Week of March 31, 2014
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WASHINGTON –The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will distribute nearly $1.1 billion in excise tax revenues paid by sportsmen and sportswomen to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies to fund fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects across the nation.
The Service apportions the funds to all 50 states and territories through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs. Revenues come from excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and tackle, and electric outboard motors. Recreational boaters also contribute to the program through fuel taxes on motorboats and small engines.
“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, these individuals have created a 75-year legacy for conservation of critical wildlife habitat and improved access to the outdoors for everyone.”
The total distributions this year are $238.4 million higher than last year because of the inclusion of funds that were not distributed last year because of the government sequester and an increase in excise tax receipts from sales of firearms and ammunition in the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.
The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program apportionment for 2014 totals a record $760.9 million, which includes $20 million that was sequestered from FY 2013 but subsequently returned to the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.
The Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program apportionment for 2014 totals $325.7 million, which includes $18.5 million that was sequestered from FY 2013 but subsequently returned to the Sport Fish
Restoration Trust Fund. The FY 2014 Sport Fish Restoration
apportionment is $34.1 million lower than FY 2013 due to lower domestic fishing equipment excise tax receipts.
The Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program reimburses up to 75 percent of the cost of each eligible project, while state fish and wildlife agencies contribute a minimum of 25 percent, generally using hunting and fishing license revenues as the required non-federal match.
Funding is paid by manufacturers, producers and importers and is distributed by the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program to each state and territory. For information on funding for each state, click here.
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated a total of more than $15 billion since their inception – in 1937 in the case of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program – to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion. This funding is critical to sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and providing opportunities for all to connect with nature.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Apportionment of Wildlife Restoration Funds and Sport Fish Restoration Funds for Fiscal Year 2014
If you have ever gone fishing, you know that fish do not stay in one location for too long. That hot fishing spot where you caught so many fish yesterday may be vacant today. A puzzle for anglers and scientists alike is figuring out where fish move and when they will be back. Fish move throughout water bodies for a variety of reasons, such as following prey, finding mates, or seeking summering and wintering grounds. In the Great Lakes, fish have a lot of room to roam. Many Great Lakes fishes can move across huge expanses within a lake and possibly even move between Great Lakes. For biologists that study the movement of fish, that's a lot of ground to cover.
Through support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission is using innovative acoustic telemetry technology to unravel the mysteries of fish behavior. Using acoustic telemetry, scientists can track the movements of fish with remarkable precision. This detailed information allows scientists to discover previously unknown aspects of the lives of fishes in the Great Lakes, such as where certain fish spawn (a difficult job given the vastness of the Great Lakes), when fish move to and from spawning or overwintering areas, and how much mixing occurs among fish stocks. Ultimately, this information is highly valuable for improving Great Lakes fishery management.
In the past, scientists had to deduce fish movements using less precise methods such as inferring fish behavior based on capture locations. Although these methods are useful for telling scientists when a fish is present in a particular location, they do not tell scientists how the fish got there, how long the fish stayed, how many times the fish visited, and where the fish would have gone next. "When law enforcement agents are tracking criminals, they don't just wait for the criminals to commit a traffic violation or pop up in an airport - they look into criminals' phone and credit card records to get a better idea of where they have been and where they might go next," said biologist Chris Holbrook. "In a similar way, acoustic telemetry provides a record of activity that we can use to understand the habits of important fish species and to predict their next move."
How acoustic telemetry works
Acoustic telemetry works like electronic toll collection systems such as the I-Pass or E-ZPass: an internally-tagged fish swims through a network of receivers, like a car passing through a toll-booth. The tag inside the fish - technically an acoustic telemetry transmitter - continuously "pings" a unique ID number. The receivers - small, data-logging computers also called hydrophones - listen for pings and record the date, time, and ID number for every tagged fish that swims nearby. The receivers are anchored in strategic locations: such as along migration routes, near spawning areas, and in other places of interest to scientists. In some cases, receivers are positioned in sequential lines, which allow scientists to determine fish presence/absence and movement through a constrained environment, such as a river. In other cases, receivers are positioned in an array that allows scientists to pinpoint the exact location of a fish in three dimensions, such as in an open lake. Scientists determine the location of tagged fish in receiver arrays by synchronizing information from multiple receivers (through triangulation and other methods).
