Week of January 14, 2008

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Lake Michigan
Michigan
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World

The latest update on Australia’s crime control

It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by their own government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars. The first year results are now in:

 

 ►Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 %

 ►Australia-wide, assaults are up 8.6 %

 ►Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 % (yes, 44 %)!

 

In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 %. Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them

in, the criminals did not, and criminals still possess their guns!  While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the past 12 months, since criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed.

 

There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the ELDERLY. Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in successfully ridding Australian society of guns. The Australian experience and the other historical facts above prove it.


National

Report Highlights Fishing’s Broad Economic and Conservation Impact

Anglers’ expenditures have a significant impact on the nation’s economy

Recreational fishing is more than just a getaway for millions of Americans. As an industry, it provides a living for countless people in businesses ranging from fishing tackle and accessories manufacturing to travel and hospitality to boat manufacturing. According to a new report on fishing statistics, published by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), when expenditures are multiplied by

 

America’s nearly 40 million anglers, their dollars have a significant impact on our nation’s economy.

Sportfishing in America: An Economic Engine and Conservation Powerhouse highlights how fishing not only endures as an activity that permeates social and economic aspects of Americans’ lives, but also plays a huge role in the country’s successful conservation movement.

 

America’s nearly 40 million anglers spend over $45 billion per year on fishing equipment, transportation, lodging and other expenses associated with their sport. With a total annual economic impact of $125 billion, fishing supports over one million jobs and generates $34 billion in wages and $16 billion in tax revenues each year. The average amount anglers spend yearly on hooks, rods, lures and other fishing tackle increased 16% from 2001 to 2006.

 

A number of reports strongly indicate that fishing is identified by American families as one of the best ways to spend quality time together. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, fishing as a leisure-time activity ranks higher than playing basketball or softball, skateboarding, jogging or hiking. Substantially more than any other groups, anglers

support the nation’s conservation efforts through the Sport Fish Restoration Program. Special taxes on fishing gear and motorboat fuel channel hundreds of millions of anglers’ dollars to state fish and wildlife conservation and recreation programs each year.

 

The analysis is based on data from the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, conducted every five years on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies by the Census Bureau and the USFWS. Sportfishing in America was produced for ASA by Southwick Associates, Fernandina Beach, Fla.

 

Additional economic facts about sportfishing:

► The nearly one million jobs supported by anglers are almost three times the number of people who work for United Parcel Service in the U.S.

► The amount of federal tax revenues generated by angler spending in 2006 - $8.9 billion - is roughly equal to the entire 2006 budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

► In 2006, the top 10 states with residents who fished, based on the percentage of population, are: Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, Idaho, Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi.

► In 2006, the top 10 states that attract the highest number of non-resident anglers are: Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, South Carolina, Maryland, Arkansas, New York and Texas.

► In 2006, the total days of fishing in the U.S. equaled 1,289,300 years of fishing.

► The not-so-lowly catfish is pursued by nearly seven million anglers, more than the population of Arizona, Massachusetts or Washington.

► All the dollars spent by anglers, attached end to end, would reach to the moon and back – nine times!


U.S. Senate Passes Farm Bill

Conference Com to reconcile House, Senate versions

The U.S. Senate on December 14 passed the 2007 Farm Bill. The legislation is crucial in helping to sustain America's rural economy and improve fish and wildlife habitats. "We are pleased that the Senate was able to make progress on the Farm Bill and pass the legislation with strong bi-partisan

support," said NSSF Senior Vice President and General

Counsel Lawrence G. Keane. "The Farm Bill is vital to conservation efforts and, in the end, to our industry." A conference committee is expected to begin to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill early next year, and President Bush has threatened a veto of the legislation because of spending concerns.


Regional

Anglers Report why Great Lakes fishing is declining

Cite preference for fishing other locations; better or more convenient

Since 1991, the number of anglers in the U.S. has been on a gradual decline. The USFWS reports angler numbers nationally have decreased approximately 15 %, or about one percent annually. However, the drop in the Great Lakes has been severe, with a 44 % decline in anglers since 1991. In December 2007, AnglerSurvey conducted a survey of 1,724 anglers to find why people are fishing less in the Great Lakes.

