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Archive for the ‘Louisiana Wetlands’ Category

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Eric Cosby of Top Brass (foreground) and his brother Artie display a double hook-up on bull reds at the mouth of the Mississippi River during Marsh Mdness 2012. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

 

May 21, 2013 (Washington, DC) – This morning, Chris Horton, Midwest States Director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), testified before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill.

The hearing focused on data collection issues in relation to the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). As the primary statute governing fishing activities in federal waters, the MSA expires on October 1, 2013. Several provisions in the last reauthorization of the MSA in 2006 are beyond the capabilities of the National Marine Fisheries Service to adequately implement. The result has been a confusing series of non-science-based restrictions on America’s recreational anglers that have greatly eroded trust in the federal management system and significantly reduced recreational fishing opportunities.

The focal point of Horton’s testimony before the subcommittee was twofold: recreational saltwater anglers are an important and significant component of our nation’s marine fisheries, and that commercial and recreational fisheries are fundamentally different activities, with dissimilar harvest data collection systems and thus require different management approaches. “As important as the data collection issue is, a concurrent review of the fishery quota allocations will need to be a part of the discussion for some fisheries in light of significant social, economic and environmental changes that have occurred with our nation’s fisheries resources,” Horton stated.

The last reauthorization of the MSA, for all intents and purposes, used the same management strategy for both recreational and commercial fisheries – primarily poundage-based hard quotas with accountability measures. “Instead of trying to force a management system designed for commercial fisheries onto recreational fisheries, NOAA should be tasked with developing a rational recreational fishery management system that uses the data available to us now,” Horton stated.

“It is not possible to contact every recreational angler and count every fish they catch, which is necessary to be successful under the current strategy. We would be better served to take a page from inland fish and wildlife management agencies who have effectively managed fisheries based on mortality rates and population indices and not on biomass,” Horton continued.

Horton works on various sportsmen’s related issues, including recreational saltwater angling and was recently appointed to NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee’s Recreational Fisheries Working Group. For more information, contact Cole Henry at cole@sportsmenslink.org.

Since 1989 the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has maintained a singleness of purpose that has guided the organization to become the most respected and trusted sportsmen’s organization in the political arena. CSF’s mission is to work with Congress, governors, and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, recreational fishing and shooting and trapping. The unique and collective force of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), working closely with CSF, and with the support of major hunting, recreational fishing and shooting, and trapping organizations, serves as an unprecedented network of pro-sportsmen elected officials that advance the agenda of America’s hunters and anglers.

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Tim Kizer of Arkansas fishes a segment of the Louisiana wetlands where sediment from the Mississippi River is being diverted to rebuild the marsh, creating sustainable redfish habitat. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Robust fisheries have a positive impact on conservation and the economy

Washington, D.C. – May 6, 2013 – Restoring and expanding coastal and estuarine habitat leads to increases in fish populations, which have a positive impact on the communities and the industries that depend on thriving and sustainable fisheries.

A report released today by Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) and the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and co-authored with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – More Habitat Means More Fish – makes a powerful case that investing in our nation’s coastlines and estuaries leads to healthy habitat and strong fisheries, which has a positive impact on the businesses and industries, both recreational and commercial, that need healthy fisheries to survive and thrive.

The full report, More Habitat Means More Fish, is available for downloading in PDF format via the RAE and ASA websites.

Among the findings are:

Over 75 percent of our nation’s commercial fish catch and 80-90 percent of the recreational fish catch depend on key estuary habitat at some point in their lifecycle.

Fish populations can respond quickly to habitat improvement and the impact will last over an extended period of time. Rebounds in fish populations can occur within months and persist for years.

In San Francisco Bay, restored salt marshes have improved 41 fish species including steelhead trout, Pacific herring, green sturgeon and Chinook salmon.

Since 2000, in Massachusetts and New York, herring, shad and sturgeon have doubled and tripled in population due to habitat restoration projects. Just two years after a single culvert was repaired connecting Bride Brook to Long Island Sound, the herring population more than tripled from 75,000 to 287,000.

An oyster reef restoration project in Alabama increased populations of several economically-important species, including blue crab, red drum, spotted seatrout, and flounder.

“Investing in coastal and estuarine habitat restoration is essential not only for the long-term future of our fisheries but also because it helps support economies and communities through the recreational and commercial fishing industries,” said Jeff Benoit, president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries. “In order to have fish, we have to have healthy habitat. If we want more fish, we need more healthy habitat.”

American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman noted, “As an industry, we are keenly aware of the impact that sportfishing has on our nation’s habitat restoration efforts. In many ways, America’s anglers are the nation’s most powerful force for conserving our nation’s fisheries and waters, investing more than $1 billion dollars each year in fisheries management and conservation through taxes on fishing equipment and state fishing license sales.”

