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Entries in NOAA (66)


Gulf Red Snapper Fishing at Stake in Pending Lawsuit

There’s a lawsuit pending in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans that every recreational angler ought to be following like a hawk.
The case will decide whether public wildlife resources that rightly belong to all of us will instead be funneled into fewer and fewer hands -- and whether federal waters can be effectively walled off to private recreational anglers for the advantage of a tiny group of politically influential special interests.
NOAA Fisheries calls it “Amendment 40,” but it ought to be known as “Privatization 70,” because that’s what it does: if this scheme is allowed to stand, commercial fishing and charter boats will be handed a monopoly over more than 70 percent of the Gulf red snapper fishery, while recreational anglers are forced to watch from the docks.
Dysfunctional federal management has already resulted in a 10-day red snapper season these last two summers, down from 44 days the year before.
But it’s not just recreational anglers who are being short-changed.  More than 16,000 Americans owe their jobs to bait and tackle shops alone -- and that’s not even counting the big-box stores and chain retailers.  Altogether, the independent bait shops alone generate more than $796 million annually in payroll.
A red snapper season of just one weekend a year wreaks havoc on the Gulf economy, as everything from gas stations and motels to restaurants and tackle shops feels the impact. Unfortunately, nobody from NOAA took the time to evaluate the economic aftershocks.

What’s behind Amendment 40?  A lot of clever lawyering by the Environmental Defense Fund and their shill operations in the Gulf.  The unholy alliance: 387 commercial fishing operators; a handful of charter/for-hire operators, and a bunch of professional environmental lobbyists in Washington, D.C.  Coastal Conservation Association highlights the united front standing against us.
The white hats are fighting Amendment 40 in the U.S. District Court, and the State of Louisiana has recently weighed in with its support, filing an amicus brief in support of our position. 
A lot is at stake.  Stay tuned.  

From the Coastal Conservation Association 


Early Warning System Created for Harmful Algal Blooms

Lake Erie algal boom. Photo by Michigan Sea Grant

Four federal agencies have joined forces to create an early warning system for toxic and nuisance algal blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes and other freshwater systems.

Harmful algal blooms have emerged as a significant public health and economic issue that requires extensive scientific investigation,” said Suzette Kimball, acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

USGS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use satellites to gather color dates from freshwater bodies during scans of the Earth. They then will share the findings with state and local agencies so they can provide public health advisories when needed.

“In addition, the project will improve the understanding of the environmental causes and health effects of these cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms in the United States,” NOAA said in a press release.

NOAA added that these blooms are a global problem. “Cyanobacteria (blue-green alga)  is of particular concern because it produces toxins that can kill wildlife and domestic animals and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated freshwater and consumption of contaminated drinking water, fish, or shellfish,” it said.

HABs have been on the increase since the mid 1990s, according to Michigan Sea Grant College Program. In the Great Lakes, malfunctioning septic systems, products with phosphates (dishwater detergent) and nitrogen (lawn fertilizers), and urban and agricultural runoff likely have contributed.

“Some scientists also link the increase of harmful algal blooms to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes and the ability of the mussels to filter feed,” Sea Grant said. “Essentially, they eat the good algae and phytoplankton but release organisms like blue-green algae back into the water intact.”

HABs annually cost the nation about $64 million because of loss of recreational usage, additional treatment for drinking water, and decline in waterfront property values. In August 2014, Toledo, Ohio, an algal bloom in Lake Erie forced Toledo, Ohio, officials to temporarily ban consumption of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents.

The new collaborative network will build on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study microscopic algal communities in the ocean, which play a role in climate change, ocean ecology, and the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean.


National Policy for Saltwater Fishing Revealed

Advocates for saltwater fishing are applauding the National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy rolled out this week at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show.

“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “For the first time, NOAA Fisheries officially acknowledges the inherent differences between recreational and commercial fisheries -- and the need to manage the sectors differently.

“The rubber will meet the road in implementation, but this is a good roadmap,” he added.

“This policy represents a milestone in NOAA Fisheries’ relationship with the recreational fishing community,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “While the sportfishing industry and the recreational fishing community have been frustrated with saltwater fisheries management in federal waters, much of it is attributable to the lack of clear guidance within NOAA Fisheries for how to properly manage and consider recreational fishing's interests.

“This new policy sets forth a path for how the agency will elevate recreational fishing in a way that benefits both fisheries resources and public access to them.”

The policy identifies goals and guiding principles related to recreational fishing to be integrated -- top-down -- into NOAA Fisheries planning, budgeting, decision-making, and activities. The goals of the policy include the following:

 1) support and maintain sustainable saltwater recreational fisheries resources, including healthy marine and estuarine habitats

2) promote saltwater recreational fishing for the social, cultural, and economic benefit of the nation; and,

3) enable enduring participation in, and enjoyment of, saltwater recreational fisheries through science-based conservation and management.

Recreational anglers and boaters identified their primary priorities in the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management’s report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”

The Commission, headed by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Maverick Boats President Scott Deal, highlighted six key policies that would achieve the Commission’s vision. Establishment of a national policy for recreational saltwater fishing was its No. 1 recommendation. Other key elements include adoption of a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management; allocation of marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation, and creation of reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines.