 

Of those surveyed, 355 Great Lakes anglers were identified. Of those who do not fish as often in the Great Lakes as they used to, they were asked why. The major reason for people not fishing in the Great Lakes was a preference for fishing in other locations. Forty-two percent of the anglers cited this reason. Other areas may offer better fishing or other areas are more convenient, etc. Anglers were not asked to specify why they prefer fishing outside of the Great Lakes or where they now fish.  Only four percent of respondents reported not 

having time to fish, while less than one percent reported health warnings on consuming fish was a reason for fishing less.

 

“This poll starts to give us insights into why Great Lakes fishing is declining. We’re sure there are many complex trends all combining to impact fishing. We now have a starting point towards learning why,” said Rob Southwick, President of Southwick Associates, the company operating the monthly AnglerSurvey.com service. “By learning why fishing is declining, efforts can be made to help reverse the trend.  Anglers contribute $1.2 billion each year via fishing licenses and excise taxes on fishing tackle. These funds are legally dedicated to conservation. Maintaining fishing is critical to protecting the environment.”

 

AnglerSurvey.com is a monthly national online survey of sportsmen and women providing industry and policymakers with information on fishing trends and activity.  For more info, contact Rob Southwick at Rob@southwickassociates.com


Lake Huron

Survival of Chinook Salmon in Lake Huron

The following report "Causes of Variable Survival of Stocked Chinook Salmon in Lake Huron" was just released last week and is the final research report on early survival of Chinook salmon in Lake Huron covering 1991-2002.  The 58 page document does not cover the 2000-2004 OTC marking study; that will be covered in a different report.  This is a research document that reports on the findings of a particular intensive

study on chinook salmon.  Net pen survival is one of the items covered in this report.

 

For more info or questions, go to Jim Johnson at the Alpena Fisheries Research Station, johnsoje@michigan.gov  or 989-356-3232. To review the full report, go to: www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/RR2086_219958_7.pdf


Lake Michigan

Alewives rebound in latest Lake Michigan forage fish survey

By Kevin Naze

If there's anything positive that can come out of a survey that found the fewest Lake Michigan forage fish in more than 30 years, it's that alewives are holding their own.  Though at numbers well below the long-term average, alewives — the favored forage for the big lake's multimillion-dollar salmon and trout sport fishery — were up about 18 percent over the fall 2006 survey, which was one of the three lowest ever.

 

Chuck Madenjian, a research fishery biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey's Great Lakes Science Center, said scientists believe there were 30 kilotons of prey fish in the lake last fall. That's more than 66 million pounds, but about half of the 2006 estimate. The biggest drop was in bloater chubs, only at about 1 percent of their high two decades ago. Deep-water sculpin numbers also plunged, and smelt numbers — already very low — declined more.

 

On the other hand, the volume of quagga and zebra mussels increased about 13 percent, to 245 kilotons. That adds up to more than 500 million pounds of mussels. "It's almost all quagga mussels now, not many zebras," Madenjian said. "Some trawl catches had over 1,000 pounds of mussels in."

 

The specially equipped boat — about 75 to 80 feet long, Madenjian said — annually surveys the bottom off seven ports, including Sturgeon Bay and Port Washington off the Wisconsin shoreline. Tows are done every 60 feet of depth,

starting in 60 feet of water and ending in 360 feet of water. Ten-minute tows that take only a few minutes to lift at shallower depths can take nearly a half-hour at the greatest depths.

 

Whitefish and yellow perch will eat the smaller mussels as part of their diet, but it's not enough to stop the growing mussel population from filtering out phytoplankton important to small fish and invertebrates. "There's a lot of doom and gloom talk these days," Madenjian said. "People are really concerned. But I do think it would be a mistake to put all the blame on the mussels. There maybe were too many salmon in the lake, and bloater populations could be somewhat cyclic. Let's see what happens."

