December 22, 2014
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Greenhouse gas initiative working… helps keep fish cool
Warm water fish: Greg Vespe of Tiverton, RI caught this 17 pound cobia, an exotic warm water fish, this summer just north of the Newport Bridge when fishing for striped bass with Atlantic Menhaden.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) representing nine states (including RI) has submitted comments on proposed carbon pollution rules for existing power plants to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in support of the regional program. Janet Coit, director of the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Marion Gold, commissioner of the RI Office of Energy serve as directors on the regional panel.

The RGGI states have successfully cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent since 2005. "RGGI's regional approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is important to Rhode Island… We know that climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to ensuring the health and resilience of our regional waters…" said Janet Coit, DEM Director. The RGGI states are encouraging EPA to view their success as a benchmark for national action.

How GHG emissions and global warming

impact our fish

GHG emissions create global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century was caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation.

GHG emissions and the climate change they create can a positive, negative or neutral effect on fish species with different tolerances.

URI Bay temperature studies confirm that the Bay has warmed 2 to 3 degrees depending on time of year in past 45 years, and the effects of climate change can be seen with storms such as hurricane Sandy.

In 2009 professor Jeremy Collie of URI's Graduate School of Oceanography said that the increase in Bay temperature has created "big changes in the food web…" of the Bay. A delay in spring algae bloom that normally occurs in late winter and early spring has been delayed into the summer. As algae starts to die it uses oxygen in the water. Algae blooms combined with poor dissolved oxygen in portions of the Bay from heavy spring rains and in particular in areas that do not get flushed regularly, has led to hypoxia (low water oxygen). Low or no oxygen has led to fewer fish in the area and/or fish kills which have occurred several times in the Bay.

A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) related that rising water temperatures are also helping to drive many of New England's fish populations farther from shore and into deeper water.

In this study NOAA biologists analyzed water temperature trends from North Carolina to the Canadian border off Maine from 1968 to 2007. They then looked at fish survey data collected each spring and assessed where the fish were caught and how abundant they were.

Some fish species experienced a lot of movement while other species exhibited little movement to the north, but rather they moved to deeper waters where temperatures are lower.

Small-boat fishermen in Rhode Island and Massachusetts used to catch most of their haddock, flounder, and cod in waters close to shore. Nowadays, fishermen often have to travel as far 100 miles offshore to find those same fish.

At the same time, we are catching more fish traditionally found in warmer climates. Like Atlantic croaker or cobia which migrate along the Atlantic coast on a seasonal basis. In spring, they move from southern Florida, to the Carolinas as water temperatures rise. That's right, the Carolinas… not Rhode Island.

Yet this year Mason Sherman, a URI engineering student from North Kingstown caught a 32 pound, 46 inch cobia when he was bottom fishing for fluke (summer flounder) just south of the Jamestown Bridge. Greg Vespe of Tiverton landed a 17 pound cobia fishing north of the Newport Bridge this summer fishing with Atlantic Menhaden chunks for striped bass. And, a number of other cobia were caught off coastal shores and in our bays.

A technical report prepared for a 2013 National Climate Assessment for NOAA relates that the nation's ecosystems and marine resources are being affected by a changing climate. The report titled Oceans and Marine Resources in a changing Climate, produced by sixty-three experts from NOAA and other federal, academic and non-governmental organizations, concluded that marine ecosystems will likely continue to be affected, in most cases negatively, by anthropogenic-driven climate change and rising levels of atmospheric CO2.

As a fisherman, I know the water is warming and believe we need to do everything we can to curb global warming (like supporting greenhouse gas reduction programs that work). It would be nice if some fish were left for my great grandchildren as the water could warm to a point where there are fewer and fewer fish to catch.

Stripers Forever challenges fishery officials

Stripers Forever, a conservation organization that advocates sustainable management of wild striped bass on the Atlantic Coast through their designation as game fish, has challenged a joint decision by fishery officials from Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Commission to increase harvest quotas in the Chesapeake Bay area in 2014.

"According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), striped bass are in serious decline along the Atlantic Coast," says Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever. "Although insisting that stripers are not yet overfished, the ASMFC board has already directed its technical committee to develop ways to reduce striper mortality coast-wide beginning in 2015. So the decision to kill more fish in the Chesapeake Bay area is irresponsible at best."

Stripers Forever has joined other recreational fishing advocacy and conservation organizations in asking the fishery officials to immediately rescind their joint decision to increase striped bass quotas and to instead concentrate on conservative management to sustain the striped bass resource in the Chesapeake Bay where the bulk of stripers that migrate up and down the Atlantic Coast are spawned. For further information visit www.stripersforever.org.

Where's the bite

Cod fishing in Rhode Island continues to be good when boats are able to get out. Capt. Frank Blount said Frances Fleet vessels (out of Point Judith, RI) were able to get out just once last week. "Last week the best (cod) of the day was threatening the 20 pound mark. Both jigs and bait were productive." said Roger Simpson of the Frances Fleet.

Pollack. Dave Garzoli and Lary Norin fished for pollack in 20 degree weather last week. Lary said, "We went out about 20 miles and fished in 250 feet of water… We used 12 to 16 ounce jigs with different colored teasers… The first half of the day the fishing was a little on the slower side but as the day progressed the fishing kept getting better and better. We caught and kept about 30 pollack most in the 5 to 15 pound range… Our arms got a great workout. When we got back to the dock (Eastman's in Seabrook, NH) the rods and reels were covered in inches of ice from the ocean spray... I'm looking forward to January cod fishing in Rhode Island."

Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing on Narragansett Bay for over 40 years. He holds a captain's master license and a charter fishing license. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net.


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