The acoustic telemetry network in the Great Lakes, called the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS), consists of more than 400 receivers and thousands of tagged fish. In just three short years, scientists have already recorded more than 54 million movement records for more than ten species of fish! With each record, researchers learn more about fish movements, migration patterns, habitat use, and survival, which provide valuable insight to improve monitoring, control, restoration, and management efforts in the Great Lakes.
Acoustic telemetry discoveries in the Great Lakes
Recent advancements using acoustic telemetry in the Great Lakes include discovery of new spawning grounds for lake trout, a native Great Lakes fish that once supported a valuable fishing industry. Fine-scale acoustic telemetry tracking on a reef complex in Lake Huron revealed six specific locations - some only the size of a small bedroom - where lake trout lay their eggs. "This information is being used to determine which spawning habitats are best for incubating eggs, to identify unprotected critical habitats, and to improve artificial spawning reefs," said Dr. Tom Binder, the lead researcher on the lake trout project.
Acoustic telemetry is being used to improve our understanding of another native Great Lakes fish - the lake sturgeon which is listed as threatened or endangered in multiple areas of the region. Scientists are studying movement patterns of lake sturgeon to aid restoration in the water bodies connecting Lakes Huron and Erie. One surprising result: scientists discovered that Lake St. Clair, a hotspot of contamination and habitat degradation, serves as an overwintering area and feeding ground for these ancient fish.
Scientists are also using acoustic telemetry to improve management of walleye, one of the Great Lakes most desirable species. Extensive tracking of walleye in Lake Huron has revealed that walleye are capable of making long migrations throughout the lake. Dr. Todd Hayden, lead researcher on the Lake Huron walleye study, explained the value of acoustic telemetry to the Great Lakes walleye fishery: "Movement information allows managers to understand how production in one area affects harvest in another. This information is being used to fine-tune and develop new management strategies that promote a healthy and productive walleye fishery in Lake Huron."
Acoustic telemetry is also being used to combat sea lamprey, one of the most notorious invasive species in the Great Lakes. The St. Marys River, which connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron, is a major contributor to sea lamprey populations in the Great Lakes. Scientists use traps in the river to measure sea lamprey abundance. To provide accurate counts, traps must be placed in appropriate locations to intercept migrating sea lampreys, but currently all traps are located at barriers, which are the "end of the line" for a migrating sea lamprey. Using acoustic telemetry, Holbrook revealed that traditional assessments underestimate the true sizes of some sea lamprey populations because many lampreys get off the train early. "Telemetry has shown us that we need to place traps in new locations and has given us the behavioral information that we need to begin designing and placing those traps," said Holbrook.
Learn more about acoustic telemetry and contribute to the projects!
If you are interested in learning more about how acoustic telemetry is being used to protect and improve Great Lakes fisheries, visit the GLATOS website: www.data.glos.us/glatos. Website visitors can explore a map of receiver locations and read more about current acoustic telemetry projects.
Anglers can also contribute to the acoustic telemetry effort by returning tags implanted in walleye and lake trout. When fishing for these species, look for fish marked with orange "spaghetti" tags on their backs (see photo, right) or fish that contain an acoustic telemetry tag inside their body cavity. If you call the phone number listed on the tags, you will be guided through a process to return the telemetry tag and receive a $100 reward for your effort! The returned telemetry tags can then be implanted into new fish, allowing Great Lakes scientists to solve even more mysteries of Great Lakes fish behavior.
