Lake Erie Walleye and Perch Fishing Charter Trips Luna Pier, Monroe Michigan & Ohio
Invasive mussels making 'massive' changesFriday, 15 April 2011 05:08
Invasive mussels making 'massive' changesUPI.com Published: April 13, 2011 at 7:51 PM
ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 13 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say the ongoing spread of non-native mussels in the Great Lakes has caused "astounding" and massive changes throughout the ecosystem.
A study led by University of Michigan scientists says the spread of two closely relates species of invasive mussels, the zebra and the quagga, are displacing life-supporting algae and threatening the multibillion-dollar U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries in Both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
By filtering out and feeding on the algae, the mussels are robbing other organisms of the food they need to survive, researchers said.
"These are astounding changes, a tremendous shifting of the very base of the food web in those lakes into a state that has not been seen in the recorded history of the lakes," said Mary Anne Evans, lead author of a paper to be published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The changes are so significant and occurring so quickly, researchers say, that Great Lakes management agencies should review and revise their policies to respond more quickly.
"New strategies for managing the lakes are urgently needed," said researcher Donald Scavia, director of U-M's Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.
"Ecological changes that formerly occurred over decades are now happening in just a few years, so we need to adapt our management policies to this new reality," Scavia said.
Walleye makes comeback in Lake Erie?Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:49
Walleye makes comeback in Lake Erie?
Pickerel has made a comeback in Lake Erie, much to the surprise of biologists.
Yearly surveys done on the lake initially led experts to believe the fish, formally known as walleye, was in decline.
But later estimates showed its numbers to be healthy enough that this year's allowable catch by sport and commercial fishermen could be raised by almost one-third.
This year, the Lake Erie Committee, made up of representatives from Ontario, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, has set a quota of 2.919 million walleye — up from 2.2 million in 2010.
John Cooper, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, said the better numbers are probably due to an "exceptional" spawning year in 2003 and another strong one in 2007.
Those fish, Cooper said, are now older and ready to be caught.
Every year, the lake is trawled with nets to catch a variety of fish, which are examined, measured, and weighed. From those observations, experts project the entire population of the lake for a specific fish.
"At this point last year, we thought it'd be a lot worse for walleye," Cooper said. "Last year, it didn't look very promising." It's a different story for perch. Right now, estimates put its numbers in Lake Erie at 130 million, down 28% from 2010 and a big drop from the mid-2000s when 400 million perch swam in the lake.
As a result, quota is down 3.7% for this year to 12.651 million pounds, compared to 13.137 million in 2011.
Perch, said Cooper, "are small fish but there's lots of them. Even at 130 million, that's still a pretty good situation out there."
The walleye quota is for the west end of Lake Erie, where many commercial fishermen out of Port Dover trawl the lake. A walleye quota for the east end of the lake will be announced later this spring.
"We're seeing the situation for perch improving east of Long Point. It seems to be doing quite well," Cooper added.
Fish populations in the lake are jointly managed by governments on both sides of the border.
The Lake Erie Committee tries " to balance providing fish but not jeopardizing the future of the fisheries," Cooper said. "Complicated mathematical models are used to find that balance."
Peter Meisenheimer, executive director of the Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association, could not be reached for comment.
By DANIEL PEARCE, QMI Agency
Smuggling live fish threaten Great LakesSaturday, 02 April 2011 23:03
Smuggling of live fish seen as threat to Lakes
Jim Lynch / The Detroit News
To some, the Asian carp is an invader to be driven off. To others, it's a delicacy to be savored. And to a few, it's a commodity for profit.
Those competing interests have begun to clash recently at the U.S.-Canadian border.
When Canada banned the transport of live carp in 2005, the country's enforcement efforts focused on those markets, particularly in Toronto. Last year, however, officials switched tactics and began to go after the fish at the choke points — the borders, including Windsor. Inspectors received training in how to identify Asian carp.
It didn't take long to begin seeing results.
The recent stops at the Canadian border show some people are willing to sidestep the laws in order to get a higher return for their fish by delivering them live. It's a situation that has government and environmental groups on guard.
"We consider the transportation of Asian carp over the border to be a big deal — a very big deal," said Marc Gaden, communications director and legislative liaison for the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission. "It's one of the two main ways — the other being the shipping canals near Chicago — that fish can get into the basin."
Gaden described two possible scenarios. In one, a truck carrying live Asian carp slips through customs at the U.S./Canadian border and gets involved in an accident, spilling its cargo. The Asian carp find their way into a local stream or river — waterways that eventually connect to Lake Ontario. Reproduction ensues and within a few years, Ontario and the other lakes are overrun by Asian carp.
Or someone simply decides to dump the live fish in a Canadian body of water for no other reason than maliciousness.
Only dead carp allowed
Asian carp have spread steadily north in the Mississippi River system from the South where they were introduced in the 1970s. As their numbers have grown, so has the ability of the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries to produce large amounts for sale. Enough fish can now be caught or raised to make it profitable to ship them to distant markets.
