Friday, April 13, 2007

Ocean Fishermen are Catching and Releasing More Fish These Days

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recreational anglers reeling in ocean species have been catching more fish in recent years, but they've also been releasing their catch more often.

Ocean sport fishing is a big business, supporting almost 350,000 jobs and contributing $30.5 billion to the US economy, according to NOAA's 2004 report, "The Economic Importance of Marine Angler Expenditures in the United States." Another 2004 report, "Fisheries of the United States," showed that the 10-year trend for fish caught recreationally was up by 11 percent since 1994. However, the number of fish the anglers actually keep has remained flat, showing no significant growth over the past decade - a statistic that points to better catch and release practices by ocean-going anglers. Catch and release fishing is one of the keys to maintaining stable and healthy sport fish populations.

Of the 10 most popular recreational species, the majority of fish (60 percent on average) are released alive. The report identified anglers' top catches as spotted sea trout, Atlantic croaker, summer flounder and striped bass.

Recreational fishing continues to be one of the most popular outdoor sports. Anglers took nearly 82 million saltwater trips in 2003. While participation in marine recreational fishing fell eight percent from the previous year, the 10-year trend is still positive with the number of anglers up seven percent and the number of trips up nine percent.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ocean Fish Populations At Risk of Collapse Or Extinction Within 40 Years

A new study shows that the oceans' fish are being depleted so fast that eating seafood might be just a memory in 40 years. The researchers say more is at stake than our diet, for they find the dwindling of fish stocks hurts the world economically and the ocean environmentally. Researchers say it is not too late to reverse the trend.

A team of North American and European marine biologists and economists reports that our taste for fish has caused some ocean species to disappear since the 1800s, a trend that has accelerated in recent years.

The lead researcher, Canadian Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia says that roughly one-third of seafood species have collapsed so far. That means their catch has declined 90 percent below the historic maximum. Of these sea species, seven percent have become extinct.

"If this trend continues, if we don't change the way we are managing ocean ecosystems, this trend projects that 100 percent of species will collapse by the year 2048 or around that," he said.

Worm's team arrived at this conclusion after reviewing many studies that monitored the impact of species loss on smaller, local scales and by checking historical archives to track changes in species diversity over the past one-thousand years in 12 coastal regions around the world. They also compiled seafood catch data from 64 large ocean fisheries and analyzed fisheries databases compiled by the United Nations and the University of British Columbia.

The international managing editor of the journal Science that published the study, Andrew Sugden in London, says the findings reveal planet-wide trends that mirror what scientists have found at smaller scales.

"I think the strength of this work lies in the breadth in the array of information that the authors have used for their analysis," he noted. "This analysis is global in scope."

From all the data, Worm's group found that not only are fisheries affected by the species decline, but so is the oceans' overall health.

"There was a decrease in water quality," added Mr. Worm. "For example, harmful algae blooms shot up by 450 percent, oxygen depleted areas increased by more than 300 percent, and so on. So there were negative consequences in the coastal environment that were felt by the humans who were living nearby."

The researchers say many of the economic activities along coasts rely on diverse systems and the healthy waters they supply. When they examined marine areas that had been restored, protected locations such as reserves and those closed to fishing, they found that fish catches increased substantially and the waters were much less susceptible to human and environmental disturbances.

"There are signs people are trying to turn this around and that it's not too late to turn this around," he explained. "We can do this, we know how to do this, and it can be done, but it must be done soon."

A conservationist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California who was not involved in the study, George Leonard, says safeguarding the seafood supply will require finding new ways to restore healthy fisheries.

"If we are going to continue to eat seafood, we're going to have to work darn hard to be sure that there are enough fish in the sea to consume," he said. "That is, fisheries management is going to have to work hard to ensure sustainable fisheries."


VOA News Service
Author: David McAlary
First published: November 2, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Coloring Book About Fishing

I just came across a cute online publication of the Fish & Wildlife service, a coloring book called "Fishing ABC's" you can download as a PDF file and print out for any young anglers in the house. Seems like a great way for kids to pass the time while waiting for a nibble, which as we all know can sometimes take a while.

The coloring book features pictures of catfish, sunfish, gar, trout, perch, salmon, bass, walleye, northern pike, an eel, as well as other animals you'll find around wetlands like herons, frogs, crayfish, and dragonflies. It also teaches important lessons about pollution, habitat preservation, fishing safety, and overfishing.

Here's where to download the PDF files for the coloring book:

Fishing ABC's Book Cover

Fishing ABC's Coloring Book

Fish are Good for You! New Studies Pinpoint Their Nutritional Benefits

Two new U.S. studies say the nutritional benefits of eating fish outweigh the potential hazards from environmental contaminants. Some environmental and consumer groups dispute the finding.

You may have heard that fish contain mercury and other compounds called PCBs and dioxins that can be harmful physically. But Harvard University doctors and a separate panel of private experts reporting to the U.S. government say eating fish regularly is very healthy, especially for the heart.