ASA, RFA Oppose 'Sector Separation' for Red Snapper Fishery

Not surprisingly, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) also are critical of Amendment 40, which created “sector separation” in the recreational segment of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. (For more about this issue, see post below this one.) 

From ASA:

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is strongly opposed to sector separation and is deeply troubled that this poorly conceived and detrimental plan was passed by the Gulf Council.

In its 2013 position paper on sector separation, ASA urged federal fishery managers to remove saltwater recreational sector separation from all management plan discussions. ASA believes that sector separation will create serious conflicts between private anglers and charter/for-hire captains, and further diminish recreational fishing opportunities for red snapper.

“While we understand the charter/for-hire position, we in the tackle industry don’t see Amendment 40 as being in the best interests of the entire recreational fishing community,” said Gary Zurn, Big Rock Sports SVP Industry Relations. “The economic impacts of sector separation have not been clearly determined, but we know it will have a significant financial impact on the coastal communities and businesses throughout the Gulf region that support recreational fishing.”

From RFA:

President Obama has made it very clear that his "policies are on the ballot" in Tuesday's election - coastal fishermen should understand by now that those policies include blanket marine reserves, privatized fish stock, recreational catch shares, and sector separation.

Despite heavy opposition from individual saltwater anglers, local tackle shops, marinas, most of the for-hire sector captains in the United States, tackle shops, the governors of the coastal states and nearly every standing member of the U.S. Congress, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) voted to divide the recreational fishing community into pieces over the next three years.

In a 10-7 vote, the appointed fisheries managers, led by NOAA Fisheries' regional administrator Dr. Roy Crabtree, approved a proposal to split the Gulf recreational red snapper fishery between charter/for hire anglers and private recreational anglers. The so-called "sector separation" measure approved by the Gulf Council will take the entire recreational quota of red snapper and split it into pieces, with the for-hire sector getting their own share of the quota and private individual anglers getting the rest.

Strangely of course, the recreational for-hire sector caters to individual anglers who book charters or climb aboard head boats to fish for red snapper, making the entire sector separation debate more about divisiveness and less about fixing the problems with federal fisheries management. The new proposal essentially privatizes more of the red snapper stock by stealing open public access away from anglers.


Recreational Fishing Losses From Deepwater Horizon Estimated at $585 Million

Recreational angling took a hit of up to $585 million from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That’s the estimated value of lost fishing opportunities according to a new University of Florida study.

Researchers studied three types of anglers: those who fished from shore, those who piloted private or rental boats offshore, and those who paid for guide boats to take them fishing. They assigned an economic value for each of the three types of trips.

The researchers found that anglers fishing from shore and those that hire fishing guides lost the most, an average of $29.65 and $34.27 per trip, perhaps because they are less able to change their fishing conditions. Those who pilot their own boats lost the least at $2.23 per trip.

Researchers took data collected from interviews with saltwater anglers by NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program, which regularly surveys anglers on their catch. Each year approximately 40 million trips are taken in the U.S. Southeast.

They used about 70,000 fishing trips each year for five years, 2006 to 2010, to learn how each type of anglers changed fishing trips to avoid closures in federal fisheries following the oil spill. They arrived at the $585 million figure by multiplying the per-trip losses for each type of trip by the number of affected fishing trips, which was assumed to be for the year as if anglers could re-plan their trips to avoid closures, Larkin said.

The UF study is the first research study to estimate recreational fishing losses following such a large oil spill.

After a disaster such as an oil spill, trustees -- which could include federal, state or tribal authorities -- often attempt to secure financial compensation from those responsible.

In the Gulf oil spill, those monies would not go back to individual fishermen, but instead might fund ecosystem improvements or to stock more fish in the Gulf on the fishermen’s behalf, said UF food and resource economics professor Sherry Larkin.

In December 2012, BP agreed to pay $2.3 billion to commercial fishermen, seafood boat captains and crew, seafood vessel owners and oyster leaseholders, but trustees have yet to seek compensation on behalf of recreational fishermen.

“These are sizable losses borne by recreational users of publicly owned resources,” said Larkin, an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member. Because the oil spill affected thousands of square miles of fisheries, trustees could try to compensate for everyone who uses the Gulf in the future, Larkin said.

The study covers fishing areas off the coasts of Louisiana to Florida and up to North Carolina.

In Florida, following the oil spill, fishermen who normally might have gone to Pensacola, for example, would either not fish or might instead head to the Atlantic Coast, Larkin said.

UF/IFAS researchers used an economic formula that uses the cost of accessing a recreational activity, primarily travel costs, to assess the activity’s value.

At 206 million gallons, the Deepwater Horizon was the largest marine oil spill in history. Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, trustees can recover public losses from responsible parties. Larkin said she does not know if the UF study will ever be used in legal cases against BP, Deepwater Horizon or other potentially responsible parties.

The study authors emphasize their model only depicts losses for recreational fishermen, not commercial fishermen, hotels, restaurants, retail establishments that lost money after the BP oil spill. It also doesn’t measure ecosystem losses.

The study appeared online in July in the Journal of Environmental Management.