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Entries in NOAA (71)

Tuesday
Apr172018

Florida Sets 40-Day Season For Red Snapper in Gulf Waters

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Gov. Rick Scott are excited to announce a 40-day recreational red snapper season for both Gulf state and federal waters. A 24-day season was originally proposed.

Gov. Scott said, “Florida is a premier fishing destination and saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has a $7.6 billion economic impact in our state every year. Adding additional opportunities for anglers to enjoy Florida’s world-class fishing not only benefits our visitors but also our Gulf Coast communities. I am pleased to announce this extension today, and encourage visitors and residents to start planning their summer fishing trips.”

“Florida is an important access point throughout the nation and world for recreational red snapper fishing,” said FWC Chairman Bo Rivard. “With other Gulf states setting longer seasons than what Florida had initially proposed, it was important for us to find a fair resolution that would provide equal access to red snapper in Florida. FWC worked collaboratively with NOAA Fisheries to come up with a season that would provide access to all of those that choose Florida as their fishing destination. We appreciate the leadership from Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Congressman Neal Dunn and we are excited to announce that extension today.”  

Florida will be setting the season in 2018 and 2019 in both state and federal waters through a fishery-management pilot program (also referred to as an Exempted Fishing Permit). The 2018 proposed season would open June 11 and close July 21.

This recreational season will include those fishing for red snapper from private recreational vessels. For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit are also included but are limited to targeting reef fish in Gulf state waters only.

This Exempted Fishing Permit will not apply to commercial fishermen or for-hire operations with a valid federal reef fish permit. 

Tuesday
Apr052016

War on Bass Is Spreading

If you fish for bass outside the Midwest and Southeast, chances are that you are catching "non-native" fish.

"So what?" you ask. I'll tell you.

In the wake of the state of Washington joining Oregon to remove limits on bass on the Columbia River, Congress has just painted a big, red bull's eye on North America's most popular game fish outside its native range. Since it has established populations in 49 states, that covers a broad area--- including Texas.

Following a hearing entitled “The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Fish Species" in Washington, D.C., you can bet  that environmental groups across the country also will look to portray non-native fish in general, and black bass specifically, as Public Enemy No. 1 in issues related to protection of native aquatic species. It's the old "monkey see, monkey do" corollary.

To put it mildly, B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland was irate in the aftermath, pointing out that those chosen to testify clearly favored "the native species crowd."

An "expert" who received the most speaking time said,  "Bass species are good for the sole purpose of sportfishing and this isn't a good reason to keep them around," according to Melanie Sturm of the American Sportfishing Association.

Additionally, Will Stelle from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (NOAA)  proved be a "strong proponent that predators (sea lions and birds, along with non-native fish) are a huge problem," Sturm said. She added that Stelle argued "control programs should swiftly be implemented and NOAA welcomes legislation to do that."

And here's the exclamation point: "A lobbyist for ASA talked to Pelosi (House Minority Leader Nancy) face-to-face and she told him these non-native fish have got to go . . . Period," Gilliland said.

In the real world, meanwhile, the black bass'  only crime is its adaptability. But its high profile makes it a convenient scapegoat for opportunistic politicians catering to frustrated native fish advocates and a multitude of other interests who demand that something--- anything--- be done to stop the demise of native species and/or deal with complicated water management issues.

For years, Ground Zero for this issue has been the West Coast. But the groundwork was laid decades before, when the needs of salmon were given little consideration as more and more water was diverted from the California Delta to irrigate farm fields and supply cities and as the Columbia and other Northwest rivers were dammed for hydropower and irrigation.

Additionally, bass and other warmwater species were stocked by both the states and federal government, and, as they thrived, salmon declined. Today, an argument actually could be made that salmon  are the non-natives in these highly altered systems, which more closely resemble the warm waters and lake environments where bass evolved.

Do bass prey on young salmon? Yes, they do, but the numbers are insignificant in the "big picture" of declining salmon stocks. Study after study shows it. And they do so only because altered ecosystems facilitate the predation.

"I suppose the numbers can say whatever you want them to say if you put on your 'bias pants' when you go to work," said Lonnie Johnson, conservation director for the Oregon B.A.S.S. Nation. "Is there predation. Yes. Is it significant? Highly questionable."

Those in Congress who now want to wage war against bass in a futile attempt to bring back salmon would be well advised to acquaint themselves with Peter Moyle, a professor in the University of California- Davis’s Wildlife Fish and Conservation Biology Department and an honest broker on this issue.

"The historic Delta ecosystem cannot be restored," he said. "The Delta of today bears almost no resemblance to the Delta of 100 years ago. . .  Only three percent of the historical wetland acreage exists today. About the only familiar features would be the main sloughs and river channels, and even they have high levees on both sides."

Although specific alterations are different, the same is true for the Columbia and other rivers of the Northwest.

Preserving native species requires intensive management of human-dominated ecosystems  that contain a mixture of native and non-native species, Moyle added. "We humans decide by our actions which of these species are desirable and worth preserving often without making a conscious choice.qqq"

That's exactly what happened during the early 20th century, when governments and developers decided irrigation, water supply, and hydropower were more important than healthy salmon runs.

But that won't stop the bass blame-game by native fish and environmental groups and the politicians who are all too eager to curry their favor.

