Category Archives: Environment

How Catch And Release Can Damage Fish

If you catch a fish and you eat it, it has no chance of survival. That’s pretty obvious.

If you catch a fish and you set it free, it could be just fine. Indeed, it could be rather fun for the fish. “Hey, did you see that? You wouldn’t believe what I just saw! Hey, you know that eagle that ate Joe last week? I could see where its nest was! And this guy had this whole bucket of leeches! Holy crayfish!”

But most likely, if you catch a fish intending to release it, there is a chance it will not fare so well. People who catch catfish intentionally know this, and don’t bother with catch and release. I’m not sure if I’ve ever caught a catfish where the hook didn’t go deep into its gut as the sole action in the entire process of grabbing the bait. Not even worth taking the hook out. You just take the catfish home, clean it, and get the hook then. Generally, live bait has a higher chance of this sort of thing happening. Unless you are jigging with a fairly large hook and a live bait that is hanging off, the chance of your fish swallowing the hook, even part way, is high. Generally, as well, fishing in this manner is associated with fishing for food or, one might hope once in ten lifetimes, a trophy walleye or something.

I personally fish almost exclusively with lures. If the lure comes with a treble hook, I’ll either remove it and replace it with a single hook, or cut off one or two hooks. I mush or cut off the barbs. I take at least one of the treble hooks off any lure with multiple trebles. For bait hooks, I smush or remove the barb. And so on.

(By the way, this give me the opportunity to put a single weedless hook on a lure that is essentially designed to catch on to every damn thing in the lake, allowing for more options when casting.)

When I catch the fish, since I’m casting and reeling and the hook is barbless, it is pretty easy to remove the hook from the fish. Sometimes, if the fish is fairly big, I don’t actually want to land it. That may involve too much handling, and that can damage the fish. With a single hook and no barb, I can get a look at the fish, and flick it free pretty easily about half the time.

(Also, I carry at least one very large needle nose pliers. I can grab the base of the hook or the hook/lure with that, and with a simple twist, release the fish before or after landing, depending.)

I’m pretty sure that I don’t do a lot of damage to the fish I fish for. If a fish I catch is legal and damaged, I eat it. (Not right there on the spot; I clean and cook it first.)

How might catch and release injure fish that are not particularly mangled by the process? There is a paper just out in the Journal of Experimental Biology, bu Melissa Thompson, Sam Wassenbergh, Sean Rogers, Scott Seamone, and Timothy Higham. In “Angling-induced injuries have a negative impact on suction feeding performance and hydrodynamics in marine shiner perch, Cymatogaster aggregata” the researchers report that injury to the inside of the fish’s mouth can change the pressure gradient that these fish use to suck prey (and lures) into themselves. It is not demonstrated that this impacts survival, but it does seem to impact feeding efficiency.

“The suction feeding system is somewhat similar to how we drink liquid through a straw,” Higham said. “If you poke a hole in the side of your straw it’s not going to work properly.”

Fish researcher Tim Higham explains, “As we predicted, the fish with the mouth injuries exhibited a reduction in the speed at which they were able to draw prey into their mouths. This was the case even though we used barbless hooks, which are less damaging than barbed hooks. Although we don’t yet know how/if this reduction in feeding performance would affect fitness and survivability in nature, we can say that fishing-induced injuries impact the fish’s ability to feed while the mouth is healing. This study emphasizes that catch-and-release is not as simple as removing the hook and all being well, but rather is a complex process that should be studied in more detail.”

This is obviously going to depend on the kind of fish in question. As noted above, the whole suck-in-the-food approach for catfish may simply do them in. But I’m not sure a Northern or Muskie is feeding in exactly the same way. Clearly, more research is needed!

The abstract of the paper:

Fishing is a popular and lucrative sport around the world and, in some cases, may contribute to declining fish stocks. To mediate this problem and maintain fish biomass in aquatic ecosystems, catch-and-release fishing, whereby a fish is caught and immediately released, has been implemented in many countries. It is unclear whether the injuries to the mouth that are caused by the hook have an impact on feeding performance of fishes. Using high-speed video and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), we asked whether injuries around the mouth caused by fishing hooks have a negative impact on suction feeding performance (measured as maximum prey velocity) of the commonly angled marine shiner perch (Cymatogaster aggregata). We hypothesized that fish with mouth injuries would exhibit decreased feeding performance compared with controls. Ten shiner perch were caught using scientific angling and 10 were caught using a seine net. Feeding events were then recorded at 500 frames per second using a high-speed camera. Compared with the control group, maximum prey velocity was significantly lower in the injured group (P<0.01). Maximum gape, time to peak gape, maximum jaw protrusion and predator–prey distance were comparable between the control and injured groups, leading us to conclude that the injury-induced hole in the buccal cavity wall reduced the pressure gradient during mouth expansion, thereby reducing the velocity of water entering the fish's mouth. This was confirmed with our CFD modelling. Fishing injuries in nature are likely to depress feeding performance of fish after they have been released, although it is currently unclear whether this has a significant impact on survival.

