Tag Archives: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

NOAA admin defends budget in House oversight hearing

The House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife met to discuss the administration’s fiscal year 2020 budgets for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The California Democrat (Huffman) said the Trump administration’s proposed budget shows the president “does not value oceans, wildlife or the communities that depend on healthy ecosystems.” (rolls eyes) McClintock, R-Calif., indeed did say the proposed cuts in the budget were not only the proper way to go, but should go further in consolidating perceived overlaps between NOAA and USFWS and cutting away more spending programs. >Video, starts @17:45 click to read<10:09

Salmon surge: Habitat improvements paying off on one California river

Near record numbers of chinook salmon are surging up the Mokelumne River, marking the second large spawning year in a row and signaling to fisheries biologists that habitat improvements in recent years are paying off for fish and the people who eat the pinkish delicacies.,,,It is expected to be the best two-year run on the river since records started being kept in 1940, a significant accomplishment given how dismal salmon returns have been over the past three years in virtually every other waterway in California, including the Sacramento River, which last year saw its lowest returns in eight years. >click to read<08:58

Senators question NOAA Fisheries-FWS merger proposal in hearing

Members of the U.S. Senate got their first chance to look at the latest attempt to merge NOAA Fisheries with the Fish and Wildlife Service at a meeting on Thursday, 19 July. ,,,“Moving NOAA Fisheries from (the Department of) Commerce to the Department of Interior ignores the agency’s responsibility of managing multi-billion-dollar commercial fisheries,” said Cantwell, who added that she believes what fisheries need is “science and funding.” A merger of the two agencies requires approval of the U.S. Congress. >click to read<17:11

Alaska Dive Fishermen Plead for Relief from Sea Otters

Phil Doherty, head of the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, is working to save the livelihood of 200 southeast Alaska fishermen and a $10 million industry but faces an uphill struggle against an opponent that looks like a cuddly plush toy. Fishermen have watched their harvest shrink as sea otters spread and colonize, Doherty said. Divers once annually harvested 6 million pounds (2.7 million kilograms) of red sea urchins. The recent quota has been less than 1 million pounds (454,000 kilograms). “We’ve seen a multimillion-dollar fishery in sea urchins pretty much go away,” he said. >click to read<12:46

Maine Men Sentenced for Illegally Trafficking American Eels

Today, William Sheldon was sentenced in federal district court in Portland, Maine, to six months in prison followed by three years supervised release for trafficking juvenile American eels, also called “elvers” or “glass eels,” in violation of the Lacey Act,, Sheldon was also ordered to pay a fine of $10,000, forfeit $33,200 in lieu of a truck he used during the crime, and may not possess a license to purchase or export elvers as a special condition of his supervised release. Also sentenced today for elver trafficking offenses was Timothy Lewis, who received a sentence of six months in prison followed by three years supervised release, with the special condition that he too may not possess a license to purchase or export elvers. Lewis was also ordered to pay a $2500 fine. Thomas Reno was also sentenced today to one year probation. >click to read<08:57

Alaska Senate passes Stedman’s sea otter resolution

The Alaska Senate passed a resolution Wednesday calling on the federal government to take steps to increase the harvest of sea otters in Southeast Alaska. Senate Joint Resolution 13 is sponsored by Sitka Republican senator Bert Stedman. It asks the federal government to transfer management responsibility to the state government or National Marine Fisheries Service, instead of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It also urges federal agencies to work with the state and other interest groups to produce a management plan for otters, recognizing their impact on crab, clams, urchins and other sea creatures. >click to read<11:07

Feds Sued to Force Protection of Alaska’s Pacific Walrus

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration Thursday over its denial of Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific walrus. The lawsuit, filed in Anchorage federal court, challenges the October 2017 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finding the Pacific walrus does not warrant listing as a threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. “The service’s listing decision deprives the walrus of the ESA protections which it is both entitled to and desperately needs,” the complaint states. >click to read<15:30

Stedman sponsors resolution to control sea otter growth

A Senate resolution seeking an increase in the number of sea otters hunted in Southeast Alaska is making its way through the legislative process. Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman said the Senate Joint Resolution 13 is a way for the state to ask the federal government to do something about Southeast’s increasing otter population. “I think this is a good starting point for the conversation,” he said. “We live a different lifestyle up here, and we want to preserve it and keep it in balance. And having the sea otters virtually run unchecked,,, >click to read<19:30

Fish and Wildlife Service official reportedly violated conflict of interest rules

Richard Ruggiero, chief of the Division of International Conservation at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, may have violated federal ethics rules by his involvement in agency grants that provided monetary benefit to a family member, according to a Feb. 20, 2018, Department of Interior Inspector General report. “We found that Ruggiero violated federal laws and regulations by participating in an FWS cooperative agreement that financially benefited his family member, and neither Ruggiero nor his family member disclosed their relationship in writing to the FWS,” the report said. >click to read< 17:22

