Future of Whaling and Bluefin Tuna in Japan After Earthquake

There are a few bright spots that have occurred in the wake of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan. This natural disaster has decimated the Japanese whaling fleet to the point it will take many years to build back up to past strength. However, with activists such as the Sea Shepherd it might take even longer.

The New York Times stated earlier in 2011 that the Japanese called off their yearly whale-hunting season early. Japan targets around 900 whales a year. However, with the ships returning north estimated numbers are that only 172 whales harvested. Hunting whales are prohibited, but the Japanese get around this by saying killing these whales are for scientific research. It was also stated that this is the first time environmentalists have successfully stopped hunting efforts.

Now it seems that conservationists got more good news, in the wake of the earthquake that has hit Japan. With the whaling fleet in the docks at the time, the earthquake hit most of the ships should be damaged if not quite inoperable. While the earthquake has made an overwhelming impact on humans, it seems that mother nature decided to strike back for fishing her oceans to non existence.

Whales are not the only animals to have benefited from this natural disaster. The Northern Bluefin Tuna has been overfished to the point of extinction. Japan is one of the staunchest opponents in giving the tuna international management. According to BBC.com, Northern Bluefin Tuna, which can be sold for over 150,000 dollars in Japan, is one of the most popular dishes. However, the tuna should get the chance to recover from the fishing pressure that Japan has put on it. Japan will no longer be able to afford these prices for this critically endangered fish while they try and rebuild their nation.

Watching the devastation in Japan is witnessing karma in action. Taiji, Japan kills thousands of dolphins each year. They accomplish this extraordinary feat my trapping dolphins in a cove and harvest them by any means necessary. Japan has claimed that they kill the dolphins humanely, but after watching The Cove, I must not know the meaning of humane.

Natural disasters are a tragedy, because many innocent lives are lost in the process. However, this disaster might have saved many fishing stocks around the world from totally collapsing. This would allow these stocks to recover and be available to provide for future generations.

NC Considers Increasing Flounder Fishing Size Limit to 15 Inches

The NC Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) is considering increasing the minimum size limit for southern flounder to 15 inches and decreasing the fishing creel limit to six southern flounder a day, a plan they will vote on when they meet Nov 3-5 at the Hilton Riverfront Hotel in New Bern.
The meeting is open to the public and will include a host of votes and discussions on other issues, including another look at the Spotted Seatrout (Speckled Trout) Fishery Management Plan.

Both the NC Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and a southern flounder advisory committee have recommended the new recreational limits on flounder to the MFC. State law passed in June says that the MFC must end overfishing of a troubled stock within two years of adopting a fishery management plan for the overfished species. A 2009 stock assessment for southern flounder found the stock still overfished, as it has been for many years.

According to the state, southern flounder is the most economically important estuarine finfish in NC. In the past, summer flounder (a more northern ranging species also called fluke) was the main flounder landed in the state. A decline in summer flounder in the 1980s and federal restrictions on harvest in the 1990s, however, have reduced the take of summer flounder while southern flounder have been targeted to make up for the drop.

The commercial take of southern flounder is dominated by the pound net and gill net fisheries which account for 90% of the flounder caught commercially, and according to state figures gill nets became the dominant gear for taking flounder starting in 1995.

It appears that at this time the MFC is not planning to add any new commercial fishing limits in addition to the new recreational fishing limits, hoping instead that new restrictions on gill nets to minimize sea turtle interactions will also cause a drop in the number of southern flounder landed.

The southern flounder size limits will be considered in the form of an amendment to the current Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan and if passed will be sent for review to the secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Joint Legislative Commission on Seafood and Aquaculture

Public comment periods at the MFC meeting are scheduled for 6 pm on Nov. 3 and 9:15 am on Nov. 4.

A copy of the flounder amendment can be found here. A copy of the agenda for the MFC meeting can be found here.

Pennsylvania Recieves Award for Panfish Restoration

The American Fisheries Society (AFS) chose the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) for an outstanding project award for its work and research on the commission’s ten year study of panfish populations. This research has shown that panfish size and populations can be increased by restricting harvest while still proving an excellent fishing experience for the angler.

Originally conceived in 1995 by PFBC biologists in 1994, the study formally began in 1999 when the commission placed size and bag limits on select lakes in the commonwealth. Minimum size limits were placed on yellow perch, crappie and sunfish along with restricted, yet still liberal, harvest limits. After ten years the biologists surveyed the lakes and found the regulations had an across the board positive effect on the number and size of panfish in these waters.

According to Dave Miko, chief of the PFBC Division of Fisheries Management and the project leader for the research study, “Because they are widely available and generally taste good, panfish are one of the most popular fish targeted by anglers,”

This study shows, that contrary to popular belief, it is possible to over harvest panfish. In general, anglers have been satisfied with the results of this new management due to the increased size of the fish now caught.

Congratulations to the PFBC for a job well done.