Monday, May 12, 2008

Looking at the Fish

Connecticut DEP has sent its research trawler out for fish for 25 years and has been keeping close track of what they find. Back in March, Penny Howell of the DEP's marine fisheries bureau, explained that while some species are less common (winter flounder and lobsters, for example), others are more common, and that overall there's no trend up or down.

Wynne Perry, a reporter for the Stamford Advocate, went out with the DEP crew not long ago and filed a good report. Here's an excerpt:

Fish dominated the catch - four species of flounder, three types of herring, two of hake and some whiting. A drab spider crab with a missing claw sat among the fish like a dead insect.

"They move so slowly sometimes so it's hard to tell if they're dead," said Deb Pacileo, a fisheries biologist who sorted jellyfish and seaweed into cups for weighing.

Later catches that day pulled up horseshoe and hermit crabs, toothy tautog, striped bass and skates.

"The stuff that gets caught up in the net, it's an unwritten script," said Tom Griffin, a fish and wildlife technician. "Last week, we caught a lamprey. Sometimes we catch a sturgeon or sea ravens, so it's like this living aquarium, except it's not contrived in any way. It's actually out there."

The process is more traumatic for some creatures. Most fish are sorted into tubs of water to wait, but some don't make it out alive in the time needed to empty the net, sort, count, measure and weigh.

Two species, winter flounder and tautog, go into a cooler stocked with ice so they can be taken back to the lab and examined to determine their age. For the winter flounder, that means removing a bone-like structure from the ear, for tautog a cheek bone.

The Sound is bordered by colder water to the north and warmer water to the south. The fish and invertebrates in it tend to be most comfortable in one or the other. Since the early 1990s, the survey - which takes place in spring and fall - has pointed to an increase of warm-water species and a decline in cold-water creatures such as lobster and winter flounder.

In the past two decades, the average water temperature in the Sound warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"The cold-water species falling off does seem to be a clearer indication of an environmental influence," Simpson said. "There are a couple of other things going on. It's not so obvious and clear cut."

I suppose the story could have had more context, particularly about the Sound's hypoxia problems. But if you read it for what it is -- a story that lays out what the reporter saw and learned with out attempting to pose a solutions -- it's a good job.

Meanwhile, in the Connecticut Post, Charles Walsh takes a look at fishing issues and points a finger at a custom that probably could use some improving: fishing tournaments.

Two good newspaper pieces and then there's this, also from the Connecticut Post. A reporter writes about the lobster die-off in the Sound and in the second paragraph mistakenly says Mark Tedesco works for the Connecticut DEP (he works for the U.S. EPA) and in the seventh paragraph asserts that pesticides were responsible for the die-off (scientists eliminated that possibility years ago). The Post copy desk should learn how to use Google.



Blogger Sam said...

There's quite a battle here in Texas about "fish for meat" tournaments versus catch and release only. Initial pencil whipping by some of us figured that a single weekend tournament could deplete several TONS of fish (about 500 anglers, fairly large).

One has to distinguish between inshore and offshore fishing. Many of the offshore tournaments go out to sea such as off Montauk and Block Island and promote catch and release for billfish and shark.

For the inshore tournaments, it's basically a slaughterhouse. That should be changed. -sam

10:57 AM  

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