 

Some commercial fishermen don't think bloater numbers will come back, but Madenjian is not so sure. The population was lower in 1976, he said, prompting an emergency closure. As for the alewives coveted by salmon and trout — and the anglers who seek them — Madenjian said the most common length seen in the trawls was between 5 and 6 inches, likely from a strong 2005 year class.

 

Still, alewife numbers were lower only three times since the survey began in 1973. "The overall trend is smaller size (of salmon)," Madenjian said. "With the states stocking fewer, the numbers might come down some, but it depends on natural reproduction, too."

(Naze is field editor for the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council)


Michigan

DNR Basic Archery Instructor Course Jan. 26

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering a free basic archery instructor (BAI) course, Saturday, Jan. 26, at Holland Christian High School in Holland located in Ottawa County.

 

The eight-hour session, which begins at 8 a.m., is for physical education teachers who wish to join the DNR’s Archery in the Schools program.  Teachers attending the session will receive .7 SB-CEU's from the Michigan Department of Education.

 

Archery in the Schools introduces international-style target archery to students in 4th through 12th grade physical education classes. The in-school curriculum’s core content covers archery history, safety, technique, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement. To date, more than 200 schools across Michigan have implemented the program.

“Target archery is a safe sport, in which students of all skill levels can be successful regardless of age, size or physical ability,”

said Mary Emmons, coordinator for the Archery in the Schools program.  “Incorporating archery as a school sport choice in the physical education curriculum creates an opportunity to engage students who otherwise may not participate in traditional athletics in an individual sport they can enjoy throughout their lifetime.”

 

To register for this BAI class or more information, contact Mary Emmons at (517) 241-9477; e-mail emmonsm@michigan.gov, or visit the DNR Web site at www.michigan.gov/dnrarchery.  The DNR also is offering archery equipment grants to schools, both public and private, that enroll in the Archery in the Schools program.

 


Black Lake Sturgeon Spearing Season Guidelines

Michigan DNR officials announced drawing procedures and season guidelines for the 2008 Black Lake sturgeon spearing season. Sturgeon spearing on Black Lake, located in Cheboygan and Presque Isle counties, will be limited to successful lottery participants selected by random drawing.

 

The Black Lake sturgeon spearing season opens Feb. 2 and runs through Feb. 10 or until the maximum harvest of five fish has been reached. Twenty-five tags will be issued on a daily basis to successful applicants until the maximum harvest level is reached or the season is completed.

 

Successful anglers in the lottery drawing held last week may fish between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. the day they are eligible to fish. 

A 36-inch minimum size limit applies. Anglers will receive atag and marking flags issued in their name for their day of fishing. These materials may be picked up at the Onaway DNR field office beginning at 7 a.m. each day. The Onaway field office is located four and one-quarter miles north of Onaway on M-211. These materials must be returned to the same location by 6 p.m. each day. Anglers wishing to call the Onaway office during the spearing season can call (989) 733-8775.

 

Fishing tags are not transferable and anglers must present proper identification when picking up materials. Unclaimed fishing tags will be made available to anglers present at the registration station by means of a secondary drawing to begin each fishing day at 10 a.m.


It's Time to Apply for Your Spring Wild Turkey Hunt

The Michigan DNR is reminding turkey hunters that this year's spring wild turkey application period ends Feb. 1. Hunters may apply now at any authorized license agent and at DNR Operation Service Centers throughout Michigan. Hunters also may apply online using the E-License system at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

 

The 2008 spring wild turkey hunting season will run from April 21-May 31 and will last from 7 to 41 days, depending on the hunt unit.  A total of 113,890 licenses will be made available through a lottery during the hunter-limited hunt periods. This license total includes 48,890 general licenses and 65,000 private land licenses.

 

During the application process, it is important that hunters verify their customer ID (Michigan Driver License, DNR Sportcard or state of Michigan ID card) numbers. An incorrect customer ID number will cause individuals to become ineligible for a license.  Hunters may use the DNR E-License system to apply or purchase a license online 24 hours a day during the application period. Applicants may check drawing results online beginning March 3.

