Week of March 20, 2006

National

Regional

Lake Erie

Lake Michigan

Illinois

Indiana

Michigan

Ohio

Wisconsin

       Weekly News Archives

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National

Pombo Introduces Bill to End Off-Reservation Indian Gaming

Washington, DC- After more than a year of Congressional hearings and public input, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) officially introduced legislation to stop the spread of off-reservation Indian gaming yesterday evening. 

 

Off-reservation gaming is the practice of exploiting a loophole in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).  Some tribes attempt to acquire lands outside the borders of their reservation to establish a casino, typically close to large urban areas or tourist destinations. H.R. 4893 amends Section 20 of IGRA, to close this loophole and give local communities control over new casino proposals from newly-recognized or landless tribes.

 

 Pombo held three hearings on off-reservation gaming last year, including one field hearing in California where more than 10 local officials and tribal leaders testified on the effects of off-reservation gaming.  The state ranks at the top of the nation's list with as many as 40 proposals to establish off-reservation casinos.

 

The Off-Reservation Gaming bill will:

-----1.  Completely repeal the so-called 'two part determination' in Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA"), the part of IGRA that has authorized 'reservation shopping'.  This means that under no circumstances can a tribe that already has land into trust that is eligible for gaming acquire any more land not contiguous to the reservation and use it for gaming, without exception.  This puts a permanent end to 'reservation shopping' once and for all.

-----2.  Give local communities and state officials a seat at the table to decide whether or not a casino proposed by a new or landless tribe should open in their town or city.

-----a.  The tribe and local community must enter into a memorandum of understanding under which the tribe must

pay the community for mitigation of direct effects of the casino on infrastructure and services such as transportation, public safety, and other costs.

-----b.  The tribe must pay for an advisory referendum in the local county or parish that currently holds jurisdiction over the land on whether they would like to have a casino or not.  The result of this referendum would then be forwarded to the Department of Interior, along with the completed Environmental Impact Statement, prior to Department review and determination of whether or not the land should be taken into trust.

-----c.  Secretary of Interior must certify the facility would not be detrimental to the surrounding community or nearby Indian tribes.

-----d.  The Secretary must certify that the facility is in the best interest of the surrounding community.

-----e.  The Governor of the State must concur with the Secretary's findings.

-----f.  The State legislature must concur with the Secretary's findings.

-----g.  Nearby Indian tribes must concur with the Secretary's findings.

-----h.  Only after having cleared all of these hurdles will land be placed into trust for a new or landless tribe that wants a casino.

-----i.  A tribe may only propose to locate its facility on lands where the tribe has its primary historic, geographical, social and temporal nexus with the lands.

-----3.  Ban any attempts to establish off-reservation casinos outside of the tribe's current U.S. state.

-----4.  Allow for the creation of 'Indian Gaming Zones', where one tribe can host a gaming facility for another tribe on already existing reservation land where gaming is allowed.

 

Copy of the bill, HR 4893: http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/subcommittees/naia/

nativeamer/offreshr4893.pdf


Interior Secretary Norton resigning

Gale Norton, the first female secretary of the interior, has announced she is stepping down from her Cabinet post after more than five years to pursue private-sector opportunities.  Mrs. Norton was the White House's key official on the environment and natural resources.  

 

"Gale Norton has been a great advocate of protecting private property rights and improving the public's access to public lands.  She has been a friend and ally of our movement.  She has several major accomplishments, including the Healthy Forests Act which protects both people and forests from out of control wildfires, endorsing Endangered Species Act reforms

to make the law work for a change, sharply reducing federal land acquisition because the government already owns too much, and greatly increasing the role of land owners and local elected officials in decision making processes," said Chuck Cushman, American Land Rights Association Executive Director. She also  played a prominent role in opening additional government lands in the West for oil and gas drilling.

 

The White House gave no indication of a possible replacement for Mrs. Norton, who officially resigns at the end of the month.


USGS Testing Wild Birds for Avian Influenza

After conducting tests on samples taken from migratory waterfowl during the past eight months, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center report they have found only common types of avian influenza viruses that are expected in North American wild birds.

 

The tests did not detect the highly pathogenic form of H5N1 avian influenza, the particularly virulent strain that has spread throughout a large geographic area in Asia, Europe and Africa. To date, the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 has not been detected in the United States.

