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Entries in fisheries management (40)

Wednesday
Jul232014

Environmentalists Want Anglers to Pay for Management of No-Fishing Areas

First, environmental groups and their allies in California state government ignored science, chose to follow a United Nations model, and closed off vast areas for sport fishing through establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Now they want to steal money from anglers and boaters to manage those areas.

“Of course, the enviro groups are all over this (Marine Protected Areas Partnership Plan draft) in glowing terms about how great it is, how progressive the permanent closures are, etc.,” said Phil Morlock, Director of Environmental Affairs for Shimano.

In responding to a state request for public input, Morlock concluded with this:

“What cannot be argued is the fact that permanent MPA access closures to vast areas of prime fishing habitat have deprived anglers of access to public waters and to a public resource – fish.

“MPAs as established in coastal California are clearly not fishery management tools.

“We concur with others in the recreational angling community who maintain that anglers should not be expected or required to contribute any license, trust fund or vessel fee revenue to fund MPA management, law enforcement or any associated program in consideration of the negative impact MPA’s have caused by reducing recreational fishing opportunities.

“Those who supported these unnecessary MPA closures should be required to continue to also support their ongoing fiscal requirements.”

And here’s something that should be of concern to anglers everywhere:

The same anti-fishing zealots who closed off California waters are pushing for similar programs elsewhere, including the Great Lakes. The California MPA plan was adopted as one-size-fits all, ostensibly to “protect” habitat, even though no documented threat exists.

“It was essentially a ‘solution’ to a manufactured crisis that bypassed hard science, independent peer review, and inappropriately conjoined recreational fishing with commercial fishing impacts under the buzzword ‘overfishing,’ in the attempt to justify these closures,” Morlock said.

“From all appearances, the United Nations can’t manage a two-car parking lot effectively. Rather than encouraging them to elevate their policy to adopt the unparalleled success of the American Model of science-based fishery management and sustainable use doctrine, we continue to apply the lowest common denominator in a rush to reverse over a century of proven success.” 

Tuesday
Jul152014

Gillnetters Decimating Bahamas Bonefish

Photo taken by Long Island visitor of bonefish and other species in gillnet.

One of the world’s best bonefish fisheries is being destroyed right now by gillnetters raking the shallows indiscriminately for bait.

In the Bahamas, a Long Island bonefishing lodge recently told the Tribune that police are doing nothing to stop the practice that he estimates has slashed the island’s bonefish stocks by 50 percent during the past five years.

“These last couple of weeks they’ve been hitting us so hard. It’s unbelievable,” said Nevin Knowles, who added that the bonefish are being used as cut bait for yellow tail.

“If this keeps up for five years, our bonefish population in Long Island will be gone,” he added. “They’re using, at the last estimate, a $58,000 bonefish to catch a 90 cent snapper, and they’re killing our industry.

“The tourists go to the Out Islands for the fishing. That’s the only thing that attracts tourists to Long Island. They’re killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.”

More from the Tribune:

Mr Knowles said illegal netting had been occurring for “years and years”, but had become “noticeably worse” in the past few and was now threatening to wipe out bonefish stocks by preventing the fish from spawning.

“The bonefish stocks, every year they’re decreasing,” Mr Knowles told Tribune Business. “In another five years, we’re not going to have any stock. It’s decreased by at least 50 per cent or more over the last five years.”

With fewer bonefish to catch, Mr Knowles said tourists would fail to re-book and not come back if their experiences failed to match expectations.

“You have a guy paying $3,000 a week for an all-inclusive,” he added. “If they’d have come five years ago they’d have caught 15-20 fish a day. Now, they’re catching two-three a day.

He added, “I had some guests that fished last week. We went out on the flats and there were hardly any fish there. We knew someone had been there netting, and can see where the net had dragged on the flats.”