The report notes that strategic habitat restoration is required, particularly in an era of shrinking budgets. “The big challenges that fisheries face are increasingly habitat challenges. Without healthy habitat, we cannot sustain the fisheries that will feed Americans now and into the future,” said Eric C. Schwaab, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

The full report is available via RAE and ASA.

### Founded in 1995, Restore America’s Estuaries is a national alliance of 11 regional, coastal conservation organizations with more than 250,000 volunteer-members dedicated to preserving our nation’s estuaries.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.

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From left: Gabe Galster, Tim Kizer and Joe DiMarco in the Louisiana wetlands with a batch of fresh-run reds. Photo by Lew Carpenter

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The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is the legislation that Congress uses to determine policy for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and to decide which water projects will get built.

Getting this bill right is critical for maintaining the health of our nation’s rivers, streams, wetlands and coastlines—and the people, jobs, and wildlife that depend on these resources. Unfortunately, the current WRDA is moving at a speed that precludes public discussion of its provisions. The bill was introduced just 3 weeks ago on a Friday evening, marked up the following Wednesday, and now seems likely to end up before the entire Senate on Wednesday.20130409-074910.jpg

Unfortunately, this version of WRDA contains two provisions (sections 2033 and 2032) that strike at the heart of our nation’s environmental review process. They will obstruct not only reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, but also under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other landmark environmental laws.

These two sections must be removed from the final bill before passage. If passed into law as it is, this bill:

• Will limit scientific analysis and drive bad decisions Environmental review documents are often hundreds of pages long and full of dense scientific language: the accelerated deadlines in this bill will not give members of the public or agencies such as the USFWS or the EPA time to read one of these reviews—let alone to consult experts and perform the analyses necessary to draft informed public comments. Among many other problems, these provisions direct the Corps to fine agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service up to $20,000 a week for missing the arbitrary and accelerated deadlines and will let the Corps send even technical disagreements to the President. To try to avoid these fines and higher level reviews, agencies — already facing restricted budgets — will rush to complete reviews without all the information or performing independent analyses, increasing the likelihood that unnecessarily destructive projects will be approved. Good science takes time, and this legislation simply does not give experts enough time to make informed decisions.

• Will not speed up project construction The review process is not the main cause of delays in federal water projects. Delays are driven by funding constraints, the Corps’ $60–80 billion project backlog, and the Corps’ insistence on planning highly destructive and controversial projects when less damaging approaches are available. These streamlining provisions are being driven by ideology, and will not a make a practicable difference in speeding up construction.

• Will move water planning backwards The bill will allow the corps to continue planning unnecessarily costly and destructive projects instead of using low impact solutions — for example, reconnecting streams with floodplains— which are frequently the most cost-effective way to solve water planning challenges.

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As efforts to restore the Mississippi River Delta roll forward, sportsmen from across the nation continue to lend a hand – offering voice and influence to rebuild this special place. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) along with other important partners has been at the forefront of these efforts – nationally and regionally – for decades.

With the creation of the Vanishing Paradise campaign in 2009, NWF began to nationalize efforts to restore the delta by educating hunters and anglers about the issue, as well as engaging and mobilizing them to action.

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The Vanishing Paradise Advisory Council and staff at Ryan Lambert’s Cajun Fishing Adventures lodge in Buras, Louisiana. Front, from left: Land Tawney, Eric Cosby, Teeg Stouffer and David Dellucci. Row 2, from left: Ben Weber, Ryan Lambert, Andy McDaniels, Gabe Galster, Tim Kizer, Hal Herring and Jared Mott. Rear, from left: Noel Vick and Lew Carpenter.

Vanishing Paradise has had many successes to date culminating in the securing of funds from the BP oil spill back to restoration in late June through the RESTORE Act. Now, NWF has formed a Vanishing Paradise Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (VPSAC) to enhance and expand its relationships with our nation’s sportsmen and women who have a passion to carry on our collective conservation legacy. Council members were asked to join the council because of their passion for passing on a conservation legacy, knowledge within the sportsmen community and capacity (in the form of volunteer time, relationships and expertise). Members include representatives from the hunting and fishing industry, conservation community and media who have a keen interest in the Mississippi River Delta.

“As a resident of Louisiana, some of my fondest childhood memories in the outdoors are of my trips to the Louisiana marshes duck hunting and red fishing with my dad and grandfather,” said VPSAC member David Dellucci, Baton Rouge native and former World Series professional outfielder. “I have personally seen the rapidly eroding coastline through the years, and as a father myself I want to make sure my child has the same opportunities enjoying our “Sportsman’s Paradise” that I had. I am proud to be with such a motivated group who is not interested in blaming the possible causes but determined to fix the problem.”