 

However, because of the migratory movements of wild birds and the increasing number of countries that have discovered highly pathogenic H5N1 in their migratory birds, the USGS and its partners in 2006 will aggressively monitor and test for avian influenza in wild birds as part of an expanding federal, state and regional detection effort.

 

Under the national testing program this year, field specialists and wildlife biologists from several federal and state agencies, universities and non-governmental organizations plan to collect between 75,000 and 100,000 samples from migratory birds. U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratories will screen the majority of those samples; the USGS National

Wildlife Health Center expects to screen about 11,000 of those samples in 2006.

 

The USGS Center, located in Madison, Wisconsin, provides regular updates on its avian influenza testing of migratory waterfowl. These current testing results cover samples taken from August 2005 through March 7, 2006.  Tests performed to date at the Center showed the presence of low pathogenic avian influenza in about 10 percent of the birds tested.

 

Samples screened by the USGS at the Center were taken primarily from Alaska, which is the most likely place for the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 to enter North America via migratory birds.  This is because the state is at the crossroads of many flyways and Asian and North American birds mix there.

 

Canada recently detected H5 avian influenza subtypes in more than 250 wild bird samples taken from more than 4,000 birds. However, all of the Canadian H5 samples turned out to be low pathogenic, not the high path H5N1 strain. The Canadian survey results included a low pathogenic, North American H5N1 virus, which is not the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of worldwide concern. The Canadian low pathogenic H5N1 strain came from wild ducks in Manitoba, Canada.


Regional

Coast Guard to Study 'Cargo Sweepings'

MUSKEGON, Mich.(AP) — For more than 75 years, shipping companies that haul iron ore, coal, salt and limestone have dumped their "cargo sweepings" -- residual materials and wash water left on freighters after they are unloaded -- into the Great Lakes to avoid contaminating future loads.

 

Despite federal laws and an international treaty that prohibit the practice, U.S. and Canadian freighters empty about 2 million pounds of cargo sweepings into the lakes each year, according to federal data. Ships unload anywhere from a few pounds to a few thousand pounds of leftover cargo materials, but because the dumping usually takes place several miles offshore, few people outside the shipping industry know about it.

 

Regulators have turned a blind eye toward cargo sweeping because shipping industry officials and some scientists claim it is environmentally harmless and contend there are no viable disposal alternatives.

 

The Coast Guard is about to begin what is believed to be the first scientific study to determine whether the practice is harming the Great Lakes, The Muskegon Chronicle reported last week. The study could determine whether government agencies restrict the practice or ban it outright. At this time, the Coast Guard wants to permit cargo sweeping.

 

The shipping industry is opposed to any restrictions.

 

"Banning cargo sweeping would be catastrophic to the shipping industry. It would shut down power production, steel production and all kinds of construction activities in the region," said James Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers Association, a Cleveland-based trade group. He said cargo

sweepings don't contain hazardous substances. "It's the equivalent of sweeping out my garage," Weakley said.

 

But Mark Coscarelli, a Lansing environmental consultant, questioned why government agencies that strive to keep pollutants out of surface waters would allow freighters to dump iron ore, coal, salt and cement dust into the world's largest source of fresh surface water. "We have to ask ourselves if this is good public policy," said Coscarelli, who worked in Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes for more than a decade.

 

The federal Clean Water Act prohibits dumping waste into lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior. So does an international shipping treaty, called MARPOL Annex V that Congress adopted in 1990.  U.S. officials who approved MARPOL V, which banned trash dumping at sea, apparently were unaware that the treaty effectively outlawed cargo sweeping in the lakes.

 

Instead of banning the practice, the Coast Guard in 1993 adopted an interim exemption policy that allows it to continue virtually unregulated. The Coast Guard now wants to make that interim policy a permanent rule.

 

U.S. and Canadian freighters dumped 432,242 lbs of cargo sweepings in Lake Michigan in 2001, according to federal data. The biggest load that year, 680,300 lbs, was dumped in Lake Huron.  The cargo sweepings discarded in Lake Michigan in 2001 included 187,530 pounds of iron ore, 80,132 pounds of coal and 138,548 pounds of stone.

 

Coast Guard officials say there is no scientific proof that the dumping hurts the Great Lakes' water quality or fish habitat.