Spawning bonefish

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, meanwhile, offers this:

The Bahamas have some of the best bonefish fishing in the world, thanks to many miles of shallow flats, and to a community of fishing guides that act as stewards of the fishery and its habitats. In a study conducted in 2009, during the height of the Great Recession, the recreational fishery for bonefish in the Bahamas had an annual economic impact exceeding $141 million (USD).  With more recreational fishermen traveling today as the economy recovers, that number is certainly higher. The fishery not only supports jobs, but also allows a culture that relies on the sea to continue.

Despite its economic and cultural importance, the fishery faces trouble. The trouble comes in the form of gillnets, resource extraction, and coastal development.

Gillnets:  Despite regulations that prohibit the capture of bonefish with nets, the use of nets to target bonefish is increasing. The most troubling case is on Long Island, where gillnetting on the flats has already negatively impacted the bonefish population, and is threatening the future of the fishery.

Despite these illegal acts being reported by fishing guides and others, enforcement has been lacking. Whether the bonefish are being used for bait or are illegally sold at market, their capture brings significantly less economic value than if those fish remained alive and part of the recreational fishery . . .

In the recent past, similar episodes have been reported on Grand Bahama Island and South Andros. 

Dr. David Philipp, Chair of the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, sums it up well: “Bonefish are very susceptible to capture by netting, and removal of those fish could crush the Long Island bonefish population for years to come. This would destroy an extremely valuable industry that benefits the entire community. Everyone in those communities should act to prevent those irresponsible persons from stealing the Bahamas' natural resources for their own purposes."

Resource Extraction:  The flats of Grand Bahama Island are world-renown for their large and plentiful bonefish. One of the first bonefish lodges in the Bahamas was located on the east end of the island, adjacent to the expansive sand flats that extend for miles to the southeast. This area has been proposed as a National Park to provide protections to the bonefish fishery and other fisheries important to residents.

These sand flats are being proposed as a site for sand mining, with sand dredged to a depth of 16 feet. Of particular concern is the area near Bursus Cay. After a public meeting in McLean’s Town in May 2014, Eric Carey, Bahamas National Trust’s Executive Director noted, "The East End Communities, especially the fishermen, have made a strong case for this proposed national park. Noting the importance of Bursus Cay as to the sustainability of their fishery, and the threat that the proposed dredging represents, they have asked Bahamas National Trust to expand the original proposal, to include this important area."

Coastal Development:  After years of research and working with fishing guides, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust researchers have identified a bonefish spawning location on Abaco. Early data suggest that this may be the only spawning location for bonefish that inhabit the world famous Abaco Marls.

Bonefish that live in the Marls for most of the year migrate to the spawning location each winter, and return to the Marls after spawning. A proposed resort development along the migration pathway and near the spawning site would disrupt spawning, with inevitable impacts to the bonefish population and the fishery.

How you can help:  While the information from the work of BTT and collaborators is essential to enacting conservation strategies for bonefish and their habitats, it is not enough. Your help is needed to ensure a healthy future for the fishery. Visit www.btt.org and Contribute to BTT to help fund the Bahamas Initiative. Write a letter expressing your concerns about the threats to the bonefish fishery.  Email the letters to us, we’ll compile them and present them in the Bahamas. 

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.

 

Thursday
Jun262014

Northern States Warming Up to Bass Anglers

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Because of climate, management of bass fisheries in the North understandably must be different from management in the South. Northern winters are longer and more severe, while spawning and growing seasons are shorter and often more tenuous. For example, pounding winds and waves during a spring storm can nearly wipe out a year class on Lake Erie.

For decades, though, it also has been different for a myriad of reasons not related to stewardship of the resource, with bass fishing restricted as a consequence. Fortunately, that is starting to change, as evidenced by what happened recently in Wisconsin. Due in no small part to the diligent efforts of Dan Brovarney and Ken Snow in the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation, that state has implemented regulations more friendly to bass anglers, including one that allows culling in permitted tournaments.

Elites Series events in northern waters also have helped. B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland pointed out that the 2012 Elite Series Green Bay Challenge “opened eyes and that allowed biologists to better understand what B.A.S.S. pro level tournaments are all about.”

They’ve also eased concerns that local residents had about possible negative impacts on their fisheries.