The official end of winter last week did not bring about the end of winter weather. Arctic air from the north brought unseasonably cold temperatures to the basin last weekend that remained through Wednesday. The 2013-14 winter season was one of the coldest winters in the Great Lakes basin in the past 20 years, and near record snowfall occurred in several cities throughout the basin. Great Lakes ice cover peaked at 92% in early March, just a few percentage points below the record high. At the start of the weekend, temperatures will be below average, but they will rise substantially on Sunday, and will be in the 60’s in some areas on Monday.
LAKE LEVEL CONDITIONS
Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are both 13 inches above what they were at this time last year. Lakes St. Clair and Erie are 9 and 4 inches, respectively, above their levels of a year ago, while Lake Ontario is 2 inches below its level of a year ago. Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron are forecasted to rise 2 and 4 inches, respectively, over the next 30 days. Lakes St. Clair and Erie are both projected to rise 5 inches in the next month, while Lake Ontario will rise 7 inches. Ice build-up in the connecting channels can cause significant water level fluctuations, especially in Lake St. Clair.
FORECASTED MONTHLY OUTFLOWS/CHANNEL CONDITIONS
Lake Superior’s outflow through the St. Mary’s River is predicted to be above average for the month of March. Lake Michigan-Huron’s outflow into the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair’s outflow into the Detroit River
are both projected to be near average. In addition, the outflow of Lake
Erie into the Niagara River is projected to be near average, while the outflow of Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River is expected to be above average in March.
Official records are based on monthly average water levels and not daily water levels. Lake Michigan‑Huron is below chart datum and is expected to remain below datum over the next several months. Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels. Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings. Ice information can be found at the National Ice Center’s website.
WINDSOR, ON – The Lake Erie Committee, composed of senior fishery managers from Michigan, New York, Ohio, Ontario, and Pennsylvania, met in Windsor Ontario this week and recommended a 2014 total allowable catch (TAC) of 11.081 million pounds of yellow perch and 4.027 million walleye . These recommended harvest levels represent a modest decrease in allowable yellow perch harvest and a modest increase in walleye harvest for 2014.
TAC recommendations are developed after thorough lakewide biological assessments, analysis, discussions, and consultations with stakeholders. The Lake Erie Committee, which operates by consensus, also supports the Lake Erie Percid Management Advisory Group, or LEPMAG, as a mechanism to consider the status of walleye and yellow perch and to discuss harvest strategies with affected stakeholders, such as commercial and recreational fishers. This structured stakeholder engagement reflects the committee’s interest in involving the fishing community in actions related to management of Lake Erie’s percid fisheries.
The Lake Erie Committee recommends TACs that are consistent with the status of Lake Erie’s fish population while maintaining stable harvest levels, as informed through the LEPMAG process. The individual provincial and state governments adhere to and implement the TAC recommendations consistent with their respective regulations and management objectives.
The Lake Erie Committee recommended a 2014 binational TAC of 11.081 million lbs of yellow perch, a 9% decrease from last year’s allocation of 12.237 million lbs. The proposed harvest level is based on biological assessments, conducted and analyzed by biologists that showed a moderate decline in yellow perch biomass in the lake. Committee members concluded that the harvestable stocks of yellow perch will be lower in 2014 than last year, necessitating a reduced TAC. The proposed TAC, after deliberations with stakeholders through the LEPMAG process, reflects the committee’s interest in maintaining stability in harvest while ensuring yellow perch sustainability.
Under the 2014 TAC recommendation, Ontario will receive 5.409 million
lbs, Ohio 4.418 million lbs, Michigan 0.145 million lbs, New York 0.259
million lbs, and Pennsylvania 0.850 million lbs. Scientists and field biologists from all jurisdictions meet annually and on an ongoing basis to analyze fisheries and agency data in order to estimate population levels and recommend the annual TAC.
Informed by a harvest policy recently developed in consultation with LEPMAG members, and on a new population assessment model developed in conjunction with stakeholders and Michigan State University, the Lake Erie Committee today set a 2014 walleye TAC of 4.027 million fish, compared to the TAC of 3.356 million fish in 2013. The increased TAC recommendation for 2014 reflects the committee’s goal to manage the lakewide fish stocks sustainably while integrating stakeholder input into the process. Walleye hatches have been generally poor in recent years, though some year classes, particularly those in 2010 and 2003 have been moderate to exceptional, contributing to the stability of the walleye fishery and allowing for an increased TAC over last year.