12th Annual Lake Ontario Challenge Cup June 3 & 4

Join in the fun and competition as the Oswego County Pro-Am Salmon and Trout Team Tournament celebrates its 12th year.

 

The events start on Wednesday, July 5th with the Third Annual Sportsmen’s Flea Market which is open to the public, from 1-7 p.m. under the tent. The Captain’s meeting will be held on Thursday at 7 p.m. and on Friday the chicken BBQ dinner will be held under the tent, at the weigh-in site, at 5:30 p.m. There will be a fee of $5.00 per dinner this year to help offset costs. Enjoy riverside seating at a location central to the event. Win great prizes in the raffle being held during the chicken BBQ! Sign up on the tournament registration to purchase tickets for the whole team. Extra tickets are available at the door for $12.00 each. 

 

The Oswego County Pro-Am is one of three tournaments that make up the Lake Ontario Challenge Cup Series. Niagara (June 3 & 4), Oswego and Wayne County (July 14 &15) Tournaments make up The Challenge Cup Series on Lake Ontario. Pro and Amateur teams fishing in all three tournaments vie for the prestigious Lake Ontario Challenge

Cup.

 

New this year, to enter the series, a team must pay a separate $250.00 entry fee prior to the Niagara County Tournament registration deadline. This will be a 100% payback, paying down three spots. Teams need only the captain or two team members to fish in all three tournaments. The cup and prize money will be awarded at the Wayne County Tournament Awards Ceremony on July 15. 

 

Also, this year will the First Annual Orleans County Pro-Am Tournament (June 9 & 10) as the Lake Ontario Pro-Am series continues to expand, presented by the Oak Orchard Business Association, Orleans County Chamber of Commerce & Orleans County Dept. of Tourism.  For more info pulaski@dreamscape.com  or info@lakeontariooutdoors.com

 

Entry Fee for The Oswego County Pro-Am Tournament is: Pro: $500 Amateur: $300, Mail-in deadline Received by Friday, June 30.  Walk-in deadline is 12:00 p.m. Monday, July 3

 


Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels for March 17, 2006

Lake Level Conditions: 

All of the Great Lakes are 3 to 7 inches below the levels of a year ago.  Lake Superior is below chart datum and is expected to be an inch higher a month from now.  Lakes Michigan-Huron and Erie are below and above chart datum respectively and both lakes should rise 4 inches within the next 30 days.  Lake St. Clair is expected to rise 1 inch over the next month and Lake Ontario is expected to rise 3 inches over the next month.  Due to a warmer than average January and February some of the Great Lakes seem to have begun their seasonal rise earlier than normal, but levels over the next few months on all the Great Lakes are expected to remain lower than 2005.  See our Daily Levels web page for more water level information.

Current Outflows/Channel Conditions:

The Lake Superior outflow through the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is projected to be near average during the month of March.  Flows in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are anticipated to be below average and about average during March respectively. The Niagara River and St. Lawrence River flows are expected to be above average in March.

Alerts:

Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation

charts and refer to current water level readings.  Ice information can be found at the National Ice Center web page.

 

Weekly Great Lakes Water Levels Data Summary

 

 

Superior

Mich-Huron

St. Clair

Erie

Ontario

Expected levels for 3/17 in ft

600.9

577.3

573.9

571.3

245.5

Chart datum, in ft

601.1

577.5

572.3

569.2

243.3

Diff from chart datum, in inches

-3

-3

+19

+25

+26

Diff from last month, in inches

-1

+1

+4

+2

-2

Diff from last year in inches

-3

-6

-2

-7

0


 

Lake Erie

Port Clinton Commercial Fishing Company guilty of Felony Charges

Fines of $160,000 the latest in the sting of rogue harvesting of Lake Erie gold

COLUMBUS, OH - A Port Clinton commercial fishing company and its owners, Richard Stinson and Orville (Lee) Stinson, were ordered to pay $160,000 for their part in a racketeering ring that illegally netted thousands of pounds of yellow perch from Lake Erie, according to the Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife.

 

"We're halfway home," said Kevin Ramsey, head of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Lake Erie enforcement unit. "We expect to bring more cases within the next month or two."  The guilty pleas concluded a two-year investigation by Ramsey and his team that started in 2002 and resulted in the indictments of five fishing companies and 14 commercial fishermen on racketeering, theft and money laundering charges.

