Groups sue DLNR over fish collecting

The Department of Land and Natural Resources should have conducted environmental reviews before issuing aquarium fish collecting permits, environmental groups and several Hawaii residents say in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Oahu’s 1st Circuit Court.

Earthjustice, the Conservation Council for Hawaii, the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity joined with Maui resident Rene Umberger, Milolii residents Kaimi Kaupiko and Willie Kaupiko, and West Hawaii resident and business owner Mike Nakachi to file the complaint. The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment ordering the state to perform reviews under the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act. The plaintiffs say the act applies to the permits because they regulate an activity that happens within state waters.

“DLNR has never examined under HEPA the impacts of issuing permits allowing fish and invertebrate collection for the aquarium trade on the scale that has been occurring, yet in its 1998 State of the Reefs Report, the agency admitted that, ‘studies to characterize the effects of removal of reef fish on the coral reef ecosystem are necessary if this activity is to continue,’” the complaint said.

Umberger said the best possible outcome for the lawsuit, which she said should not result in lengthy court proceedings, is an order for the department to undertake the review.

Blue Ocean Mariculture buys kampachi farm

The acquisition of Kona Blue Water Farms’ Kampachi hatchery and offshore assets has been completed by Blue Ocean Mariculture, which operates along the Kona coast of Hawaii island.

Blue Ocean had bought Kona Blue’s offshore mariculture lease in early 2010, its hatchery was acquired in January of 2011 and that May, Blue Ocean finished its first larval run of fish that are now full-grown and being harvested and sold throughout the U.S., according to a statement.

Kona Blue dissolved in November of 2011.

Blue Ocean Mariculture buys kampachi farm – Hawaii News – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Some question whether sustainable seafood delivers on its promise

Seafood counters used to be simpler places, where a fish was labeled with its name and price. Nowadays, it carries more information than a used-car listing. Where did it swim? Was it farm-raised? Was it ever frozen? How much harm was done to the ocean by fishing it?

Many retailers tout the environmental credentials of their seafood, but a growing number of scientists have begun to question whether these certification systems deliver on their promises. The labels give customers a false impression that purchasing certain products helps the ocean more than it really does, some researchers say.

Backers respond that they are helping transform many of the globe’s wild-caught fisheries, giving them a financial incentive to include environmental safeguards, while giving consumers a sense of what they can eat with a clear conscience.

To add to the confusion, there are a variety of certification labels and guides, prompting retailers to adopt a hybrid approach, relying on multiple seafood rating systems or establishing their own criteria and screening products that way.

As of Sunday, for example, Whole Foods stopped selling seafood listed as “red” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute — including octopus, gray sole and Atlantic halibut — because these species are overfished or caught in a way that harms ocean habitat or other species. The move has sparked criticism from New England fishermen, who are now barred from selling to the upscale chain. Whole Foods also sells only pole- or line-caught canned tuna, which harms fewer species than conventional tuna-fishing methods.

U.S. tightens fishing policy, setting 2012 catch limits for all managed species

In an effort to sustain commercial and recreational fishing for the next several decades, the United States this year will become the first country to impose catch limits for every species it manages, from Alaskan pollock to Caribbean queen conch.

Although the policy has attracted scant attention outside the community of those who fish in America and the officials who regulate them, it marks an important shift in a pursuit that has helped define the country since its founding.

Unlike most recent environmental policy debates, which have divided neatly along party lines, this one is about a policy that was forged under President George W. Bush and finalized with President Obama’s backing.

“It’s something that’s arguably first in the world,” said Eric Schwaab, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s assistant administrator for fisheries. “It’s a huge accomplishment for the country.”

Five years ago, Bush signed a reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which dates to the mid-1970s and governs all fishing in U.S. waters. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers joined environmental groups, some fishing interests and scientists to insert language in the law requiring each fishery to have annual catch limits in place by the end of 2011 to end overfishing.

Although NOAA didn’t meet the law’s Dec. 31 deadline — it has finalized 40 of the 46 fishery management plans that cover all federally managed stocks — officials said they are confident that they will have annual catch limits in place by the time the 2012 fishing year begins for all species. (The timing varies depending on the fish, with some seasons starting May 1 or later.) Some fish, such as mahi-mahi and the prize game fish wahoo in the southeast Atlantic, will have catch limits for the first time.

Monster blue catfish finding mixed reception

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, Va. — Talk to fishermen here, and you will hear the legend of Buggs Island Lake: A Navy diver sent to recover the wreckage of a small plane encounters a fish the size of a man on the lake’s bottom. He bolts to the surface and refuses to dip a toe in the waters again.

The yarn seemed as dubious as any other fish tale — until two weeks ago. An angler hooked a 143-pound blue catfish in this reservoir along the Virginia-North Carolina border; it smashed the state record by more than 30 pounds and could be a world record.