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

Monday
Jan182016

Lake Erie Algae Bloom Worst on Record

The algae bloom that smothered much of Lake Erie this past summer was the worst on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That means it was even more severe than the 2011 bloom, which stretched along the shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland, and considerably larger than the 2014 bloom that contaminated the water supply for nearly a half-million people.

The 2015 bloom also was more dense, but fortunately migrated toward deep water. "Fortunately, the bloom moved into the center of the central basin rather than along the shore, resulting in less impact along both coasts," said NOAA's Rick Stumpf.

Fueled by heavy rains, it covered an area of about 300 square miles with a thick, paint-like scum by mid August. But the actual bloom was larger, NOAA said, adding just how big is still being determined.

Rains notwithstanding, the bloom's severity suggests that resource managers haven't been doing enough to minimize runoff pollution.

 "It would be hard to find much evidence of progress based on what we saw this year," said Jeff Reutter, former director of the Ohio Sea Grant Program.

On the positive side, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario recently agreed to sharply reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into western Lake Erie by 40 percent in 10 years. Changes already implemented included limiting when farmers can spread fertilizers and manure on their fields.

With much of that pollution flowing in from the Maumee River in western Ohio, many would like Ohio to pursue a federal impairment designation for the lake. A similar designation for Chesapeake Bay brought in $2.2 billion to help mitigate damage and reduce the amount of algae-feeding nutrients that flow into the bay.

 

Sunday
Nov082015

NOAA Continues to Ignore Economic Value of Recreational Fishing

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to ignore the economic value of recreational fishing, and, as a consequence of that, it likely will continue to ignore/undervalue it in its management decisions for species such as Gulf of Mexico red snapper. And that  will translate into allocations that unfairly restrict recreational fishing.The following is a commentary from Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation about that federal favoritism for commercial fishing:

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its annual “Fisheries of the United States” report this week — but once again, when it comes to the economic value of recreational fishing, NOAA entirely missed the boat (excuse the pun).

"That’s because NOAA’s report overlooks the economic impact of recreational fishing entirely — just like last year (and for two years before).

"According to NOAA, commercial fishing generated $5.4 billion in revenues last year. That’s great for our economy and for the commercial fishing sector — as far as it goes.

"But what about the economic contribution of recreational fishing?

"Nada, zero, zip. At least according to the bureaucrats at NOAA.

"It’s as if recreational fishing doesn’t even happen.

"The last time NOAA even looked at the value of recreational fishing, back in 2011, it estimated the economic value at $23.4 billion. For the arithmetically challenged, that’s more than four times the contribution of the commercial sector — and that’s based on 2011 numbers.

"NOAA’s fisheries report is emblematic of the bigger problem in Washington, DC: a tendency to underplay and under-appreciate the much greater economic impact of recreational fishing.

"When Congress reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Act, let’s make sure the real story gets told: just taking into account the agency’s 2011 estimates, the $23.4 billion annual economic contribution of recreational fishing dwarfs the $5.4 billion now being touted by NOAA as the value of the commercial sector.

"Federal fisheries policy ought to reflect that fact — not ignore it."

Friday
Oct232015

Congress Considers Future for Gulf Red Snapper Fishery

The future of red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico was on the line yesterday in Washington, D.C, as the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will debated HR. 3094--- the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act. This legislation, sponsored by Garret Graves (R-La.), would shift management of red snapper from the federal government and allow the states to manage the entire fishery.

 “We learned a few things in today’s hearing, but the take-home message is that federal management of the Gulf red snapper remains mired in chaos," said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation, following the haring.

"We learned that the recreational angling community and all five Gulf States stand united in favor of state management of red snapper. Despite a wave of pre-hearing propaganda, we learned that most charter operators are in favor of the state management because they, too, want an end to the current federal management program of privatization."

Meanwhile, NOAA wants anglers to ignore what they see every day in the Gulf, Angers said, adding that the federal agency "asked Congress to believe that the snapper stock is still only half rebuilt and will not fully recover until 2032."

In other words, the federal government wants to continue to deny reasonable access to recreational anglers, continuing seasons that are 10 days or possibly even shorter. Meanwhile, using  a "catch shares" strategy of divide and conquer in privatizing a public resource, it is supported by the commercial fishing industry and a small group of charter captains who are guaranteed "shares" of the fishery.

"The management agency for every Gulf state has come to the same conclusion as recreational anglers--- federal management of red snapper is a failure," Angers said.

"Recreational anglers--- the people who go fishing on weekends and holidays with their kids and families--- have no voice in federal fisheries management. The recreational community is united in its conviction that the states will bring balance back into the red snapper fishery to do what is necessary to manage it both for the benefit of everyone - commercial, for-hire and recreational anglers--- and for the health of the resource."

Businesses have "relentlessly manipulated the federal system and have already been given personal ownership of a percentage of the red snapper fishery or are on their way to being gifted a share to use as their own, however and whenever they want," said Sport Fishing.

“It is not fair that America’s sportsmen who voluntarily give $1.5 billion annually toward rebuilding fish species and protecting their habitat are being kept at the water’s edge now that the snapper population is healthy again," Angers said.

“Congress should act quickly to pass this important measure that will give legal recognition to the historic cooperative agreement by the Fish and Wildlife agencies of the five Gulf States -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas -- to assume management of the Gulf red snapper.”