 

Ramsey expects an even bigger Lake Erie poaching case to be presented to the Grand jury later this year.

       

 Port Clinton Fisheries, Inc. Wholesalers entered a guilty plea in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to charges of engaging in corrupt activity a felony of the first degree and theft a felony of third degree. Judge Brian Corrigan subsequently ordered the company to pay a $160,000 in fines and restitution to the state for the stolen fish. The judge placed the company under sanction for five years and ordered it to donate 250 lbs of yellow perch to a community food bank.

 

Richard Stinson was found guilty of theft, a misdemeanor of the first degree; Orville Stinson was found guilty of theft, a misdemeanor of the first degree.  This latest case and the pattern of corrupt activity demonstrated by other convicted commercial fishing operations has resulted in proposed new regulations by the Division of Wildlife that will tighten the rules on the industry.

 

With all this illegal commercial harvest activity going on in Lake Erie by both Ohio and Ontario commercials, the buyout of the netters is taking center stage, and furious angling groups are banding together to effect a buyout. Even if possible it will take years, but it won’t deter determined these conservationists seeing their beloved resource manipulated and stolen by rogue commercials.

     

"The widespread poaching of yellow perch and corruption within the commercial fishing industry could seriously impact sport fishing into the future, if the current fines and restitution do not prevent recurrences of their past practices," said Dan Schneider, Law Enforcement Administrator for the Division of Wildlife.

 

Schneider adds the current commercial case is considered the biggest criminal case in the history of the Division of Wildlife, and involves the illegal taking and selling of 40 tons of yellow perch which is equal to 6,133 daily sport fishing bag limits.

    

In June of 2005, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor indicted 14

individuals and five businesses on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, theft, and receiving stolen property related to commercial perch fishing. All the offenses took place between 2001 and 2003, according to DOW investigators.

 

Several individuals and commercial fishing companies already plead guilty in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court and received steep fines totaling $356,000. Those individuals and companies are Joseph Smith, Roy Greene, Gary Rowan, Vito Ernande, Darlene Ernande, Craig Carr, Dale Trent, Billy Mitchell, Richard Stinson, Orville Stinson, Lake Fish, Inc., State Fish, Inc, Smith Fisheries, Westwater Fisheries and Port Clinton Fisheries, Inc. A felony investigation of yellow perch involving additional commercial fishermen and companies is still open in Lorain and Erie counties.

 

In light of ongoing the investigation into Ohio’s commercial fishing fleet, the DOW has proposed tightening the rules with three new commercial fishing regulations that could go into effect May 1.

 

“Yellow perch are extremely valuable to Ohio sport fishermen,” said Roger Knight, Lake Erie Program Administrator.  “It is essential that we are able to accurately measure both sport and commercial harvests.  These changes in the commercial rules are a step toward improving our confidence in the numbers of fish actually harvested.”

       

The first change in regulations proposes prohibiting commercial fishermen from having yellow perch from the Central and Western basins of Lake Erie on their boat at the same time. “It is critical that harvest from each basin be separately and accurately measured, given the need to properly manage perch populations,” Knight said.

       

The second change proposes requiring all commercial fishing vessels to notify the DOW at least 30 minutes prior to docking with the fish they have netted. A voicemail system would collect information, such as the location of the dock where the fish will be unloaded, the name and number of the trap net boat, license number, the weight of each harvested species, and the estimated time of arrival of the boat at the dock.

       

Under current regulations, commercial fishermen must display flags on their nets. The third change proposes requiring different color flags to be displayed according to whether the commercial fishermen are operating in the Western or Central basin.

       

Lake Erie’s yellow perch are managed through a quota system between the five states that border the lake, and Ontario. Quotas are set in order to balance Ohio’s share of the lake’s yellow perch harvest between sport anglers and commercial fishermen. Commercial fishermen are required to keep accurate and legible catch reports and to stay within their licensed yellow perch quota in a given year. Safe harvest levels of yellow perch are determined by fisheries biologists to maintain healthy fish populations and provide quality fishing opportunities on Lake Erie.