There is one country in this world moving away from more efficient transportation

And that is the United States, and that is because of Donald Trump. From WaPo:

The Trump administration on Thursday announced plans to freeze fuel-efficiency requirements for the nation’s cars and trucks through 2026 — a massive regulatory rollback likely to spur a legal battle with California and other states, as well as create potential upheaval in the nation’s automotive market.

The proposal represents an abrupt reversal of the findings that the government reached under President Barack Obama, when regulators argued that requiring more-fuel-efficient vehicles would improve public health, combat climate change and save consumers money without compromising safety.

Trump’s plan also undercuts California’s long-standing ability to set its own tailpipe restrictions, most recently in an effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

What is the rational for this? There is only one. Hippie punching. He is showing his base that he has yet another way to make the liberals cry.

But guess what. The liberals will not cry. But they will fight.

Who cares about sharks?

This is shark week. So, I have some thoughts about sharks.

If they were lions, I’d have some good stories about the times I was nearly eaten by this or that lion. But my engagement with super predators has been mainly terrestrial. As a kid, fishing in swimming in the ocean, I’ve had a few encounters with sharks, like when fishing for mid size predators, like striped bass, among shimmering schools of mackerels. Now and then all the mackerel would give up on their shifting, roiling, herd strategy which allowed them to feed on smaller fish while at the same time avoid the bass, and switch to plan B, vamoose. One moment there are mackerel everywhere with the occasional bass flashing by. Next minute, there is nothing. And for that moment the only food in the sea is whatever is on your hook (probably a fragment of a mackerel). A certain proportion of the time, the shark that chased away the mackerel takes your bait.

I remember the first time that happened to me. I was probably around eight years old. There are usually a few old salts around any fishing pier, and there were that time. They came running over. “Eyup, you’ve hooked a dogfish, laddie. Reel it in as fast ‘you can, with luck the line will break.” But then the line doesn’t break and you pull a shark up out of the sea. “Careful, laddie, a dogfish has a spine on it, it can give you a bad gash.”

Squalus acanthias lacks anal fins and instead has spines. (Coincidence? I think not.) When cornered or beached, they arch their back and flop backwards, and in so doing, can slash up attackers. These fish have been around for several million years, being small (big ones barely get to a meter long), spiny ans slashy. In those days, if you caught one, it would be shared among the other fisherfolk as bait. Maybe chopped up for chum. I don’t think anybody ate them. These days, with the idiom “there are plenty of fish in the sea” turning rapidly in to an archaic phrase our the next generation will wonder about, spiny dogfish are probably a delicacy on some menus.

Squalus acanthias has another interesting property besides the menacing spines: they are canaries. This is one of most common species of shark in the world, but are threatened or vulnerable globally, and critically endangered in the Northeast Atlantic. Their population levels are down to less than 5% of natural in some areas. This is because the main food for Squalus acanthias in some areas are highly desired commercial fish such as salmon. We humans are directly competing with Squalus acanthias for food, and at the same time, hunting them.

We should all avoid using shark products. You can usually find out if shark material is used in the products you buy (it is not all food) by paying close attention to the labels. Obviously, you should not eat shark meat.

There are a gazillion organizations that support sharks. I have no idea which ones are good, which ones are shady. Also, at this moment of political crisis in the United States, I suspect that donations for shark supporting organizations are going to take it in the gills, as most of us donate to candidates or other causes.

If you have opinions or information about shark conservation groups that are worthy, please post that info in the comments.

One step backwards for copper-nickel-sulfide mining in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters

I was just starting to think that every single thing that could go wrong in the effort to stop or limit destructive copper-nickel-sulfide mining in the fragile Boundary Waters ecosystem was going to go wrong. Then, suddenly, a reversal of fortune.

This is complicated but for those not following, I’ll try to provide an explanation.

The Boundary Waters contains rock near the surface that miners want to mine. And, very little can be done to stop this, given that we chose over the last few years to put Republicans in charge, and they are puppets of industry, especially extractive industries like mining.

Part of the process of mining in the boundary waters, which are legally protected from mining is to remove the protections by “swapping” land that is not in the protected area for land that is in the protected area. This is known as the Polymet Land Swap because Polymet is the the company that wants to do this particular mining. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been convinced, against their constituent’s demands, that the mining will continue. So, the land swap seemed a done deal, and everything that various opponents to the project have tried has failed.