In addition to providing a diverse perspective to the Vanishing Paradise staff, the Advisory Council will focus its attention on a three-part mission of enhancing the organization’s political strength, strengthening its financial condition for the future and engaging the sporting community through public relations, media and personal contact.

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VPSAC members (from left) Gabe Galster and Tim Kizer along with fishing guide Joe Dimarco and what turned out to be a chaotic triple hook-up and even more chaotic choreographed netting. Photo by Lew Carpenter

In mid-March, the VPSAC held its first of many meetings, starting with a day in the marsh – a place held sacred to each member.

“Vanishing Paradise is championing a cause that I feel could be the greatest conservation project in my lifetime,” said Gabe Galster of Arkansas.  “Not only is the focus of this project dear to my heart, but there is a clear pathway to achieving success.  In the end, I want to be able to have a part in saving one of the most environmentally and culturally rich regions of our great country.  I want it here for my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to enjoy much as I have over the last 20 years, but  without swift action we may reach a point of no return.  VP offers the platform from which this message can be spread and action initiated.”Council members and Vanishing Paradise staff connected with each other

Cajun Fishing Adventure’s guide Joe Dimarco (left) and VPSAC member from Arkansas, Gabe Galster working a canal near Quarantine Bay for redfish. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Cajun Fishing Adventure’s guide Joe Dimarco (left) and VPSAC member from Arkansas, Gabe Galster working a canal near Quarantine Bay for redfish. Photo by Lew Carpenter

– and the magnificent resource they are entrusted to restore – while fishing for bull redfish, a trophy species of the marsh that annually draws thousands of anglers to the region.

The group also got down to business on a strategy for moving forward with Vanishing Paradise’s overarching goal of reconnecting the Mississippi River to its wetlands.”

“We want to open up the Mississippi River to the marshlands by creating diversions in strategic locations in the levee and marsh canal system,” said Arkansas native and VPSAC chair Tim Kizer. “By doing so we will allow the river system to naturally distribute sediment that will rebuild critical wetlands that provide nutrient filtration, physical tidal buffers for hurricane protection and erosion control along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.”

The council, as a group and as individual sportsmen, agreed to the following three- to five-year milestone objectives:

  • Develop and implement an internal and external hunter/angler conservation communication strategy;
  • Advocate for responsible, strategic implementation of BP oil spill fine funds;
  • Secure an additional $5 billion for Mississippi River Delta restoration;
  • Secure sustainable funding for the Vanishing Paradise campaign;
  • Prioritize additional conservation issues and develop strategies to address them.

As with any large-scale habitat restoration project, these tasks won’t be easy. But with the passionate, motivated and diverse group of new VPSAC members, the path forward is in play, and a nation of hunters and anglers will both engage and benefit in the restoration of America’s world-class habitat for fish and wildlife.

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Vanishing Paradise campaign director Land Tawney with a 34-inch bull redfish. Photo by Noel Vick

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American sportsmen hail from every walk of life imaginable, and just as they are a diverse crowd, so too are their reasons for participating in hunting. While many portray hunting as an intense effort to get game, the reality is the overall outdoor experience holds much more sway in attracting people to the sport.

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Mule deer hunt north of Meeker, Colorado. Day 1. Photo by Lew Carpenter

To monitor long term trends, each year HunterSurvey.com inquires about hunters’ motivations. The January 2013 poll found that rather than one key or leading reason that motivated sportsmen to hunt, there are actually many. And no single motivator stands completely head and shoulders above the rest. When asked “Why do you like to hunt?, respondents provided the following answers (participants could check all that apply):

Like to spend time outdoors 92%
Enjoy seeing wildlife 87%
Enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors 87%
Enjoy the challenge 80%
Like to spend time with friends/family who hunt 74%
Like providing food for my family/friends 70%
Other 9%

“This matches recent in-depth NSSF research that showed hunters go afield for fun, social and outdoor reasons. From spending time with family and friends outdoors to the peace and solitude of being alone in nature, hunting is much more than taking game,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. “Future efforts to increase hunting, or to successfully promote hunting-related products and services, must emphasize fun, social interactions and the total outdoor experience hunting provides.”

To help continually improve, protect and advance angling and other outdoor recreation, all sportsmen and sportswomen are encouraged to participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and/or AnglerSurvey.com. Each month, participants who complete the survey are entered into a drawing for one of five $100 gift certificates to the sporting goods retailer of their choice.

