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Entries in NOAA (61)


Magnuson-Stevens Needs More Flexibility

“One of the key messages the Committee has heard is that while the 2006/2007 amendments to the Act were good, those requirements have been hard to achieve in some regions without significant economic pain and that some level of flexibility is necessary.”

That’s an assessment of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by Chariman Doc Hastings of Washington State, as the House Natural Resources Committee considers its reauthorization and improvement via H.R. 4742, also known as the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

Advocates for both recreational and commercial fishing have been critical of the legislation intended to better conserve and management saltwater fisheries. They acknowledge its good intent, but argue that it has unnecessarily limited participation and harvest

“This debate today isn’t just about the use of a natural resource – it is about providing a sustainable source of protein as well as providing economic vitality to coastal communities,” he continued.

“In some regions of the country, fishing communities are struggling. A report from NOAA stated that groundfish revenues 'fell in 2012 in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island with Massachusetts and New Hampshire seeing a four-year low in groundfish revenues.'

“In New Bedford alone, the value of groundfish landed dropped from $31 million in 2011 to $19 million in 2013. The report went on to state that the number of active vessels dropped from 916 vessels in 2009 to 764 vessels in 2012 and of the 764 active vessels only 401 took a groundfish trip in 2012.

“And in the Gulf of Mexico, the recreational harvest of red snapper in Federal waters is down to just 9 days despite encouraging reports on the health of the resource.”

Go here to learn more.


Help Stop Longliners from Damaging Bluefin Tuna Fishery


Your help is needed to help end the waste of bluefin tuna in U.S. waters and ensure that longliners --- not recreational anglers --- are the ones held responsible for the incidental bycatch.

“Recreational anglers are leaders when it comes to conserving fish and their habitat,” said Jason Schratwieser, conservation director for the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). “And we’re hoping having recreational anglers sign on this petition will help NOAA Fisheries realize better protection is needed for this species.”

Go here to sign an IGFA-sponsored online petition to urge NOAA Fisheries to strengthen its current proposed rule for bluefin tuna by reducing longline bycatch and protecting bluefin spawning rounds.

Surface longlines kill thousands of game fish, including blue and white marlin, sailfish, sharks and bluefin tuna. In 2012, longliners threw back dead nearly 25 percent of the U.S. bluefin quota. The IGFA is calling on NOAA Fisheries to help reverse this trend by implementing strong measures that will protect spawning bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico and hold surface longliners accountable for bluefin bycatch, both of which mean increased fishing opportunities for recreational anglers.

“Thanks to email and social media it is easier than ever for an angler to spread the word and support this measure,” Schratwieser continued. “It only takes 30 seconds to sign the petition and share it on Facebook or email. Showing fisheries managers that sportsmen are engaged and concerned about our resources is critical to enacting change.”

You can read the proposed full rule here.


Louisiana's Vitter Calls Out NOAA for Failure in Managing Fisheries

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is pushing back against NOAA’s failure to implement its own allocation policies and to provide leadership and direction to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. He says that he will “hold” the nominee to lead that agency until it agrees to address its responsibilities.

Even though the recreational fishery for red snapper is worth far more to the economy than the commercial, sports anglers are allocated just 49 percent of the catch, based on data from the 1980s. Back then, bycatch of juvenile red snapper by shrimp trawlers caused the recreational catch to decline by 87 percent.

“It shouldn’t have to come to this,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association.  “After all, NOAA is an agency charged with managing our public marine resources in a manner to achieve the greatest benefits to the nation and there is no way to manage any fishery to achieve that goal when the managing agency insists on adhering to an allocation that was set using catch history from the 1980s.  

“We really appreciate Senator Vitter stepping in to make NOAA Fisheries do its job.”

“Given all the turbulence surrounding Gulf red snapper over the past several years, it is past time to look at the fundamental underpinnings of how we manage this fishery,” added Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association.  “Ignoring the problem is irresponsible.”

The Secretary of Commerce is legally obligated, along with the Fishery Management Councils, to establish procedures to ensure a fair and equitable allocation of fish harvest for Gulf red snapper – and every other federally managed fishery.  The Obama Administration three years ago committed to review guidelines for implementing fair and equitable allocations.  While some preliminary work has been done to develop options for moving forward with allocation reviews, so far, neither NOAA nor any Council has produced such guidelines. 

