We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The crisisification of everything from weather to fatness to flu season trivializes real crises.
Just One Minute mocked the NYT's crisisification of the Atlantic Menhaden population. Fair enough. It's not a crisis, but it is a serious concern to all those concerned with ocean wildlife - and one which could be easily solved by limiting the helo-guided factory-fish harvest of these bottom-of-the-food-chain schooling fish.
Even as recently as 6 years ago, when fishing on Long Island Sound, you could catch your bait for Bluefish or Bass by tossing a bare hook into a school of Menhaden, aka Bunker, and just dragging the hook through the thick schools. Since the factory ships appeared, those giant schools have been harvested like the herds of Bison and the sky-darkening flocks of Passenger Pigeons.
Here's the problem in a nutshell. Menhaden, as a species, is not threatned by over fishing. The key here is "as a species".
The inshore schools have been decimated and continue to be decimated. There is incontrovertible proof, and not at all annecdotal, that when the menhaden reach their peak in Narraganset Bay, the striper fishery is fantastic. The fish corral the bunker up against the beaches along Prudence and Patience Islands and along the wall of East Passage (entrance to Newport Harbor) and you can catch decent stripers. Once Omega moves in with their spotter planes (I might want to mention ARC Bait out of Gloucester, MA who supplies lobster bait to that industry), the purse seiners start in and the striper fishery dies and does not recover until early Fall for a very short season. This is true in Fisher's Island Sound, LIS and as far down as Shark River Inlet in New Jersey.
The University of Rhode Island, along with Woods Hole, has done some studies of the impact of bunker forage loss on the inshore striper fishery and the conclusion has been that the menhaden are stable as a commercial fishery - overall. What they don't mention is that the commercial reduction industry (which includes the refined fish oil that is popular with the health crowd) literally rapes the inshore fishery. The State of Rhode Island has gotten around to limiting the take in Narragansett Bay - sort of, but they don't enforce the tonnage limits because of limited enforcement resources. The State of Connecticut has limited involvement - while CT does have a long shore line, 50 to 100 yards offshore the coast, the waters belong to Rhode Island and New York - both of which have reduced their commercial enforcement significantly due to restricted budgets.
Menhaden are an extremely important resource. Population studies have shown it's importance to the ecosystem as a whole and not just to the food chain.
The overall poor state of our fisheries due to commercial fishing is significant and I'm speaking as a friend of the commercial industry - I grew up working commercial boats during the summer and understand how important and vital this industry is to both the nation, state and families who rely on this industry. With the advent of large scale purse seining, offshore long lines, gill netting and inshore fish trapping, we're approaching the time when our fisheries will not be able to recover not to mention that small boat operators will be forced out by the inability to compete. Then the clarion call will be made, but it will be too late to do anything about it.
And before somebody gets all hot and bothered about the commercials, remember that currently, the small operations are restricted in days, species and tonnage. It's the big guys who can fish state-to-state and work under inadequate Federal guidelines who are doing this - the other folks are just trying to make a living.