H.R. 2504 – House approves Poliquin’s proposal for swifter exports of Maine seafood

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) that aims to limit mandatory inspections and hasten exports of specific types of Maine seafood. H.R. 2504 would ensure fair treatment in licensing requirements for the export of certain echinoderms, namely sea urchins and sea cucumbers, a highly perishable product threatened by spoilage due to regulatory red tape around inspections, according to Poliquin’s office.>click to read< 19:21

Maine Harvester Enters Guilty Plea, Maine Dealers Sentenced for Illegally Trafficking American Eels

Yarann Im was sentenced to six months imprisonment and three years of supervised release and Thomas Choi was sentenced to six months in prison with a fine of $25,000 today for trafficking juvenile American eels (also called “elvers” or “glass eels”) in violation of the Lacey Act, following a hearing in federal district court in Portland, Maine. The sentence was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. This sentencing follows the entry of a guilty plea on December 12, 2017, by Albert Cray,,, click here to read the press release 18:51

Overfishing Operation Nets Three Eel Traffickers

Three men pleaded guilty Thursday to trafficking juvenile American eels — a species at risk of overfishing as harvesters try to meet demand in the East Asian markets.,, “Operation Broken Glass” has resulted in 18 guilty pleas in Maine, Virginia and South Carolina.  The defendants are responsible collectively for the illegally trafficking of more than $4.5 million worth of elvers. William Sheldon, Timothy Lewis, and Charles Good joined the list on Thursday, pleading guilty before a federal judge in Portland, Maine, to violations of the Lacey Act. click here to read the story 14:53

Walruses adapt to loss of sea ice and are not endangered, feds say

Blubbery, clam-loving Pacific walruses are surprisingly resilient to the dramatic loss of polar sea ice as the planet warms and won’t be listed as an endangered species, the federal government announced early Wednesday. The decision is controversial. A scientist for a group that works to protect endangered animals called it a Trump administration “death sentence for the walrus.” But Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation, Native hunters, Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and the state Department of Fish and Game all said it was the right call. “This decision will allow for the continued responsible harvest of Pacific walrus for subsistence and traditional uses by Alaska Natives,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a written statement. click here to read the story 21:11

As eels grow in value, US government clamps down on poaching

Law enforcement authorities have launched a crackdown on unlicensed eel fishermen and illicit sales along the East Coast.,, In Maine, more than 400 licensed fishermen make their living fishing for elvers in rivers such as the Penobscot in Brewer and the Passagassawakeag in Belfast every spring. They say law enforcement is vital to protecting the eels and the volatile industry. Randy Bushey, of Steuben, has been fishing for elvers since 1993. He said he saw his income balloon from as little as $5,000 per year in the 1990s to more than $350,000 in 2012. He said tighter quotas mean he’s earning less these days, and in the most recent season he made about $57,000. “I’ve seen the best, and I’ve seen the worst,” Steuben said. “I want to see it preserved. I want to see it straightened out.” click here to read the story 08:16

Feds interview Tangier watermen, look into oyster sales records in Crisfield

Officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited several watermen on Tangier Island and seafood businesses in Crisfield last week as part of an investigation they are conducting related to oysters. Federal officials would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, saying that’s their policy. But Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, did confirm “federal law enforcement activity” in Crisfield and Tangier last Wednesday. Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge said the officials came in two boats and a helicopter; at first, he said, he thought President Donald Trump had arrived. click here to read the story 12:05

State of the kings

For the first time in years, king salmon are showing signs of making a stronger return to the vast wilderness surrounding Alaska’s urban heartland. While Panhandle runs continue to struggle, kings to the north appear to be coming back in reasonable numbers. No records are being broken, but there are enough fish the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has liberalized fishing in two of the state’s most popular roadside king salmon drainages – the Kenai River south of Anchorage and tributaries to the Copper River east of the state’s largest city. A near disaster had been forecast on the latter river, a big, muddy, glacial stream draining 26,500 square miles of Alaska near the Canadian border. A return of only 29,000 fish was expected, and with the spawning goal set at 24,000, the state imposed a host of restrictions on the fishery before it even began. Sport fishing was closed. Subsistence fishermen were restricted to a seasonal limit of only two Chinook, the more common Lower 48 name for kings. And commercial fishermen faced major reductions in fishing time and closures of areas that have in the past produced the biggest king catches. click here to read the story 09:37

Interior secretary set to visit Boston as enviros launch marine monument campaign