 

If limited quota licenses are still available after the drawing, the remaining licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis to unsuccessful applicants in the license lottery 

beginning March 10 at 10 a.m. (EDT). Hunt No. 234 also is available to all unsuccessful applicants. On March 17 at 10 a.m. (EDT), any limited quota licenses that remain will be available for purchase over the counter by individuals who did not apply for a spring turkey license. A person may obtain or purchase only one spring wild turkey hunting license.

 

"Hunters looking for the greatest hunting flexibility should consider Hunt No. 234, which includes all open areas, except public lands, in Unit ZZ (southern Michigan)," said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist.

 

Hunt No. 234 season dates are May 5-31. A Hunt No. 234 license may be purchased online or from license agents during the application period.  Individuals who select this option will not be charged the $4 application fee. Hunters also may select this hunt as a second choice on their application.

 

"The current hunting regulations are established to maximize hunting opportunity while maintaining high-quality hunting experiences. We are able to expand hunting opportunities based on the success of Michigan's wild turkey restoration and management program," Stewart said.

There are approximately 48,183 square miles open to spring turkey hunting in Michigan*s Upper and Lower Peninsulas for 2008.


DNR responds to budget questions

To continue to keep you informed and to provide you a more detailed outline of the events that led to the $10 million balance in the Game and Fish Protection Fund at the end of fiscal year 2007, following is a summary of my remarks I presented to the Natural Resources Commission this afternoon.

 

(Signed) Rebecca Humphries

 

Director's Remarks to the Natural Resources Commission

January 10, 2008

 

There has been much discussion recently about the fund balance in the DNR's Game and Fish Protection Fund.  There is indeed a $10 million fund balance, and that's caused a great deal of controversy. People aren't angry about not having to layoff conservation officers.  People aren't angry about not having a license increase.

 

People are angry about the department's failure to communicate appropriately and in a timely fashion that there was no longer an immediate need for a hunting and fishing license fee increase.

 

I appreciate and understand, and agree, we should have done a more thorough job of communicating our balance. And for that, I take full responsibility and apologize.   At this point, I think it might be helpful to talk about how we ended up with a higher-than-anticipated balance in the Game and Fish Protection Fund. There are three reasons we finished the fiscal year with a larger fund balance than expected.

 

First, the DNR realized significant savings by adhering to the Governor's executive directives to freeze hiring, trim travel and reduce other forms of spending.

 

Second, there was an increase from the projected number of hunting licenses sold. We had projected a 1.7% decrease, based on sales trends over the past several years. A portion of the increase was due to recruitment efforts, such as the introduction of the apprentice licenses and the lowering of the hunting age which occurred in 2006.

 

Third, the interest and earnings on investments from the Game and Fish Protection Trust Fund experienced better returns than were forecasted.

 

To sum it up, we did not spend our full appropriation and our revenue came in higher, which gave us a larger than anticipated fund balance.  One of the issues that has caused such anger and controversy is timing. When did we know?

 

In December 2006, we projected a balance of $3.8 million at the end of our fiscal year that would end September 30, 2007. In March 2007, executive directives were issued that severely constrained our spending.   That constrained spending resulted in $4.1 million worth of savings.  In October 2007, we announced at our NRC meeting that we were projecting a revised balance of $7.8 million in the Game and Fish Protection Fund.

 

While we projected a balance of $7.8 million at the end of fiscal year 2007, we also projected at this time a deficit of $2.5 million by the end of fiscal year 2008 and an even bigger deficit--$13 million--at the end of fiscal year 2009.  This is an example of when we should have done a better job of making

sure we were being heard about the fund balance, our financial situation was changing, and that there may not be an immediate need for the license package.

 

Instead, we believed that to best manage the resource, we needed to continue to pursue a two-year budget reduction strategy based on the projected deficits for the next two fiscal years.   That reduction strategy included layoffs.