In general, Gilliland added, many states are moving toward simplifying regulations, but northern managers especially are warming up to the realization that bass are  popular fish deserving of more enlightened management. Most notably, closed seasons are going away, often replaced by catch-and-release.

For decades, northern fisheries managers believed that closed seasons were necessary to protect reproduction and recruitment. Now, though, evidence has begun to show that while individual nests can be harmed when male guardians are pulled off the nest, overall populations aren’t harmed. On New York’s Lake Oneida, biologist Randy Jackson found that environmental conditions are more likely to determine the success of a year class than whether anglers are pursuing bass during the spawn.  

Additionally, many managers have noted that the majority of bass anglers, no matter where they live, practice catch and release. Thus, overharvest isn’t the threat that it once was assumed to be.

Understandably, though, the farther north a fishery, the smaller the window for reproduction, and the greater the chance that it could be harmed by angling pressure.

Gilliland cited New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, along with Wisconsin, as some of the northern states being the most pro-active adopting regulations more friendly to bass anglers. Minnesota, he added, “is one of the holdouts.”

Traditionally, the conservation director explained, bass management in northern states was dictated by “legacy biology.”  In other words, it just continued to be as it always had been, with resource managers focusing on walleye, muskie, pike, and trout, while bass remained “a kind of unknown.”

“But now that bass tournaments are exposing how tremendous some of the bass fisheries are up north, they have to deal with bass management,” Gilliland said. “Most of the biologists were cold-water trained, and it was easy not to deal with it (bass management). Now, they have to deal with it.”

That assessment is confirmed by the fact that three of the top five fisheries in Bassmaster’s “Top 100 Best Bass Lakes” for 2014 are northern waters: 1. Wisconsin’s Sturgeon Bay in Lake Michigan 3. Lake Erie and 4. Lake Coeur d’ Alene in Idaho.

But Gilliland also is sympathetic to the reality that managing bass is more complicated in the North than in the South. Two of the most obvious reasons are the diversity of user groups and the vast expanses of water.

“When you’re trying to keep everyone happy and keep all of those different fisheries sustainable, it can be difficult,” he said.

A general trend toward warmer winters also “throws a monkey wrench” into the mix, he added.

Plus, tournament fishing is not nearly as popular with local residents in the North as it is in the South. Residents around those northern natural lakes view the waters as their own, and many don’t want to share them fishermen who are just passing through.

“Those people are automatically against new regulations and biology doesn’t matter. They want to limit access,” the conservation director said.

Still, regulation improvements are occurring, and managers of northern waters are to be commended for responding to their bass-fishing constituents.

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

 

Monday
Jun232014

Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes for Bass Limits

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) originally intended to close its survey regarding proposed changes in bass regulations on June 30. But it has decided to keep it up through the deliberation process and take a “data snippet” on June 30. Go here to participate in the survey.

The first change in the state’s bass length limits in 20 years would keep the creel limit at five, but allow just one of 16 inches or longer. In other words, anglers could keep smaller fish for the table.

At present, different parts of the state have 12- and 14-inch minimum length limits.

Some anglers might think that these regulations are intended to change the size structure by removing smaller bass, which would boost growth of remaining fish to trophy size. But that is not the case.

Actually, biologists want anglers to know that it’s all right to keep smaller bass, since spawning and recruitment aren’t issues for healthy fisheries in Florida.

Current minimum length limits don’t convey that message. Rather, they seem to suggest that smaller fish must be protected, but it’s okay to keep larger bass.

Yes, the proposed changes will protect larger fish and probably improve the odds for anglers to change quality and trophy bass. But that likely will occur because those fish are being “recycled” through catch and release.

“We are also continuing to pursue our TrophyCatch program and will be rolling out a new website in the near future,” said FWC’s Bob Wattendorf.

 “It is a great way of incentivizing anglers to release bass heavier than eight pounds, without passing stricter laws. Meanwhile, it provides biologists valuable data for research and marketing, and engages anglers in both citizen-science and active resource stewardship.”