When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visits the Boston area on Friday, environmentalists plan to greet him by rallying for the preservation of national monuments that are under review by the Trump administration. The former Montana congressman has an 11 a.m. press event at a Legal Sea Foods location, according to his office. The Bay State visit could also afford the interior secretary a chance to meet with the state’s top Republican, Gov. Charlie Baker, although nothing has been announced. The fishing industry opposed President Barack Obama’s 2016 designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on a roughly 4,900 square-mile area south of Cape Cod. According to a Zinke press aide, the secretary on Friday will meet with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials and officials from the New England Aquarium about marine wildlife around the monument. The secretary will then attend a roundtable meeting with lobstermen and fishermen about the impact of the monument designation on their industry. click here to read the story 18:36

Inside the Multi-million-Dollar World of Eel Trafficking

The alleged kingpin of one of the biggest domestic wildlife smuggling operations ever to hit the East Coast is exactly where you’d expect to find him on a rainy evening in early May: firmly planted in a swivel chair at a big green metal desk inside his renovated Quonset hut on Foster Street, in Ellsworth, Maine. At this post Bill Sheldon waits day and night for fishermen to come and fill his bowl with writhing masses of baby eels. The 72-year-old fisherman wears glasses, a blue flannel shirt, jeans, duck boots, and a brown L.L. Bean baseball cap. His cell phone goes quack, quack, quack when it rings. The sign above his head reads, “Buying Glass Eels Here,” with the day’s market price: $1,250 per pound. (so much more about the fishery in this article than “trafficking”) click here to read the story 09:26

Red tide clears off Collier County, but stone crab catch still down

The red tide lingering on Florida’s Gulf coast last fall and this winter has cleared up in Collier County. Fish kills were reported in December in Collier, but the algae blooms that bring thousands of dead fish to shore and cause beachgoers to cough and sneeze have, for the most part, stayed north in Pinellas and Sarasota counties, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Clearer water would be good news for the price of stone crabs and for local stone crab fisherman, who were hammered early this season by a red tide that followed Hurricane Matthew in October. The fewer crabs caught, the higher the market price for Southwest Florida’s most popular seafood. Catch totals are still down in Goodland compared with typical years, said Damas Kirk, of Kirk Fish Co. “Red tide isn’t showing so much anymore, but I think it’s done some damage,” Kirk said. “I think the stone crabs are having a bit of a food supply issue and are starving somewhat.” Read the story here 15:50

“Operation Broken Glass” – Three Men Plead Guilty for Illegally Harvesting and Selling American Eels

elversThree individuals pleaded guilty in federal district court in Charleston, South Carolina, to trafficking more than $740,000 worth of juvenile American eels aka “elvers” or “glass eels,” in violation of the Lacey Act.  Harry Wertan, Jr., Mark Weihe and Jay James each pleaded guilty to selling or transporting elvers in interstate commerce, which they had harvested illegally, or knew had been harvested illegally, in South Carolina. The pleas were the result of “Operation Broken Glass,” a multi-jurisdiction U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigation into the illegal trafficking of American eels.  To date, the investigation has resulted in guilty pleas for ten individuals whose combined conduct resulted in the illegal trafficking of more than $2.6 million worth of elvers. Operation Broken Glass was conducted by the USFWS and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section in collaboration with 17 state and federal agency’s. Read the rest here 08:28

Environmental group dislikes new rule for listing, delisting or reclassification under the Endangered Species Act

angry enviroThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries finalized a rule Monday that changes the process by which species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the rule, first proposed in May 2015, petitioners will be required to notify each state wildlife agency where a species is located at least 30 days before submitting a petition to the federal government. The delay will gives states an opportunity to provide agencies with pertinent information on the species. The new rule also restricts the number of species that can be petitioned for at one time. Under the rule, only one species is allowed per petition. The Center for Biological Diversity was quick to slam the rule, calling it an “impediment” to using the Endangered Species Act. “These new restrictions on citizen petitions are nothing more than a gift to industries and right-wing states that are hostile to endangered species,” Brett Hartl, the group’s director of endangered species policy, said in a statement. Read the story here 10:34

California sea otter population reaches record high number

20160829_040311_ottersA growth in the amount of sea urchins, one of the otters’ favorite foods, seems to be the leading reason why otter numbers along the California coast have grown to 3,272 this year, up 11 percent since 2013, experts said as they released the latest survey. “The population is slowly but steadily recovering,” said Tim Tinker, a research biologist in Santa Cruz who leads the U.S. Geological Survey’s otter program. “And that’s good news because sea otters bring ecological benefits.”In fact, the otter population is likely at its highest level in at least 100 years, Tinker said. And for the first time, the otter numbers have exceeded 3,090, the total that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says is needed to be met for three years in a row before they can be considered for removal from the endangered species list. Read the story here 13:45

