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Fishing briefs

RFA opposing NOAA longlining push

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) has been busy on Capitol Hill opposing efforts to re-open areas currently closed to pelagic drift longlining.

On March 31, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) released a Final Environmental Assessment proposing to issue Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP) to conduct scientific research experiments using pelagic longline gear in areas of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida East Coast, South Atlantic Bight, Mid-Atlantic Bight and Northeast Coastal Atlantic currently closed to this gear type.

NOAA Fisheries concludes in the Environmental Assessment that such EFPs would have “no significant impact” on the marine environment.

“We strongly disagree that allowing longlining in areas currently closed to the gear would have ‘no significant impact’,” said Jim Donofrio, RFA executive director. “Past biological opinions, environmental impact statements, public comments, rulemakings and judicial decisions clearly support the need for the current closures. Any proposed longline research can be done outside closed areas.”

While each of these areas were closed to longlining because of the unacceptable level of juvenile swordfish or bluefin tuna bycatch, longlines were also responsible for very high levels of blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish bycatch in these areas, according to the RFA.

“There is no question blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish will be killed on longlines in these areas if they are reopened. How many blue marlin will be caught by vessels fishing under these EFPs? How many white marlin? How many sailfish? How many will be dead by the time the gear is hauled back to the vessel? The environmental assessment does not adequately address these questions,” Donofrio says.

Survey inconclusive on striped bass regs

The results of a survey sent to 8,000 members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance reveals that there’s no clear consensus on what anglers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania want in terms of striped bass regulations.

During the 2004 striped bass season in New Jersey, different opinions surfaced around the state about what striped bass size limits are best for anglers. While many Recreational Fishing Alliance members expressed support for current law, which allows anglers to keep one striped bass from 24 inches to less than 28 inches and one striper 34 inches or greater, others want a change.

In response RFA mailed a survey to members in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to determine the best course of action for 2005. Eighty-one percent of respondents were from New Jersey while 19 percent were from Pennsylvania.

RFA received feedback from key legislators that there is not enough support to change the current law in light of two important facts: the New Jersey legislature just tackled this issue in 2004 by approving new striped bass regulations of one fish at 24 inches to less than 28 inches, and one fish at 34 inches or greater; and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is scheduled to release a new striped bass stock assessment in August, which could require the legislature to tackle this issue again in 2006.

Tarpon tournament adds a title sponsor

The Tarpon Anglers Club, based in Port Charlotte, Fla., has added Nextel as its title sponsor for the organization’s 2005 Professional Tarpon Tournament Series.

The televised series is the largest live-release tarpon tournament in Florida, featuring five regular-season events and one championship event in a live-release format held in Boca Grande Pass, Fla.

The 2005 Nextel PTTS will take place May 21, May 29, June 5 and June 12. The Jim Beam Tarpon Cup Championship, featuring the series top 25 teams based on points, will take place June 19. A non-series Ladies Day Tournament will be held June 18.

The 13-week television series begins airing on the Sunshine Network July 1, and can be seen Thursdays at noon, Fridays at 5 p.m., Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m.

During each tournament, teams will be competing for a first prize that includes a Century 1902 Bay Boat with a Yamaha F115 4-stroke engine and a Continental aluminum trailer.

The Yamaha “Team of the Year” will receive the Yamaha F225 V6 4-stroke engine, while the second-place team will receive a trip for four to the Crocodile Bay Lodge in Costa Rica.

New Florida plates tout responsible angling

Funded by proceeds from the sale of a new Fish Florida! specialty license plate, the Florida Foundation for Responsible Angling now is awarding grants to organizations that teach and promote responsible angling, especially among Florida’s young people.

Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FFRA has been underwriting FWCC Kids’ Fishing Clinics since 1998, and has given away more than 18,500 rods and reels to children who attend the clinics. The children not only learn how to fish, but are taught principles of conservation and ethical fishing.

The specialty license plate depicting a sailfish — Florida’s state fish — leaping out of the water went on sale through local county tag agencies in March 2004. FFRA director Lara Halenda says 6,200 of the Fish Florida! tags have been sold, raising $22 each for FFRA.

Halenda says FFRA grants are awarded to organizations that reflect the FFRA mission “to promote public awareness and encourage the protection of marine fisheries and coastal habitats. This will be accomplished through displays, classes, seminars, presentations, clinics and other means designed to teach and promote responsible angling, particularly to Florida’s youth.”

The 6-year-old organization has reached over 30,000 children through the clinics it funds.