All posts by kacarter4

“Four Arrested for Breaking Fishing Laws”

All too often people who break environmental laws get off with a slap on the wrist, which most environmentalists consider a slap in the face.   Not to mention that presumably most wildlife law breakers are never even caught.    However, for a group of four Florida men, it looks as though they will probably be facing some pretty serious consequences for being caught red-handed poaching important and protected marine species.

The four men were the subject of a yearlong Fish and Wildlife Conservation poaching investigation that was organized after the department received tips about one of the men possibly being involved in some illegal fishing activities.   An FWC officer describes the four men as knowing “exactly what they were doing.   They built their vessels specifically to hide fish, and we knew that’.   He also called their “disregard for Florida’s natural resources…astonishing’.

The species found between two boats included goliath grouper, red grouper, yellowtail snapper, African pompano and a “chopped up’ sea turtle, all of which are illegal to possess.   The men made so much off of poaching that two of the men were able to quit their day jobs to focus full-time on acquiring the high priced species.

The bust was aided by a “specially trained canine officer’, who was needed because of the men had designed their vessels specifically to hide target species.   The men are now facing serious charges.   One is being charged with 23 misdemeanor counts of illegal possession; and the other three are each facing 225 misdemeanor counts for illegal possession, and one felony for the taking and mutilation of the sea turtle.

This article should feel reassuring to environmentalists who have watched repeatedly as poachers are given the benefit of the doubt, or multiple chances to discontinue their activities, all while we lose vital species to extinction.   The officers involved speak passionately about saving resources for their children, and that is exactly what we need.   Passionate, (and well-funded) enforcement efforts that yield real results, and set real examples.


Work Cited:

Gill, Kristine. “Four Arrested for Breaking Fishing Laws’ Naples Daily News, 2015.

“Dangerous Fishing May Be Endangered”

News with fins #5

We all know that commercial fishing is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet.   One of the biggest reasons why it has such high injury, rescue and mortality rates is because until recently commercial fishing has operated as a kind of “derby-style race to catch fish as fast as possible’.   The result of this kind of practice is that as soon as the season opens, fisherman will work around the clock, and in severe weather conditions to make sure they get an adequate amount of the catch.

In 2001, NOAA adopted the idea of “catch shares’, and implemented it into several Pacific fisheries.   The idea was to “reduce competitive fishing pressure on overfished stocks’, but it has also resulted in a fundamental shift in the way fishermen are making decisions regarding risky fishing practices.   When each fleet is allotted a certain amount of the catch, a certain level of flexibility and stability is achieved, which allows the “fishermen to make a rational tradeoff in terms of risk and reward’, as opposed to occasionally risking life and limb to avoid being left out of the harvest.

The study notes that there was a staggering 79% drop in the number of vessels fishing on the highest wind days observed, after catch shares were enacted.   The US Coast Guard confirms the decrease in risky behaviors by stating that there has also been an “87% reduction in the rate of safety incidents’ in the sablefish fishery being studied.

NOAA has since decided to expand catch-shares to more Pacific fisheries, and hopefully the idea will mark a major shift from prior derby-style commercial fishing that has dominated the industry for centuries, to a more organized and safer catch share based commercial fishing industry.

Work Cited:

NOAA  Fisheries West Coast Region. “Dangerous Fishing May Be Endangered”. NOAA.

“Low Chilkat King Numbers Prompt Another Year of Harvest Restrictions”

News with fins #4

Recently the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that because of a low forecast for predicted king salmon this year, the commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries associated with the Chilkat River and Inlet near Haines, will all be restricted for a second year in a row.

The restrictions include closing “sport fishing from April 15th through July 15th‘, and the commercial fishery will be closed “through the second week of the season, which starts in mid-June’.   Managers are hoping that they may be able to “allow a little more subsistence use’ over last year, in large part because for the first time since 2012 the kings were able to meet escapement goals for 2015.   Subsistence use will most likely be raised first, and if escapement goals are met again this year, perhaps sport and commercial restrictions will be relaxed for 2017.

However, biologists are quick to point out that “like the rest of fisheries management, this is all in flux’, and that they will have a better idea for next year, once they get the fish wheels going, and can better assess “the run strength’.