Fishermen’s Lawsuit Revived for Abalone Protection

This lawsuit is about Eco-Based Management in the purest sense. Overruling a trial court, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [Tuesday] reinstated plflawsuit to protect abalone and other shellfish resources — and the industries dependent on them — from being ravaged by sea otters in the waters off the Southern California coast. The lawsuit — California Sea Urchin Commission, et al. v. Jacobson, et. al.targets the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for illegally eliminating a “sea otter management zone” (i.e., a zone of protection for shellfish off the Southern California coast) which Congress established under a 1986 statute. PLF attorneys represent fishermen, a California state commission, and several nonprofit organizations with a direct interest in maintaining healthy populations of shellfish. In challenging the Service’s violation of its legal mandate to contain the sea otter population, PLF attorneys represent: The California Sea Urchin Commission, California Abalone Association, California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association, Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara. Read the rest here 20:35

Federal Agencies start work on Columbia River fishing deal

57827b9669a4a.imageFederal authorities are working on a plan aimed at deciding how much sport, commercial and tribal fishing for salmon and steelhead will be allowed in the Columbia River and its tributaries as part of a long-term agreement starting in 2018. The other main component considered in the environmental review being prepared by the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hatchery production levels. The agencies will use the document as they work to craft an agreement with Idaho, Oregon and Washington, as well as tribes in those states with harvest treaty rights. The length of the agreement has yet to be determined, but a 10-year timeframe is generally supported. Read the story here 16:20

Wildlife cops leery of ‘Finding Dory’ film – concerns of increased poaching in Keys National Marine Sanctuary

finding-doryOver the last few years, federal law enforcement have arrested and convicted a slew of aquarium wildlife collectors in an operation dubbed “Operation Rock Bottom.” The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the reef are home to some of the most desirable tropical fish, coral, sharks and other wildlife for saltwater aquarium enthusiasts. Though the industry is regulated by state and federal law, the lure of quick and easy cash tempts traders to poach. Enter “Finding Nemo.”  More than a decade ago, when Disney’s “Finding Nemo” animated film was released, law enforcement — mainly U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — saw a spike in the collection of species made popular in the movie. Read the story here 12:12

Green Sea turtles put under new protections by Obama administration

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced Tuesday they are updating the status of green sea turtles. Green sea turtles will be divided into 11 distinct populations, the agencies said. Turtles in three of those regions will be listed as endangered species, while those in the other eight regions will be listed as threatened species . The agencies first began protecting sea turtles in 1978, but are now revising their status. As part of the changes, two distinct populations that had been considered endangered — the Florida and Mexican Pacific Coast breeding populations — will now be listed as threatened. Read the rest here, Read the Final Rule here  15:07

The Cover Up Of The Texas American Eel – by Jason Fregia

texas american eelRecently there was a petition filed with USFW to list the American eel as a Threatened species by CESAR “Council for Endangered Species Act Reliability”, The American eel was not listed under the threatened Species Act by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the wildlife service the American eel’s population is still stable. Without  knowing of the huge population of American eels that exist in Texas. Texas is not allowing the harvest of the eels due to the result of a cover up to protect Texas Parks and Wildlife from legal repercussions due to falsifying Federal Documents. Read the rest here 19:27

American eel won’t be listed under Endangered Species Act

American eels will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday, a victory for fishermen of the increasingly valuable species. The wildlife service rejected a petition from the California-based Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability to list the eels — which are prized in Asian cuisine — as threatened. The petitioners argued that the eels have lost more than 80 per cent of their habitat and the security of the stock is jeopardized by fishing pressure from commercial fishing, blah blah blah! Read the rest here 13:24

AESA Urges U.S. Government to Reject ESA Listing for American Eel

Following a petition from the Council for Endangered Species Act Reliability (CESAR) (click here to see petition), the U.S. government this month will once again consider calls to list the American eel as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The American Eel Sustainability Association (AESA) reiterates its position that the American eel does not require either a “threatened” or “endangered” designation. AESA cites ample scientific study from a Federal agency and strict regulations already in place as support for this stance. Substantial scientific evidence demonstrates,,, Read the rest here 16:37

What about the jobs?! Assateague National Seashore: Commercial fishing, Aquaculture ban proposed

Chincoteague officials are preparing to respond to a plan that could put an end to commercial fishing, aquaculture and the horseshoe crab harvest within the boundaries of Assateague Island National Seashore. Assateague Island National Seashore Superintendent Deborah Darden presented an overview of a draft general management plan for the national seashore — including the proposed prohibition on commercial seafood activities — to the Chincoteague Town Council on Thursday, Sept. 17. Read the rest here 08:27