Maryland goes an extra mile for protection of larger rockfish

State proposes reduction of fishery by 23 percent

Notebook

October 24, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Maryland, which almost 15 years ago took the lead in restoring a depleted rockfish (striped bass) population, again plans to act aggressively to protect the future of the species.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which oversees recreational and commercial fishing for migratory coastal species, recently determined that rockfish ages 8 and older (28 inches and larger) are being overfished.

The ASMFC has mandated a minimum 14 percent reduction in harvest across the range of those fish in the year 2000 to protect the breeding stock. A large percentage of rockfish spawn in Chesapeake Bay tributaries and migrate along the Atlantic Coast to and from New England.

Maryland's Fisheries Service is proposing proportional reductions in the state's recreational and commercial fisheries that will decrease the catch of larger rockfish by approximately 23 percent.

The proposed reduction in the recreational fishery will be achieved through modified size limits in the summer and fall splits of the season, allowing only one fish of the two-fish creel to exceed 28 inches.

The commercial reduction will be achieved by a slot limit prohibiting the harvest of rockfish more than 36 inches at all times.

"Maryland, with our anglers and commercial watermen, has taken a leadership role in the protection and restoration of the striped bass population," said Dr. Sarah Taylor-Rogers, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. "We think it is important to act conservatively and fairly, and implement more than just the minimum required reduction."

The ASMFC is expected to make a final decision on Maryland's proposal early next month.

Maryland's moratorium on rockfish from 1985 to 1990, efficient stocking program and conservative management of the fishery after it reopened led to the species being declared recovered in 1995.

On the wing

Ducks Unlimited and the wildlife research unit at Cornell University are using high-tech transmitters and satellite tracking to take a new and closer look at the migration of Atlantic Flyway Canada geese.

Scientists from DU and the New York State Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell have fitted 22 migrants from Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland with transmitters and antennas weighing only 30 grams.

This equipment will send tracking signals to a series of French Argos satellites, which will forward the information to a lab at Cornell. Over a period of 18 months, scientists will be able to track the daily movements of the tagged birds.

"This is one of the last frontiers in goose biology," said Dr. Bruce Batt, chief biologist for DU. "Even the most basic information about their numbers and where they breed is lacking. We need to know these fundamentals so we can refine our management."

Batt and Dr. Richard Malecki, head of the unit at Cornell, are directing the project.

The Atlantic Flyway population of migratory Canada geese suffered from poor reproduction and efficient hunting from the mid-1980s to the mid 1990s, when hunting seasons in the flyway were closed.

Since 1995, the population has started to rebound, and a proposed hunting season this year was not implemented in Maryland or Delaware.

While migratory Canada geese have faltered and started to recover, the non-migratory, or resident, Canada geese apparently have prospered, making it difficult for hunters and waterfowl managers to accurately determine the status of both populations.

"We're focusing on the migrant goose because something is happening somewhere during the year that is jeopardizing the population," said Batt. "By studying their migration and the rest stops in between [northern Canada and North Carolina], we can get a clear picture of which habitats need restoration or protection."

The migration routes of the tagged birds can be followed on the Internet by logging on to www.ducks.org

Fall turkey season

The state's fall hunting season for wild turkey opens Saturday (Oct. 30) in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties and runs through Nov. 6, although Sunday hunting is not allowed in Maryland.

Turkey populations in Western Maryland are on the upswing after several years of poor hatches, According to the Department of Natural Resources, DNR field studies indicate turkey poult (young turkeys) production in that part of the state is at its highest level since 1996, when the survey began.

Generally, when poult production is high, fall harvests also are high. In 1994 and 1995, when poult production was assumed to be very high, fall harvests were at record levels of 559 and 570.

Last year, when poult production was very low, the fall harvest was 301.

"Fall turkey hunters will find ample supplies of turkeys across Western Maryland," said Mike Slattery, director of wildlife for DNR. "However, due to mostly average food supplies, these birds probably will be somewhat scattered."

Hard mast (acorns and beechnuts, for example) are preferred by turkeys in the fall, but soft mast (cherries and crabapples, for example) are top alternatives.

Mast surveys indicate an abundance of hard mast scattered across the region, with acorns most abundant in Garrett and Washington counties. Soft mast is estimated to be fairly abundant across the region.

"We expect the fall harvest to be higher than 1998's," said Slattery, "but not at the record levels that were found in 1994 and 1995."

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