And that's fine with U.S. and Canadian officials as long as the fish are dead. A dead carp can't breed and potentially wind up in the Great Lakes.
Both the U.S. and Canadian governments have laws prohibiting the transportation of live Asian carp across state and national borders. Fresh, however, is king in the world of seafood. And while dead Asian carp fetch 85 cents a pound, a live one brings in roughly $1.50 a pound. That's big money for a fish that can weigh 20 to 100 pounds.
In 2008, Canadian investigators seized a pair of live Asian carp from a holding tank at a Toronto market and slapped the owners with a $4,500 fine. The following year, another market was found to have a single live Asian carp for sale and that operation was hit with a $3,500 fine.
The cultural connection to carp among those of Chinese heritage stems from the fish's availability in China, said Lucia Lo, a professor at York University's Centre for Asian Research in Toronto. Carp are readily available in China and are found in ponds all over the country.
Every part of the Asian carp can be used in one dish or another — from soups that utilize the head, to flesh and small bones that are ground into fish paste, to meat that is fried into cakes.
"The carp has a long history in the Asian diet, particularly in the Chinese diet," Lo said.
Live fish carry steep fines
On Feb. 18, officials with the Canadian Border Services Agency and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources stopped a truck that had just crossed over the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron into Sarnia. The flatbed held several bolted-down containers of fish, including one with more than 5,000 pounds of bighead carp.
A closer look by Canadian border officials revealed some of the carp were still alive, and after tossing a sampling into a bucket of water, several fish regained full consciousness. That was all it took for customs agents to hold the truck and its cargo, which included more than 5,000 pounds of live bass as well.
That truck belonged to Mark Eikenberry, owner of Sweetwater Springs Fish Farm in Peru, Ind. Since it was the only truck in his fleet, he quickly pleaded guilty to possessing an invasive fish and paid a $20,000 fine in order to get it back on the road.
Eikenberry said he never intended for the Asian carp to make it to the border alive. Typically, when a shipment of Asian carp move from fish farms in Arkansas, tanks are filled with a bottom layer of ice, a layer of fish, and then another layer of ice.
The cold temperatures serve two purposes: They kill the carp and keep them as fresh as possible. In this case, the ice didn't quite do its job, Eikenberry said.
"The Asian markets very much value live fish," he said. "They like the freshness, the quality and the taste they get from a live fish. When it's just 'fresh' or on ice, it's worth a lot less."
That pressure to get the fish to the point of sale "live" or as close to "live" as possible can create an incentive to cheat.
Feng Yang, who lives in the Toronto area, has been fined a total of $90,000 for two attempts to bring Asian carp into Canada from the United States. His latest indiscretion occurred when Canadian authorities found 4,000 pounds of live bighead and grass carp on a truck he had just driven over the Ambassador Bridge in November.
Earlier this month, Yang pleaded guilty to possessing an invasive species and agreed to pay a $50,000 fine.
A third incident occurred in January, when Canadian officials seized several thousand pounds of live Asian carp after they were trucked over the Blue Water Bridge.
With three catches in less than six months time, does that mean inspectors have scratched the tip of an Asian carp-trafficking iceberg? Or are these three isolated incidents?
"We don't know that yet," conservation officer Sean Insley said. "But our message is loud and clear: If you come across the border with Asian carp, you're more than welcome here if they're dead. If they're not dead, we're going to deal with it."
When Asian carp began to emerge as a popular product, Schaefer Fisheries in Thomson, Ill., was quick to recognize the potential. These days, the company produces 30 million-plus pounds of Asian carp annually for sale all over the world.
Schaefer doesn't sell or ship live fish, but that doesn't stop Toronto and Chicago buyers from calling.
"We don't have any shipments going to Chicago because there are usually enough of the live fish being bootlegged in," said owner Mark Schaefer. "They only call us when they can't get Asian carp live."
At Big River Fish in Pearl, Ill., the story is the same. Last year, the 12-year-old company struck a deal to ship 30 million pounds of Asian carp to China.
Because of the amount of Asian carp committed to the China contract, Big River does not ship to the Chicago, Toronto or New York.
"We've had a lot of inquiries about it," said Ross Harano, Big River's marketing director. "It's illegal, so we don't mess around with that kind of stuff. But we've had people call about it from all over the world."
Group reports finding shipwreck in Lake MichiganThursday, 31 March 2011 00:47
Group reports finding shipwreck in Lake Michigan
HOLLAND — An organization that documents shipwrecks says it’s found the wreck of a 60-foot, single-masted sloop in Lake Michigan that may date back to the 1830s.
Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates this week announced that that the wreck was found off southwestern Michigan in water about 250 feet deep between Saugatuck and South Haven. The discovery was made while working with author Clive Cussler and his sonar operator Ralph Wilbanks of the National Underwater & Marine Agency.
Holland-based Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates says the vessel sits upright and is in relatively good condition. The group says the sloop’s construction and design are consistent with ships built in the 1820s and 1830s.
Video of the wreck is expected to be shown April 16 at an event in Holland.
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