The Blog Aquatic » fishing tackle News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Government Casts a New Line on Fishery Data Collection Tue, 04 Jun 2013 15:36:19 +0000 TJ Marshall Credit: Our Enchanted Garden via Flickr

Credit: Our Enchanted Garden via Flickr

As an avid recreational fisherman, it was a welcomed surprise last week to learn that seven days would be added to one of my favorite times of year: red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, red snapper have been severely overfished in the Gulf but are now on their way back. As the fishery and the fishing improve, so is the technology to monitor catches — a critical component to ensure the health of this iconic species.

Way back in the golden era of recreational fishing, shortly after World War II, American prosperity grew and with it came dramatic technological advances in small outboard engines, fiberglass boats, fishing rods and reels.   A new era of fishermen was born and the technology for counting catches needed to…well, catch up.

The freedom to fish alone or with a few friends at anytime during a set season and anywhere you can launch a boat or cast from shore is one of the timeless pleasures of recreational fishing. There’s nothing like getting outdoors and catching a few fish.  With more fishermen taking more fish out of the water than ever before, we need to make sure fisheries are healthy and have the numbers to support themselves. Individually, sometimes it seems our catch is not equating to too much, yet collectively the numbers really add up. Each one of those days an individual fisherman puts a hook in the water adds up to millions of fishing trips per year. In fact, there were more than 23 million fishing trips last year in the Gulf!

With so many angler trips, the only way to collect fish data that is cost effective and unobtrusive is through a survey. These surveys look at things such as the kinds and numbers of fish caught, and are used to help determine the health of fish populations and what may be changing in the fishery. Estimates of the amount of fish caught by fishermen contribute to assessments that tell us the amount of fish that can be safely caught without harming the fishery.

Much like weather forecasting and political polling in elections, these estimates can change once all the information is in. As surveys continue to improve and we better understand ecologically, culturally and economically important aspects of fisheries, the estimates will improve too. This is exactly why there is now seven extra days to fish for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico this season.  (The most recent red snapper health assessment is under review and we may see further increases to the 2013 fishing season. More on this after the fishery managers meet to discuss results in June.)

Even with limited federal funding, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), driven by a National Research Council report from 2006, was able to develop the promising Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). It took years of pilot projects and reviews before MRIP became operational in 2013. NMFS continues to evolve MRIP with continuous improvements and innovative projects.

Again, while it’s a welcome surprise that I have an additional seven days to hit Gulf waters to try my luck at catching red snapper (which has been phenomenal if I say so myself), I’d be remiss not to note that we need to expect to take the good and the bad.  Improvements in the system don’t necessarily mean seasons will always get longer. Some may in fact have to shorten do to the greater precision of surveys.  And, just as important, we must always keep in mind that recreational fishing is a growth sport and the advancement of models, surveys and estimates from past years of fishing don’t necessarily make an exact prediction for a coming year.  In the end, we simply need to be conservation minded and cautiously approach fishing limits to keep the balance between the freedom to fish and sustainable fisheries.

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Cleanups: Going after Clean Water Hook, Line and Sinker Wed, 12 Sep 2012 18:15:40 +0000 Catherine Fox

Fishing is fine on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Credit: Catherine Fox

Fishing. It’s a cherished pastime that takes us away from the daily grind and instantly sets the mind at ease. “When the fish are biting, no problem in the world is big enough to be remembered,” said writer Orlando A. Battista.

Whether you love fishing or just enjoy the thrill of walking along a clean beach and watching wildlife, it’s important to understand that lost tackle can have serious consequences if we don’t clean it up.

Fishing gear lost in the water may not seem like a big deal compared with other types of trash, but when left behind inadvertently by fishermen whose lines break or snag, it’s a definite hazard:

The one (thing) that got away

The small nonprofit Partners for Clean Streams on the outskirts of Toledo, Ohio, participates in Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup each fall and also cleans local waterways in spring and summer.

It’s easy to see why line is a hazard to wildlife. Courtesy of Partners for Clean Streams.

Like Cleanup volunteers everywhere, they find huge amounts of fishing line, often hooks, jigs and lead sinkers attached. The organization recognized the importance of removing trash, including these items, to protect the aquatic environment—not to mention the local fishing experience.

“White bass and walleye run mid-April in the Maumee River where we work,” explained Ava Slotnick, outreach coordinator. “The river—the largest going into Lake Erie—is an important breeding ground.”

That geography is significant, says Ocean Conservancy Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos: “Lakes, rivers and streams may seem like isolated ecosystems, but it’s important to remember the ocean is downstream from all of us. Fishing gear that enters freshwater ecosystems can find its way into the ocean where it will persist for a very long time.”

Environment – and economy
Another key point is how important all these fish and fishermen are to local communities. “The fishing business here is a huge part of our economy,” Ava told me. “Anglers are out there in waders and boats, bumping elbows. A lot of commerce happens; you can imagine the hotel boom and full restaurants during fishing season.”

Recycling sinkers

Partners for Clean Streams started the Get the Lead Out! program eight years ago. Volunteers have collected more than 90 pounds of sinkers, impressive when you realize

Hooks and sinkers. Courtesy of Partners for Clean Streams.

many are BB-sized. “We resell the lead to Zap Lures in Sylvania,” said Slotnick. “They melt and reuse it, coating new sinkers to help keep lead from leaching out.”

What you can do
Fishing line is  the number-one wildlife entanglement item found during the International Coastal Cleanup. Fishing company Berkley has recycled more than 9 million miles worth of fishing line, and welcomes old line from anyone. They make it into new products like tackle boxes.

And the “Reel in and Recycle” program at BoatU.S. Foundation provides collection bins you can hang at piers and other fishing sites, plus a video on how to build your own.

A local Bass Pro Shops store mails the line in for Partners for Clean Streams, a budget-saver for the tiny nonprofit. It just goes to show that everyone—from nonprofits to volunteers from the community to businesses—has a role to play when it comes to protecting clean water.

The joy of cleanups
Ava Slotnick clearly loves cleanups, especially when she takes young people out on the river: “One teen got in the water and said, ‘This is the first time I’ve been in the Maumee River and I live ten minutes away!’ You could just tell by the look on his face that he thought it was so cool.”

“And that’s where the joy is, in making this transition for people from the notion ‘nature is out there and I can’t do much with it’ to really being out in the water and learning from it,” she says.

Last year, Partners for Clean Streams got 726 volunteers out for their Clean Your Streams event, part of the International Coastal Cleanup. In three hours they picked up 15,315 pounds of trash.

So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re inland or on the coast, sign up for the International Coastal Cleanup in September, connect with the water and have a great time making a difference!

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