About AnglerSurvey.com, HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com: Launched in 2006, AnglerSurvey.com, HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com help the outdoor equipment industry, government fisheries and wildlife officials and conservation organizations track consumer activities and expenditure trends. Survey results are scientifically analyzed to reflect the attitudes and habits of anglers and hunters across the United States. Follow them on Facebook at http://facebook.com/huntersurvey and http://facebook.com/anglersurvey or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/AnglerSurvey and https://twitter.com/#!/HunterSurvey.

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“We look forward to working with the Council as it continues to develop a comprehensive plan that will successfully restore the Gulf and the dynamic hunting and fishing industry this incredible ecosystem supports.”

New Orleans, LA (January 31, 2013)—The Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council released a “path forward” document this week broadly outlining how RESTORE Act funds can be used to restore the Gulf Coast.

20120218-123704.jpgLeaders of the Vanishing Paradise campaign, a nationwide sportsman’s effort to restore the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, say they are looking forward to working with the council as it further refines its plans to restore the fish and wildlife habitats of the Gulf of Mexico.

“Every single dollar we spend conserving habitat, restoring water quality, protecting coastal and marine resources, and enhancing community resiliency will come back to us many times over—positively affecting the nation’s economy now and for generations to come,” said Land Tawney, NWF’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “We look forward to working with the Council as it continues to develop a comprehensive plan that will successfully restore the Gulf and the dynamic hunting and fishing industry this incredible ecosystem supports.”

“Louisiana loses an area of marsh the size of a football field every hour,” DU Director of Public Policy and co-lead of Vanishing Paradise Barton James said. “The Council’s plan is another milestone in large-scale coastal restoration policy.”

“Louisiana’s coast hosts world class fishing and hunting and is an integral part of the health of the state’s and nation’s economy,” said Louisiana Wildlife Federation Coastal Outreach Coordinator Chris Macaluso. “Unfortunately the oil spill in 2010 heaped more damage on top of nearly a century of habitat loss in Louisiana that threatens coastal communities, economies and deep-rooted cultural ties to hunting and fishing. We need to build vital habitat restoration projects, some of which have been discussed and designed for decades. Importantly, the path forward also acknowledges the need to break down the bureaucratic impediments that have stalled large-scale coastal restoration efforts in our state.”

Background
The Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council is charged with developing a comprehensive plan to restore the Gulf environment and the Council directly oversees expenditure of 30 percent of RESTORE Act funds for the ecological restoration projects specified in that comprehensive plan.

This “Path Forward” is the beginning of a process that will culminate in a plan scheduled to be completed and released in July 2013.

The Gulf states and federal agencies have already agreed to the strategy and restoration goals developed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. These provide the basis for the large-scale restoration plan that is needed to make good on national promises to the Gulf region.

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New report addresses recreational and commercial fishing apportionment

Alexandria, VA – January 30, 2013 – For many years, the sportfishing industry has called for a reexamination of the outdated and inequitable allocations of many marine fisheries that are limiting recreational fishing participation which has an economic impact on the coastal 20130130-112118.jpgcommunities it supports. The report released today by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – “Marine Fishery Allocation Issues: Findings, Discussion, and Options” – summarizes how saltwater fisheries have historically been apportioned between recreational and commercial fishing and provides options on how to improve the allocation process.

“Allocation has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room during fisheries management discussions, however, we’re hopeful that this new report will help spark a renewed interest in revisiting these issues,” said American Sportfishing Association (ASA) President and CEO Mike Nussman. “Many biological and socioeconomic changes have taken place in saltwater fisheries, from rebuilding fish stocks to more people fishing in saltwater. We appreciate that NMFS has started the important process of revisiting current allocations, many of which are based on decades-old criteria.”

In fisheries with both a recreational and commercial component, fisheries managers are required to allocate a percentage of the harvestable fish to each sector in a manner that is “fair and equitable,” as described in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Many recreational anglers believe that these fixed percentages are highly subjective and favor the commercial sector. For example, despite studies that show the economic benefits of shifting a greater proportion of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery to the recreational sector, approximately 300 commercial boats take 51 percent of the total harvest every year, while hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers are allocated the remaining 49 percent.

“Clearly the current piecemeal approach hasn’t worked and has left many anglers and industry members frustrated by the level of inaction,” said Nussman. “This report provides valuable insights and suggestions that NMFS and the Regional Fishery Management Councils should act upon, including the need for formalized guidance on issues to consider when making allocation decisions. This must be the next step, and NMFS must take the lead, working with Councils and stakeholders, to develop this guidance.”

Nussman concluded, “Allocation decisions are inherently difficult, but we can no longer allow that to be an excuse to keep outdated allocations in place. There are too many jobs at stake to continue down the path of inaction.”

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