Ontario, Ohio and Michigan share the TAC based on a formula of walleye habitat within each jurisdiction in the western and central basins of the lake. Under a 2014 TAC of 4.027 million fish, Ohio will be entitled to 2.058 million fish, Ontario 1.734 million fish, and Michigan 0.235 million fish. Because the majority of harvest comes from the western portion of Lake Erie, jurisdictions in the eastern end of the lake are outside the TAC area. Harvest limits in the eastern basin are established separately by Ontario, PA, and NY and remain consistent with lakewide conditions and objectives.
Meeting as the Walleye Task Group, scientists and biologists share data and reach consensus on biological conditions. The task group’s walleye abundance estimates, which incorporate suggestions from LEPMAG, serve as the foundation for the Lake Erie Committee’s discussions and TAC recommendations. Like yellow perch, each Lake Erie jurisdiction is responsible for implementing their portion of the TAC.
(Yellow perch are allocated in pounds; walleye are allocated by number of fish) For more information: www.glfc.org/lec.
New fishing regs
take effect April 1
In addition, anglers are reminded that the Betsie River spawning
closure is still in effect. The lower portion of the Betsie River from
the Betsie Valley Trail Bridge west to a line in Betsie Bay between the
westernmost dock of the Northstar Marina and the westernmost dock of the
Eastshore Marina remains closed to fishing until further notice.
DNR says fish kills may be common
following winter's extreme conditions
"Winterkill begins with distressed fish gasping for air at holes in the
ice and often ends with large numbers of dead fish that bloat as the
water warms in early spring," Whelan explained. "Dead fish and other
aquatic life may appear fuzzy because of secondary infection by fungus,
but the fungus was not the cause of death. The fish actually suffocated
from a lack of dissolved oxygen from decaying plants and other dead
aquatic animals under the ice."
With another boating season just around the corner, Minnesota boaters and anglers need to continue to take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). While the rate of AIS violations dropped in 2013, one in five boaters is still breaking the law, according to a newly published annual report from the DNR.
“The decrease is good news, but we have a long way to go,” said Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division assistant director. “We need to think zero.”
The invasive species violation rate dropped to 20 percent last year from 31 percent in 2012. The rate is the proportion of people who were issued citations at roadside check stations set up by DNR conservation officers. “Far too many people are still not following the law,” Smith said. “Boaters and anglers are legally required to clean boats and equipment and drain all water to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.”
This year, the DNR will increase efforts to ensure boaters follow the AIS laws.
Activities highlighted in the 2013 invasive species of Minnesota report:
Also last year, nearly 8,000 boats arrived at Minnesota water accesses with drain plugs in; more than 1,200 had vegetation attached and 134 had zebra mussels attached. These were all violations of AIS laws. Fortunately, DNR-trained watercraft inspectors were onsite to stop the owners and remove the invasive species before launching.
“The public is our first line of defense against AIS,” said Ann Pierce, DNR section manager. “It only takes a few minutes to make sure your boat and equipment are cleaned, all water is drained and drain plugs are removed before leaving the water access. This truly is an example of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.”
Enforcement and watercraft inspection together represent the largest segment (43 percent) of the program’s annual 2013 budget of about $8.5 million. The budget also covers management and control of invasive aquatic plant species such as Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed and education. For more info: www.mndnr.gov/AIS
Other Breaking News Items
BP says it spilled more oil than
A new Idaho law effectively nullifies future federal gun laws, by prohibiting state enforcement of any future federal act relating to personal firearms, a firearm accessories or ammunition. Alaska and Kansas have also passed similar laws. We may soon see a wave of states passing even broader legislation to fight the federal government on everything ranging from more traditionally liberal issues like hemp and marijuana, to more conservative issues like Obamacare.
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