One of the authors of the Harvard study, Dariush Mozaffarian, puts it this way.

"The benefits of eating fish are far greater than the potential risks. If you eat a fish and it has some mercury in it, you might be getting less benefit from that fish than if it did not have mercury in it, but the overall benefit is still positive," he said.

The Harvard team says that benefits are great even for women of childbearing age if they avoid certain fish that are likely to contain mercury levels dangerous to fetuses. The second study lists them as predatory fish with long lifespans, such as swordfish, shark, and tilefish.

This study is by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences that uses private experts to investigate issues for the U.S. government. Like the Harvard study, it is a summary of recent major research on fish consumption.

Both reports note that consumers are faced with conflicting evidence about eating fish. It is a good protein source containing the type of fat considered healthy for the heart. But some species absorb toxins present in the environment, causing confusion about the role of fish in a healthy diet.

So Institute of Medicine committee member David Bellinger, a Harvard nerve specialist not associated with the Harvard study, offers this advice.

"Because of the uncertainties, especially on the risk side, consumers should consume a variety of fish because the fish that contain one contaminant may not be the same fish that contain another contaminant, so that by consuming a variety of species, the benefits can be maximized, but the overall risk profile can be managed," he noted.

A U.S. environmental group disputes the findings. The National Environmental Trust argues that the two studies ignore evidence that chemicals used as flame retardants are also pervasive in the environment and contaminate fish. In addition, the organization's vice-president for marine conservation, Gerald Leape, says boosting fish consumption would strain wild fish populations that already suffer from overfishing and cause expansion of fish farms where contaminants are more prevalent.

"They have left out a true examination of the role of contamination, and there was no effort to take into account the ecological impacts not only of wild fish captures, but also of aquaculture farming," he said.

Another group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, warns that fish and shellfish are significant sources of cholesterol, a factor in heart disease. It points out that shellfish in particular have more cholesterol than an equivalent amount of beef.

But Harvard University's Dariush Mozaffarian counters with one of the main findings of his study.

"We found that a modest intake of fish, about one or two servings per week, was enough to reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by about 35 percent, which is a considerable effect," he explained.


VOA News Service
Author: David McAlary
First published: October 17, 2006

Catch and Release Guidelines

Catch and release fishing can help preserve populations of sport fish in habitats under pressure from overfishing, overdevelopment, and other human activities. Studies on trout streams and largemouth bass lakes have demonstrated that catch and release can be a very sound method for maintaining quality fisheries. The following guidelines from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will help ensure the health and well-being of the fish you catch and release:
  • Never play a fish to complete exhaustion. Use tackle of sufficient strength for the potential size of your quarry.

  • If possible, unhook the fish while it is in the water.

  • Try to avoid handling the fish. If you must handle it, thoroughly wet your hands in advance to avoid undue disturbance of its mucous coating, the protective secretion that helps keep a fish healthy.

  • If you must remove a fish from the water, keep its “air time” to a minimum. Studies have shown that a species such as the brook trout can suffer gill desiccation (drying) in as little as 20 seconds. The more damage to a fish's gill tissue, the greater the likelihood the fish will perish.

  • Try using one of the newer landing nets, which feature a soft rubber mesh (instead of cloth mesh) net bag. They are much easier on the skin and mucous membrane.

  • Be aware of water temperatures. A trout caught in warming waters (especially near that threatening 70-degree temperature zone) may not survive upon release. It might be wiser to wait and fish on a cooler day.

  • Catch and release is most effective when anglers show restraint. While you might be able to catch 100 fish in a day at some locations, that doesn't mean all will survive when released. In fact, the mortality percent could be far higher than that of an angler who wanted to catch just one or two fish for the pan.
Following these basic rules for catch-and-release angling will help keep your favorite fishing holes full of fish. Your fellow anglers (and the fish) will thank you!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski Reels in a 63-Pound King Salmon

Can't say I always agree with her politics (there's a reason they call them wildlife refuges, not oil well refuges) but wow, that's a big fish. And I have to give Senator Murkowski some conservation credit since she caught this monster king salmon as part of a benefit fundraiser to preserve habitat along Alaska's Kenai River. So as one angler to another, nice catch Senator! See the photo of the 63-pounder.

Amazing Fishing Video - Bombardment by Fish!

This is easily one of the most astounding and hilarious things I've ever seen - two guys in a boat in Brazil, who don't even look like fishermen (there's not a rod in sight), cruising along at night and shining a spotlight across the waterway they're navigating. And suddenly, probably attracted by the light, there are fish flying through the air on all sides. Within a few minutes they have a boatful. If only fishing were this easy - though to be honest the whole episode looks a bit dangerous as well. A hurtling 2-pound fish to the eye wouldn't be much fun. It truly has to be seen to be believed, so sit back and enjoy the piscine pelting: Crazy Nocturnal Airborne Fish Video on Yahoo!

(Kudos to anyone who can identify what kind of fish those are as they're flying by.)