of "friends" like Deep Green Resistance) to sue for infringements on their "rights" to exist.

The argument for the "person" declaration is based on corporate law. 

If corporations have rights, Deep Green Resistance argues, why shouldn't an "ancient waterway that has sustained human life for as long as it has existed in the Western United States."

Jason Flores- Williams, representing the Colorado River/Deep Green Resistance, characterizes the suit as an attempt to "level the playing field as rivers and forests battle human exploitation." 

With standing in the courts, he argues, humans would be forced to take care of the water and trees- or face penalties.

OK, it sounds ridiculous, but it's the kind of convoluted legal arguments now being used by radical environmentalists outraged at the thoughts of science-based conservation potentially displacing the more-radical leaning positions taken by some administrators.

Senator Steve Daines of Montana told the New York Times that while "we an all agree rivers and trees are not people, radical obstructionists who contort common sense with this sort of nonsense undercut credible conservationists."

Maybe so, but dismissing this as another radical environmental publicity stunt designed to shake a few more shekels from the pockets of their supporters would be a serious mistake. 

Courts have struggled for years with the concept of granting animals legal standing. And there are judges who agree with the animal rights groups. They would be more than willing to recognize that argument. 

There are those who believe - passionately - that people are root problem with the planet. And they're more than willing to seek remedies for that "problem" in any way possible…legal or otherwise. 

This time, it's the courts.

--Jim Shepherd, Publisher Fishing Wire


New Fishadow From Fishiding Provides Lifelike Cover

If you own a pond, live on a lake, or manage a fishery, you really should know about the great habitat innovations being created by Fishiding, a sponsor of Activist Angler. If you’re an angler, you can learn a lot about what attracts fish at the website of the company that builds cover out of recycled materials.

One of the newest products is the Fishadow. This moving, flowing and vertically standing wall of cover comes to life underwater. Standing 60 inches tall and spanning 50 inches wide, the 80 or more 2"-4" wide fingers wave  with life and current. Made from thin and durable reclaimed PVC placed vertically, gravity holds no grip on the realistic "kelp like" limbs waving softly in the wave and current action.

Once dropped in, the limbs relax and flow back and forth creating massive surface area, as well as infinite and ever-changing Fishiding spaces. From large outside edges to tiny crevices, this unit protects underwater creatures from seeing through the cover. It is dense in the center with room for fry and panfish to hide. It's flexible enough to change shape with the flash of a tail, opening space up within, for predators to feed.

Weighing in at 19 pounds, this $75 model requires nothing but water. No bending or primping on this model. Just open the box and drop in lake. It simply can't fall over.

Recommended for depths of more than 8 feet, this habitat is designed with the secondary breakline in mind. With spacing utilized by mature forage fish, placing it in water from 6 to 10 feet along a break will attract predator fish. The flexibility in this model allows baits to glide through as fish pounce from the darkness. All components are securely fastened, with integrated cemented base. No tools or weights needed.

“What started with the simplest idea and one crib model has helped turn the industry’s focus in the direction of artificial fish habitat products, lasting for many years to come,” said owner David Ewald.

“Our focus always has been to improve habitat for fish. We are now learning how many other water- and fishing-related benefits these products possess.”

Coincidentally, results from a three-year study in North Carolina reservoirs recently confirmed what fisheries biologists suspected: Artificial structures are better at attracting and holding fish over a long period of time than structures made of natural materials.