Another important aspect to consider, according to one area biologist, is that due to recent cuts to the department’s budget there is simply not as much information available to make the most accurate predictions.   Therefore, “the department has to err on the side of caution when it comes to management’, and take a conservative approach when setting limits and restrictions.

Work Cited:

Rogers, Jillian. “Low Chilkat King Numbers Prompt Another Year of Harvest Restrictions”. KHNS, Haines.

“Michigan King Salmon Stocking May Become a Thing of the Past”

News With Fins #3

Chinook salmon were first stocked in Lake Michigan in the late 1960’s, in response to a dying commercial trout industry, and an invasion of alewives.   Since then, Chinook have thrived there for decades, contributing to a “$7 billion Great Lakes sport fishery’, and keeping the alewives population in check.   Their numbers peaked in 2012, and were shortly followed by a drastic reduction.

Since the 2012 peak, Chinook numbers have dropped some 75%, and the DNR has been forced to decrease their stocking efforts dramatically.   They attribute the sharp decline in salmon populations to the equally sharp decline in alewives populations, which is a result of invasive mussel species that are completing for the alewives food source.   They also believe that the trouble for salmon started years ago, and culminated in 2012, when the fish were so hungry that they “were hitting any lure in the water because there was nothing to eat’, which led to record catches that year.

In response to the dwindling numbers, the DNR has already reduced its overall stocking efforts three times since 1999, “from 7 million to 1.5 million’, and are afraid they may have to completely eliminate stocking of Chinooks all together.   They reassure anglers that the big fish will probably continue to be caught in the Great Lakes, but populations will be limited to what the remaining fish can reproduce on their own, so catches will be much less frequent and reliable.

Work Cited:

Ellison, Garrett. “Michigan King Salmon Stocking May Become a Thing of the Past”.  MLive Media Group.

Marine Protected Areas Intensify Both Cooperation and Competition

Friendly Rivalry Can Boost Effective Conservation of Marine Resources

Duke University, 4 March 2016.

This article summarizes recently published research, conducted by Duke University, concerning the impacts that Marine Protected Areas may have on social organization within communities affected by their implementation.   It shows that maintaining a balance between cooperation and competition may be essential for a successful transition into marine conservation, but an increase in competition without cooperation may result in a disregard for new rules.

The research focused on four different fishery dependent communities, in Baja California, Mexico, with two of the groups being adjacent to a Marine Protected Area, and the other 2 groups being from outside the impact area of the MPA.   The research “included controlled economic experiments which were based on game theory, to study prosocial and antisocial behaviors among fishermen and non-fishermen’ within the communities.

Researchers found that both “friendly-rivalry’, and cooperation were higher in communities which were undergoing economic diversification because of the influence of the local MPA.   Researchers stress that while these initial findings are encouraging for how communities will react to MPA’s, there is a fine balance that must be maintained to ensure continued cooperation between local fishermen.   If any social inequalities are developed through the process of marine protection, cooperation is at risk of decreasing, which could have a drastic effect on how locals interact with the MPA.

This study gives fishery managers tremendous insight into how important and complex the human dimension of fishery management is.   If MPA’s are implemented with an appropriate amount of consideration for how to maintain equality throughout local communities, local residents can become assets to conservation, while maintaining a healthy local fishing economy.   If proper consideration is not granted, extreme-competition and lack of cooperation could result in communities unraveling, and ideas of protection being disregarded.

Journal Reference:

Xavier Basurto, Esther Blanco, Mateja Nenadovic and Björn Vollan.Integrating Simultaneous Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior into Theories of Collective Action.  Science Advances, March 2016 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1501220

Work Cited:                                                                        

Duke University. “Marine protected areas intensify both cooperation and competition: Friendly rivalry can boost effective conservation of marine resources.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2016. <>.


So, this is Hallie, the Halibut

Common Name: Pacific Halibut


Image Credit: Kevin Lee/

Scientific name: Hippoglossus slenolepis

So, this is Hallie!

Don’t let the pic fool you, Hallie is a fierce and confident 25 year old female, who measures about 80 inches long and weighs almost 300 pounds!   Halibut can reach upwards of 500lbs, and can live more than 50 years!

