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  #11  
Old 02-08-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichH View Post
Here we go yet once again.
They did this throughout the 80s in both the Ches and the NC Sounds ... and nearly wiped out the whole fishery of Striped Bass ("Rock") for almost the entire Atlantic Seaboard. This led to the infamous 'moratorium' that lasted almost a decade. At that time 'enforcement' totally failed and I would again surmise that it will fail again, until yet another 'moratorium' is imposed.

Its about time that Maryland and Virginia get serious in the protection and management of the fishery stocks: Confiscation and sale of boat and gear, huge fines + pokey time ... and apply the same measures to the 'buyers'. Oysters, crabs, turtles/terrapins, clams, eels, most market species of fish are almost all gone ... an outrage that continually repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats.
There are plenty of people on this board that will tell you there is no science to back up the proposition that (insert your desired species) is being decimated by over fishing.

They'll deny its a problem forever. "What the Atlantic cod fishery is gone?" No Problem we'll just fish Pacific Cod until that fishery collapses.
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  #12  
Old 02-08-2011
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It sounds like the Oyster wars of yore.

I refuse to believe that with the technology of today, that we can't catch these guys. I am rapidly losing sympathy for these "poor, hardworking fishermen".
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  #13  
Old 02-08-2011
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I'm a Virginia native and the last time I lived in the States it was in MD.

This stuff is a crying shame.

Not that Lake Ontario is really much better - I don't think anything lives in there other than zebra mussels.
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Old 02-08-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbleheadMd View Post
It sounds like the Oyster wars of yore.

I refuse to believe that with the technology of today, that we can't catch these guys. I am rapidly losing sympathy for these "poor, hardworking fishermen".
I have a lot of sympathy for the hardworking fishermen, but very little for the poachers who ruin the livelihood of the honest fishermen. Please don't mistake one for the other. The majority of fishermen are honest, hardworking people.
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Old 02-08-2011
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Be very careful of advocating asset forfeiture as a penalty for this sort of crime. It inevitably gets used against the innocent. Under our justice system, the asset itself is charged with the crime (a really strange concept) and it must be proven innocent by its owner (there is no presumption of innocence for assets). It also can be found guilty of the offense even if the owner is acquitted, or even if the owner is never charged. To make matters worse, many times in such cases the funds from the sale of the assets go back to the police department that did the seizing, which creates an incentive structure for doing more (and more questionable) seizures.
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  #16  
Old 02-08-2011
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Thumbs down

The commercial rape of Chesapeake Bay's natural resources is something I've written about for more than 4 decades in various publications. It's nothing new, and much like the drug trade, this will probably continue until the resource(s) are decimated to the point where there is no profit, at which point the practice will stop.

There is not a single incidence of a saltwater fishery being wiped out by environmental conditions--not one! Every species that has been decimated has been commercially exploited to the point where it is no longer profitable to fish for it, at which point those that caused the species untimely demise switch to another species. It began with oysters in Chesapeake Bay, which was a goldmine for commercial watermen using dredges, patten tongs and hand tongs to completely wipe out massive bars of oysters throughout the bay's entire length.

During the summer months, when oysters were not viable, power dredgers predated upon soft-shell clams, a species that was rarely consumed by Maryland and Virginia residents, but was considered a delicacy in New England. The beds were wiped out within just a few decades. Dredgers moved to shallower waters in hopes of continuing to ply their deadly trade, but in the process they dredged up massive aquatic grass beds, which rapidly added to the Chesapeake's demise in water quality.

When oysters and clams were no longer available in commercially viable quantities, watermen switched to the bay's famed blue crab, a species know far and wide for it's sweet, white meat that was transformed into some of the best crab-cakes available anywhere in the world. When the crabs were not available, watermen pulled their crab pots and put their nets in the water, targeting anything that swam.

The first finfish species to be wiped out were Atlantic croaker, a fish that ranged up to 4 pounds in weight and was readily available from March through November throughout much of Chesapeake Bay. Early in the season prices ranged up to $1.20 per pound, but after a few short weeks the price quickly dropped to less than 10 cents a pound--the markets were quickly flooded.

When croaker were wiped out, the next species to be targeted was weakfish, a species that entered Chesapeake and Delaware bays in huge numbers during early spring and were easily ensnared in gill nets in the lower bay's deeper waters. Tangier and Pocomoke sounds in Chesapeake Bay, and much of lower and middle Delaware Bay were the prime areas, both of which produced weakfish (also known as sea trout) to 17 pounds. One of the area's most popular fishing tournaments, the Millford Delaware Weakfish Tournament, drew thousands of recreational anglers every year to participate in their 4-day event, a tournament that offered huge, cash prizes to those who managed to land the largest fish. The impact on the local economy was in the millions. Commercial exploitation of the species eventually caused the fishery to collapse, the tournament ceased to exist and Millford's economy went down the tube.

Striped bass was the next species in line. At the time there was essentially no regulation in place to curtail the catch, commercially or recreationally. It took a few decades to wipe them out, but by the early 1970s it was obvious the species was in it's death throes. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and other federal agencies ignored pleas by recreational anglers to place catch restrictions on the fishery, both commercial and recreational. When the fishery totally collapsed, Maryland DNR decided to impose a moratorium, which lasted just over 4 years. Most other states said the problem was Maryland's alone, and Virginia did not participate in the moratorium during the first few years. Northern states, where migrating, larger fish were target, did not participate at all, but a few did eventually enact catch restrictions when pressured by ASMFC and Maryland DNR.