 

In late November, we closed the books with a $10 million fund balance in the Game and Fish Protection Fund. At that time, it became crystal clear that neither layoffs nor additional revenue was necessary to remain solvent for another year.  

 

While trying to ascertain why our fund balance was higher than our projections, I notified Chairman Charters. On December 10, I met with my leadership team to notify them that they need not implement their reduction plans.  That same day, Rodney Stokes and I called each of the recently hired 14 conservation officers to let them know they would not be laid off.  I sent out an email to all DNR employees on December 11 and also addressed the topic at a legislative committee meeting that same day.

 

On December 13, I sent an email to the license package work group discussing the fund balance.  So, where do we go from here?

 

I recognize these events have created a gap between our stakeholders, you-the NRC-and the department, and I acknowledge the need and our desire to bridge that gap and regain trust and rebuild credibility.   Our budget is my top priority.  The crux of the issue is we need to improve how we communicate internally and externally.

 

I have implemented monthly meetings with all the chiefs to make sure we track our budget, make timely decisions and manage our budget as it deserves.  These monthly updates will be provided to the NRC and the work group members, and will be made available to anyone else who is interested.  We will be working to better manage our budget, spend our appropriation and rebuild programs for the future.

 

One step taken in that direction occurred yesterday when Keith and I met with the Governor and were successful in getting her commitment to allow us to hire employees in a timely fashion and to give us some relief from the spending constraints.  We are also currently working to develop better, more realistic projections of expenditures based on spending patterns rather than on appropriated levels.

 

We will develop better, more realistic projections of revenue, and that may require outside help.  We welcome any analysis or outside review, the first of which is from the Senate Fiscal Agency.  As always, we offer full disclosure of all department financial information.  This situation has created credibility problems for the Department, for the NRC and for each of us personally.

 

I am committed to fixing the problem.

 

I know you all agree that there is too much at stake to lose sight of the fact that we need to find long-term, stable funding for conservation to ensure our natural heritage for the next generation and beyond.

 


Pennsylvania

Game Commission Begins Drafting Regulations for Wild Boars

HARRISBURG - In response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe directed staff to begin developing regulations to allow the incidental taking of wild boars during certain hunting seasons.  The draft regulations are expected to be ready for the Board of Game Commissioners to consider as part of its Jan. 29 meeting agenda.

 

"On Dec. 27, a Supreme Court ruling, in effect, classified wild boars as 'protected mammals,'" Roe said.  "Prior to the court's ruling, the Game Commission had no regulatory oversight or authority for wild boars.  Now, we are seeking to clarify and appropriately regulate the protection of wild boars that was put in place by the court."

 

Roe stressed that wild boars are not native to the Commonwealth and are classified as an invasive species by the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council.

 

"Wild boars found in the state are either domestic pigs, Eurasian wild boars, descendants of European and Asian hogs, or hybrids of these species that have escaped or been released," Roe said.  "They should not be confused with the javelina, or collared peccary, which is native to the southwestern and southern U.S. and northern Mexico.

 

"Wild boars may weigh more than 400 pounds and are very

prolific; they can produce litters of 8 to 12 young and can have two litters per year.  They are extremely destructive to crops, wildlife habitat and the environment, and they are a danger to wildlife and domestic animals and a threat to the pork industry, especially since they are carriers of diseases and parasites that can infect livestock, wildlife and humans."

 

As wild boars were not considered "wildlife" prior to the court's ruling, Roe said that hunters had been permitted to take them without regard to state hunting laws or regulations.  However, with the ruling in place, wild boars are protected and may not be killed until the Game Commission takes action to implement a regulation to allow such action.

 

Roe also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council are sponsoring research in Pennsylvania. The Wildlife Services Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Game Commission are collaborating to trap wild boars and collect blood and tissue samples. Wild boars captured as part of these surveillance programs are not returned to the wild, they are humanely dispatched.

 

A Pennsylvania task force also has been established to locate feral hog populations and help address the concerns caused by their presence.


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