It is likely not the only one lurking out there. A monster fish that can easily top 100 pounds and stretch nearly five feet has come of age in the region’s waterways.

It has a distended beer gut of a belly, a chin studded with whiskers tipped with taste-bud-like sensors and a grunt like a pig’s. Like a creature from a Hollywood B-movie, it has grown fat from conditions created by pollution.

Blue catfish have exploded in numbers and size in many local river systems, biologists say, spawning the type of giant fish more commonly found in the species’ native Mississippi River — or in the pages of Mark Twain. And no one is sure how big they’ll get here.

The rise of “blue cats” has spurred a response as strange as any fish story. Nearly everyone agrees it is a monster of sorts, but whether that is necessarily a bad thing depends on whom you talk to.

Waterlilies, hardy or tropical, can lend a touch of magic to ponds

If I bought a house that happened to have a swimming pool — not my favorite landscape element — I would hope that the feature would be geometric, at least. If it instead were kidney-shaped, I would fill it in with loads of sand and peat moss and turn it into a garden of the prettiest swamp flora, full of pitcher plants and Japanese and Louisiana irises.

If the pool were a much preferred circle, square or rectangle, I would make it uniformly 22 inches deep, grow lots of aquatic plants in containers, throw in a few small koi and spend the years watching them grow.

I have no intention of doing this, by the way, because I already have a pond. My garden would seem lifeless without it, however, I would offer this general advice about decorative ponds, besides the shape. Make them bigger than you think you need. Small ponds are harder to keep clean and algae-free, and the water temperature fluctuates too much for the good of flora, fauna and owner. Another hard-earned lesson: Set it up so that the pump and the filtration box sit out of the water. This will reduce maintenance further and keep you out of the pond.

No ornamental pond is complete without waterliles. Part of the magic of a waterlily is that its flower inhabits two realms. It is born in the submerged crown and journeys upward to the dry world, where it opens to the delight of the aerial circus of pollinators and to the thrill of the gardener looking for beauty in the heat of summer.

Shark attacks surfer in Brazil

SAO PAULO – OFFICIALS say a shark has attacked a 21-year-old man who was surfing off the coast of north-eastern Brazil.

The spokesman for the Pernambuco state fire department says the shark took a deep bite from the right thigh of Malisson Lima on Wednesday morning.

Spokesman Valdy Oliveira says the surfer’s injury was not life-threatening and he does not risk losing his leg.

Mr Oliveira says Mr Lima was probably attacked by a bull or tiger shark, which are common in the area.

The attack occurred in an area that is off-limits to swimmers and surfers because of the danger of shark attacks Mr Oliveira says 20 people have been killed in the 53 shark attacks registered in Pernambuco state since 1992. — AP

Shark attacks surfer in Brazil

New catch quota established for bottomfish

HONOLULU – Hawaii fish lovers may be able to enjoy fresh local catch of opakapaka, onaga and other favored bottomfish for a longer period during the next fishing season because federal regulators are expanding the fishery’s annual catch quota.

Hawaii fishermen have been adhering to a catch limit on bottomfish for several years after studies showed the species were overfished in the islands in 2005. For the past two years, the limit was 254,000 pounds.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council on Friday decided to expand the quota by 28 percent to 325,000 pounds after taking into account a recently completed scientific study that offers a better and more thorough understanding of Hawaii’s bottomfish population.

Fishermen hit this year’s limit in March – only six-and-a-half months into the season that began Sept. 1. The expanded quota may allow fishermen to fish – and deliver fish to markets and restaurants – for more months next season.

”The larger number this year may hopefully result in a longer fishing year, so there will be a shorter close during the summertime,” Mark Mitsuyasu, the council’s bottomfish coordinator, said Monday.

The weather will likely dictate how fast fishermen hit the new quota. If there are relatively more clear days, fishermen will have more opportunities to fish and the limit may be reached sooner rather than later.

‘Shocking’ state of seas threatens mass extinction, say marine experts

Fish, sharks, whales and other marine species are in imminent danger of an “unprecedented” and catastrophic extinction event at the hands of humankind, and are disappearing at a far faster rate than anyone had predicted, a study of the world’s oceans has found.

Mass extinction of species will be “inevitable” if current trends continue, researchers said.

Overfishing, pollution, run-off of fertilisers from farming and the acidification of the seas caused by increasing carbon dioxide emissions are combining to put marine creatures in extreme danger, according to the report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (Ipso), prepared at the first international workshop to consider all of the cumulative stresses affecting the oceans at Oxford University.

The international panel of marine experts said there was a “high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”. They said the challenges facing the oceans created “the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth’s history”.

“The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, scientific director of Ipso. “As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.