Until just a few moments ago. One effort to limit or stop the mining is to insist that the courts have a look at the relative value of the land being swapped in this deal. The usual powers had tried to get that taken off the table, and it seemed successfully, until today. Under public pressure, netotiators in Congress have worked out a deal to drop the limit on the court’s consideration of relative value. It is all here in this press release from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 24, 2018 End congressional delays, let courts finally review PolyMet land exchange Saint Paul, Minnesota — Monday, congressional negotiators announced that a provision to end court review of the PolyMet land exchange had been dropped from the National Defense Authorization Act. Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is one of the organizations asking for a court review of the PolyMet land exchange, and released the following statement: “Sixteen months ago, we asked a federal court to review the PolyMet land exchange to ensure it provides an equal value exchange for taxpayers and public land users,” stated Kathryn Hoffman, CEO of Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “Attempts to derail this review through congressional action have stalled the finalization of the land exchange and delayed justice for Minnesotans. This could have been done by now – it’s time to end the delays and let the courts do their job.” In March 2017, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, The W.J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, and Center for Biological Diversity asked a federal court to review the land exchange, arguing that it illegally undervalued public land. There are three additional lawsuits that argue that the PolyMet land exchange violates federal laws. In March 2018, U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson dismissed PolyMet’s motions to dismiss these lawsuits, but indefinitely stayed all of them pending congressional action. On June 28th, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it had completed the transfer of over 6,600 acres to PolyMet, but this action is subject to court review and can be modified or reversed if found to be in violation of federal law.

Protecting Minnesota’s Waters from PolyMet Copper-Nickel Mine Pollution

Every single place that Copper-Nickle-Sulfide mining has been done — every. single. location. — the mining companies left behind a destroyed landscape. There have been no exceptions.

This sort of mining can not be done without destroying the landscape.

It is quite possible that Minnesota’s boundary waters are not saving, and we should just mine out the copper.

Or, not.

Look: Continue reading Protecting Minnesota’s Waters from PolyMet Copper-Nickel Mine Pollution

Remember Cecil the Lion?

Do you remember Cecil the Lion? He was a loin in Zimbabwe, living in a protected park, somewhat habituated to human presence. A Great White Hunter, who was also a dentist in Minnesota, killed him a couple of years ago, and took a lot of heat for it. The real story of what happened is now out in a brand new book by biologist Andrew Loveridge. Continue reading Remember Cecil the Lion?

Nuclear Plant Bill Riles, Confuses, Perhaps Conspires

There is a pair of bills working their way through the Minnesota state legislature that would change the way Xcel Energy can pay for certain costs of maintaining and upgrading its nuclear power plants between now and their eventual final shut down several years hence. Continue reading Nuclear Plant Bill Riles, Confuses, Perhaps Conspires

Biodiversity Down

You’ve heard of the IPCC, the climate change report thingie. That is a project of the UN, and the UN actually has other, similar projects that are less well known. One of them is the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). This is the international agency tracking global biodiversity. They are issuing their new report on March 26th, but I can tell you about it now. Continue reading Biodiversity Down

The Children Are Coming. They Are Coming For You.

And, by “you” I mean the individuals and institutions that have shepherded civilization, and even our entire species, to the very brink of collapse and near extinction, motivated by greed and guided by ignorance.

And, in particular, this group of children are coming for that group of bad guys: Continue reading The Children Are Coming. They Are Coming For You.

Trump Ruins Everything For Everybody (but good news from Minnesota)

Donald Trump went into a snit and his babysitter wasn’t around to control him, so he barged into a meeting and slapped high tariffs on metal imports. The stock market suffered a mini-crash, and according to some experts, 2 cents per watt have been added to utility scale solar projects. Continue reading Trump Ruins Everything For Everybody (but good news from Minnesota)

Dear Candidate For Office: About your environmental policy…

Over the last five months, and with increasing frequency, I find myself listening to candidates for office talk about their environmental policies. I’ve looked at the policies of candidates for Minnesota Governor, for US Congress in three different districts, and for Minnesota Senate and House in numerous districts. There is a lot of variation across the candidates. Only one candidate so far has demonstrated a) rich knowledge of the subject, b) well formulated and detailed policy, and c) policy that I find very good and agree with. This is not a post about that candidate, but rather, all the other candidates.

The other candidates have positions that run from “seems kinda OK” to “is maybe mostly OK” but none are good enough. The most common position on a given environmental issue is for the candidate to indicate that they think it is very important. Sadly, when it comes to climate change specifically, the most common position is for the candidate to acknowledge that climate change is real.

Sorry, but you don’t get points for knowing how to write your name on the top of the exam. Continue reading Dear Candidate For Office: About your environmental policy…