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Omega Protein accounts for over 90% of the current bunker harvest.
In an article published last week, Don't Let Bunker Go Bust, Captain Paul Eidman detailed the current threats looming to the population of bunker (formally known as Atlantic Menhaden) and the potential catastrophic impacts of a collapse of that population. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is set to vote tomorrow on a proposal to protect Atlantic Menhaden through the imposition of catch limits, which do not currently exist for bunker. According to advocates for the protection of menhaden, the absence of these limits is the main culprit for the sharp drop offs in populations of bunker. Representatives of the fishing industry responsible for the bulk of the bunker harvest in Atlantic waters, Omega Protein, disagrees.

According to H. Bruce Franklin, author of 'The Most Important Fish in the Sea', “if we do not put the heat on the ASMFC to do the right thing in November, Omega Protein will prevent any meaningful protection, the menhaden population will continue to crash, and species after species of the valued fish dependent on menhaden will crash with them." It is this sort of scenario that has proponents of catch limits motivated. This motivation has led a variety of environmental advocacy groups, recreational fishing organizations and individual concerned citizens to deliver over 90,000 comments to the ASMFC in order to make their voice heard pending tomorrow's vote.

Menhaden are harvested for use in aquaculture feed, pet foods, livestock feed and dietary supplements. (Photo: NOAA)
Raritan Bay is home base for many of New York and New Jersey’s fishermen. In season fishermen leave the many marinas that dot the bay shore of Staten Island, Monmouth and Middlesex county and head out to the bay in search of striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder (fluke) and other game fish. In order to have a successful day on the bay, anglers look for baitfish. Find the bait, you find the gamefish. The predominant baitfish in Raritan Bay is bunker (formally known as Atlantic Menhaden), both large adults and immature small bunker that we call “peanuts”. Without bunker in the water, you might as well play golf.

Ranked right up there with the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, Central New Jersey’s Raritan Bay is one of the predominant nurseries/estuaries for Atlantic Menhaden stocks. Bunker spawn out at sea and the fry get caught up in the currents and ride them into the back bays and estuary areas where they stay the summer and grow larger until fall. The adult bunker are herring-like fish which swim together in very large schools and feed on micro-organisms like algae, copepods and plankton. They are a lynchpin in the ecology of the bay – converting the micro organisms into flesh and becoming a protein enriched package for our carnivorous fish, marine mammals and marine birds.

Spawning sockeye salmon.
Researchers at Canada's Simon Fraser University announced recently that Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) was detected in two wild sockeye salmon collected from the waters of Rivers Inlet, British Columbia. This marks the first time that ISA has been detected in fish found in pacific northwest waters, whether wild or farmed. The discovery has caused a considerable amount of alarm, given the potential threat that ISA poses to the already-dwindling stocks of wild salmon in pacific northwest waters.

ISA has long been a problem for salmon farming operations in the waters off Norway, Scotland, eastern Canada and Chile. The virus, by infecting the red blood cells, causes severe anemia in affected fish, often leading to death. Mortality rates in infected farming operations as high as 100% have been observed. Loss rates of 70% are not uncommon. There is no treatment for the disease once a fish is infected and vaccines designed to prevent infection are considered less than effective and difficult to administer.

The Youghiogheny River ("The Yough") in Ohiopyle State Park, is one of Pennsylvania's premier trout fisheries.
PennFuture, one of Pennsylvania's leading environmental advocacy organizations, is calling for support for their efforts to bring legislative action to stop the prospect of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania's state parks. Gas companies, which are steadily expanding drilling operations throughout the state, are current performing preliminary studies evaluating state parks for drilling operations. Most importantly, despite seeming counter-intuitive, drilling for gas in Pennsylvania's state parks is currently completely legal.

Although it may come as a surprise to many, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not own the mineral rights to over 80 percent of the land in Pennsylvania's state parks. This is a result of the fact that when the state acquired the majority of the land currently established as state park lands, the mineral rights to these lands had already been purchased or were too expensive to acquire. The state acquired only the land, not the right to drill below its surface, and the current laws of Pennsylvania give the current owners of these mineral rights full authority to develop their assets.

Puerto Rico Bonefish
As a continuation in our ongoing "20 Questions" series, we sat down with guide Chris Goldmark who splits time in Puerto Rico and New Jersey guiding for bluefish, stripers, bonefish, tarpon and jack crevalle just to name a few. To learn more about Chris before reading his innermost thoughts, check out his guide profile. Also check the links below the interview for our brief writeup on bonefishing in Culebra.

Hatch Magazine: Every fly fisherman thinks the big three (bonefish, tarpon, permit) when the Caribbean is mentioned. What's the next-best (or better) species to target on the fly in Culebra?

Chris Goldmark: Big Jacks, crevalles and especially Horse eye.

HM: You're quoted in an earlier article in Hatch Magazine as saying that "Culebra should never be considered a major Bonefish destination by any stretch of the imagination," yet you've decided to make it not only your home for six months of the year, but the location for your bonefishing guide business. What gives? Why anchor your business and invite other anglers to visit a destination that is so un-major? Surely it's not just the food at Mamasita's, right?

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