The striped bass fishery appears at this stage to be headed back to the brink of disaster. Complete year classes are missing from the fishery, and commercial exploitation seems to be the only plausible explanation. Anyone that has spent any time at all on Chesapeake Bay during the past few years will tell you that very few recreational anglers are seen plying the bays water in recent years. While Maryland DNR continues to sell lots of fishing licenses, the number continues to decline every year. The only thing in abundance in Chesapeake Bay seems to be crab pots and commercial nets.

Gary
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  #17  
Old 02-08-2011
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+1 Gary. Absolutely fantastic writeup.

If I recall correctly, stripped bass are hermaphroditic. They are male until they reach a certain size and then they turn female. So if non make it to x years old, then there aren't any females to make the next generation. This makes them particularly sensitive to overfishing.

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Brad
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  #18  
Old 02-08-2011
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Yes, I believe this is the case until they reach age 4, at which time many migrate out of the bay and up the Atlantic coast to New England where they spend much of the summer. They usually return in late fall, many winter in the bay, but there is a significant number that winter along the coast of North Carolina as well.

One species I neglected was Atlantic menhaden, which is the prime forage species for nearly everything that swims. Their stocks have been decimated by commercial interests, which ultimately effects the water quality of Chesapeake and Delaware bays, and the physical health of striped bass, bluefish, weakfish and a host of other species, both pelagic and anadromous. When striped bass and croaker ran out of menhaden and bay anchovy to eat, they switched to young, blue crab, pea crab, mud crab and anything else they could consume to prevent starvation.

Gary
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  #19  
Old 02-09-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
I have a lot of sympathy for the hardworking fishermen, but very little for the poachers who ruin the livelihood of the honest fishermen. Please don't mistake one for the other. The majority of fishermen are honest, hardworking people.
Not sure how they do things up your way but I have to agree with Bubble these guys have little if any respect for others or the Bay.
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  #20  
Old 02-09-2011
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Originally Posted by lapworth View Post
Not sure how they do things up your way but I have to agree with Bubble these guys have little if any respect for others or the Bay.
That's been my experience as well. The vast majority of the folks fighting the institution of aquaculture in Maryland have been commercial watermen. Their political influence over the years has kept the aquaculture industry out of Maryland, and now that it is finally in Maryland, the roadblocks put in place by Maryland DNR, Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies has made it nearly impossible for someone to enter into this industry. It takes a year or more just to get all the necessary permits to raise oysters. And, the cost of the permits alone is enough to bankrupt the average person--even if you only want to grow oysters on a small scale. If you want to raise fish, it's even worse. It seems as if everyone wants a piece of the pie, thus taking most of the profit margin out of the aquaculture business. The irony of this is that in neighboring Virginia, Cherrystone Clams, which is a massive aquaculture operation that has several locations working year round, employs hundreds of watermen that would be on the unemployment roles had it not been for aquaculture.

Had it not been for opposition by the Maryland Watermen's Association over the past two decades, Maryland would been light years ahead of where it is now in the aquaculture industry. Keep in mind that the state continues to provide watermen with "make work" jobs that cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year, jobs that not only do little or nothing for the health and wellbeing of Chesapeake Bay and its fisheries, but additionally, are specifically designed to assist those that continue to harvest wild stocks of finfish and shellfish.

Don't get me wrong--I DO NOT dislike commercial watermen. The vast majority of them that I have met are nice folks that were misled into believing the Chesapeake's natural resources were endless. While some still believe this is the case, most are now fully aware of the situation that exists. A few continue to plunder the resources illegally, knowing that enforcement personnel are few and far between. It's only when they really get greedy that they get caught. Others, such as the guy that surveyed my boat this winter, have taken up other vocations because they can no longer financially survive on what they can legally harvest from the bay.

The major culprit in the destruction of the Chesapeake's natural resources is the very agency that was created to prevent this from happening--Maryland's Department of Natural Resources. Keep in mind the sole reason for the existence of this agency is to protect, preserve and enhance the natural resources in Maryland--a job they've never done. If you don't believe this is the the case, open your mind and try to find a single, natural resource that the agency has protected, particularly those in Chesapeake Bay. The short list of failures include: Atlantic croaker, yellow perch, white perch, channel catfish, striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, blue crab, oyster, softshell clam, Atlantic menhaden, bay anchovy, grass shrimp, a dozen species of aquatic grasses, Canada geese, all species of duck, diamond-back terrapin, painted turtle, American eel, the list is endless. Each of the above species has been, and many still are, at the brink of extinction before Maryland DNR decided to take any action to prevent their complete demise. In every instance, it was an alarm raised by the general public that forced this agency to respond to a crisis. And, more often than not, DNR's response was to create some type of lengthy, bureaucratic study to determine if the problem really exists. This, and many similar agencies such as Maryland's Department of Environment, should have been eliminated decades ago and replaced with a streamlined agency that had no political connections. If that would have been the case, the bay would not have the ills it currently endures.

Sorry about the rants,

Gary
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