Gender is not always externally obvious in halibut, so the only real way to tell is to examine the inside to look for ovaries or testes.   However, one major difference between male and female halibut, and one that would give Hallie away as a female, is their size.   Female halibut grow much faster, and get much bigger than males, who rarely weigh above 100 pounds!

Halibut enjoy different sexual partners each year, and females reproduce annually after about the age of 11.   Males can reproduce earlier in life, for some at about 8 years old.   Once a female is ready to reproduce, she can lay as many as 4 million eggs a year!

Halibut are top predators, eating essentially anything that gets in their way, and can fit into their mouths.   For a mature halibut, like Hallie, favorites include various finfish, octopus, crabs, clams and even smaller halibut!

Halibut are not, however, at the very top of the food chain.   Their predators include lings, salmon sharks, orcas, sea lions and especially humans!   Halibut is a favorite for humans because of its mild taste, firm texture and its meat’s appealing appearance.

Image Credit: Bleacher Report/Michael Clancy

Hallie likes to hang out near the ocean bottom, preferably above sand, mud or gravel bars.   The tops of their bodies are dark colored, and the underside is white, both of which serve as camouflage and aid in hunting.   Here is a link to a video of beautiful halibut, just like Hallie.

She spawns between November and March typically at a depth of between about 600 to 1500 feet.   The eggs are deposited into deep ocean currents where they drift until they eventually move up and into coastal waters to mature.   During the rest of the year Hallie, and other halibut prefer to be closer to shore, in shallower water.   Halibut migrate in a clockwise motion along the pacific coasts, reaching as far north as Nome, Alaska, as far south as California and as far west as China!

Pacific halibut range.PNG

Image Credit: Wikipedia



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“Small Fish Species Evolved Rapidly Following 1964 Alaska Earthquake”

“Genomic technology has helped document rapid evolutionary transformation of threespine stickleback in less than 50 years’


Typically when people think of evolutionary adaptations they are presuming that they take place over a relatively long period of time.   However, recent research shows that some species can actually mutate on a much faster scale when they are abruptly forced into a new environment.   One such species is the threespine stickleback, a tiny fish that originally lived solely in saltwater, but has developed a “genetic bag of tricks for invading and surviving in new freshwater habitats.’   According to research projects conducted by the University of Oregon, and with help from University of Alaska researchers, the stickleback has not only become capable of thriving in fresh or saltwater since the end of the last Ice Age, but independent populations in Alaska have been shown to have undergone this, as well as several other changes in 50 years or less, which is remarkable in terms of evolutionary progress.

Image Credit: University of Oregon

The first study, conducted in 2010 using rapid genome-sequencing technology affirmed that “stickleback had evolved genetically to survive in fresh water after glaciers receded 13,000 years ago.’   This finding prompted a follow-up study to reveal just how quickly this kind of change could take place.   The new study focused on independent populations of threespine sticklebacks that had been trapped in fresh water after the 1964 Alaska earthquake.   The massive earthquake “caused geological uplift that captured marine fish in newly formed freshwater ponds’, and the stickleback have since experienced “changes in both their genes and visible external traits such as eyes, shape, color, bone size and body armor.’   According to one of the main authors of the final paper, William Cresko, they have even “found evidence of changes in fewer than 10 years’, leading researchers to wonder if these kinds of rapid evolutionary changes could be “happening with other organisms as well.’

The findings, according to senior researcher, Susan L. Bassham, verify that “organisms – even vertebrates…can respond very fast to environmental change’, an idea that “perhaps opens a window on how climate change could affect all kinds of species.’   Undoubtedly, more research should be conducted, and on a larger number of organisms to predict just how many others may hold the same “hidden genetic diversity’ that has helped the stickleback to adjust so gracefully to a fundamentally altered environment.

The original paper is available online through the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Journal Reference:

Emily A. Lescak, Susan L. Bassham, Julian Catchen, Ofer Gelmond, Mary L. Sherbick, Frank A. Von Hippel, and William A. Cresko.  Evolution of stickleback in 50 years on earthquake-uplifted islands.  PNAS, December 14, 2015 DOI:  10.1073/pnas.1512020112


Work Cited:

University of Oregon. “Small fish species evolved rapidly following 1964 Alaska earthquake: Genomic technology has helped document rapid evolutionary transformation of threespine stickleback in less than 50 years.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2015. <>.