“Federal managers simply must address allocation,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation.  “Our system of federal fisheries management is broken to a point where a United States Senator is compelled to force a federal agency to do a fundamental part of its job.  We support Sen. Vitter’s continued efforts to make government act responsibly.”

Read more here.


Anglers Win Important Election Battle in Australia

Good news for recreational fishing in Australia, as the Coalition government “swept to power in a landslide election victory.”

That’s because the Coalition seems much more rational about resource management than the previous Labor government, which was backed by anti-fishing extremists.

According to Fishing World:

“It is likely, insiders say, that the new government would favour ‘protecting what needs protecting’ but not necessarily banning fishing.

“The Coalition’s approach to marine protection is likely to be a bitter pill for the various anti-fishing groups, which have long campaigned for no compromise lockouts.”

Read the rest of the story here.

And, by the way, if you think that a similar anti-fishing movement isn’t actively campaigning to close off public waters to anglers in this country, you aren’t paying attention. The Obama Administration has especially emboldened them. Some of them are serving in it, in agencies such as the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. And many others are helping shape policy.


Another Troublesome Algae Season for Fisheries

Blue-green bloom in 2011 was worst in decades for western Lake Erie. Credit: MERIS/NASA; processed by NOAA/NOS/NCCOS

It’s that time of year --- algae season. No, not “allergy.” 


While troublesome jellyfish infestations are on the increase in our oceans, harmful algal blooms are growing in size and frequency in fresh water during summer and early fall.

And there’s even one of the latter now plaguing the salty water of Florida’s Biscayne Bay, according to the Miami Herald:

“Biscayne Bay, famed for its clear water and trophy bonefish, has been tainted by an algae bloom that may rank as the largest ever recorded in the bay.

“The bloom, which has left large swathes of the bay looking like pea soup and smelling like a Porta-Potty, appears to pose no human health risks and hasn’t produced any noticeable fish kills — at least not yet.

“But if it persists too long, it could damage fragile sea grass beds, disrupt the marine food chain and make boating, fishing and sand-bar bikini parties considerably less pleasant.”

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, the first alerts ever have been issued for blue-green algal blooms, according to the Courier-Journal:

“First, it was Taylorsville Lake to get a warning — the first such alert ever for a Kentucky lake. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Kentucky Division of Water area warning recreational users of potentially toxic situations at Rough River Lake and Barren River Lake.

“According to Naturally Connected, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection blog, there’s a difference between different type of algae:

“The more typical green algae, which are not harmful to humans or animals, come in many forms and may look like underwater moss, stringy mats or floating scum.

Cyanobacteria, on the other hand, looks like slicks of opaque, bright-green paint, but closer inspection often reveals the grainy, sawdust-like appearance of individual colonies of bacteria. The color of the algae may also appear as red or brown.

“All three lakes remain open, but these precautions are recommended:

  • “Avoid contact with visible algae and do not swallow water while swimming.
  • “Take a bath or shower with warm, soapy water after coming in contact with water in ponds and lakes, especially before preparing or consuming food.
  • “Prevent pets and livestock from entering the water or drinking untreated water from these sources. Livestock, pets and wild animals can be poisoned by the toxins produced by some algal blooms. Small animals can ingest a toxic dose quickly. Dogs are particularly susceptible to blue-green algae poisoning because the scum can attach to their coats and be swallowed during self-cleaning.
  • “Remove fish skin and organs before cooking and do not consume or allow pets/animals to consume the organs or skin.”

Finally, NOAA is telling us that blue-green blooms in western Lake Erie will be worse this year than last:

“NOAA and its research partners predict that the 2013 western Lake Erie harmful algal bloom (HAB) season will have a significant bloom of cyanobacteria, a toxic blue-green alga this summer. The predicted bloom is expected to be larger than last year, but considerably less than the record-setting 2011 bloom. Bloom impacts will vary across the lake’s western basin. This marks the second time NOAA has issued an annual outlook for western Lake Erie.

“Harmful algae blooms were common on western Lake Erie in the 1960s and 1970s. After a lapse of nearly 20 years, they have been steadily increasing over the past decade.”

What’s happening that’s encouraging jellyfish and algal blooms in our waters worldwide? Opinions among scientists vary. But one reason almost certainly is that these blooms are being fed by nutrient overload that pours into our rivers and oceans as runoff from agricultural lands and discharges from sewage plants.