 

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan perch fishery rebounds

Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin virtually shut down their commercial perch operations in the late ‘90s, after Lake Michigan’s perch population plummeted. But now, a decade later, that perch fishery is recovering dramatically. There are more and bigger perch now spreading throughout Lake Michigan.

 

"The reason we are seeing this is that the commercial guys are not out there lopping off most of the bigger perch," said Paul Allen, a research biologist at Ball State University and the chairman of the Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Task Group.

"There was excessive harvest going on back then and the fish couldn't get past that barrier." The barrier, Allen explained at the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference in Grand Rapids, was 40 million feet of gillnet set by commercial fisherman in Indiana waters.

 

What's coming, Clapp says, should be even better. "The 2005 year class is the best in the last 10 years," said Dave Clapp, the head of the Michigan DNR's Great Lakes Fisheries Research Station in Charlevoix. Clapp also attended the fish and wildlife conference.


Illinois

2006 Firearm Deer Season Permit online applications available

Online application will expedite permit process

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced that the online application system for 2006 Resident Firearm Deer Season Permits is now available. The online system will expedite the application process, allowing resident hunters to more efficiently apply for their firearm deer hunting permit.

 

To apply online, resident hunters should go to the IDNR web

site at http://dnr.state.il.us .  Online applications are available using Mastercard or Visa. The application deadline for the Illinois Firearm Deer Season first lottery drawing is April 28.  The web site can also be used for additional resident lotteries throughout the application process.  Please see the web site for details.

 

The 2006 Illinois Firearm Deer Season is Nov. 17-19 and Nov. 30-Dec. 3.

 


Indiana

April fish preparation workshops April 10, 11, 12

Get ready for spring fishing by learning how to make the most of your catch. The Purdue Cooperative Extension Service is presenting three fish cleaning and preparation workshops this April in central and northern Indiana.

 

Learn fish filleting skills and practice your technique. Discover practical methods and recipes to improve the quality and taste of common Indiana fish species while sampling some delicious fish dishes. Gain a better understanding of what the Indiana fish consumption advisory means to you and your family.

Workshop locations and dates:

  ► Angola, April 10, Steuben Community Center

  ► Wanata, April 11, Pinney Purdue Ag Center

  ► Noblesville, April 12, Hamilton County Fairgrounds

 

Each program begins at 6 p.m. (local time) and lasts three hours. Admission is $5. To reserve your spot for any of the workshops, call the Henry County Extension Office at 765-529-5002.

 

 


Michigan

Public Input Sought on Trout Management Plan

For Kneff Lake in Crawford County

The Department of Natural Resources is planning to conduct a chemical treatment to enhance the trout fishery in Kneff Lake, fisheries officials said. Kneff Lake is a 13-acre designated trout lake located in central Crawford County.

 

The lake has been managed for rainbow trout since 1965 through the use of periodic rotenone treatments and annual trout stocking. Anecdotal evidence suggests that species other than trout are predominant in the lake's fish community, fisheries officials said. In order to restore the trout fishery these fish will be eradicated through the application of rotenone followed by annual restocking of 1,000 yearling

rainbow trout.

 

Rotenone is a commonly used and accepted agricultural insecticide that is toxic to fish at very low concentrations. At the proposed application rate it poses no threat to humans or livestock and detoxifies quickly when exposed to sunlight and air.

 

Comments about the proposed treatment can be made to Steven Sendek at the DNR's Grayling Field Office. The mailing address for written comments is DNR Grayling Field Office, 1955 N. I-75 Business Loop, Grayling, MI 49738. Comments also can be telephoned to Sendek at 989-348-6371 extension 7477. The comment period will be open until March 22, 2006.


Incentive program boosts license sales

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Gander Mountain, and RBFF partnered together to implement a Take Me Fishing discount card pilot program during the summer of 2005. 

 

The retail discount incentive was targeted to motivate male lapsed anglers aged 25-54 within a six-county region of southeast Michigan to renew their fishing licenses during a specified period. Upon renewing their licenses, the anglers each received a discount card redeemable at area Gander Mountain locations. 

License sales increased by 7% 

  ► Participating stores showed the following sales over non-participating stores:    

  ► Rod and reel combo sales up 29%

  ► Tackle box sales up 32%

  ► Line winding sales up 27%

  ► Based on the average renewal license price and estimated Sport Fish Restoration revenue, the total revenue to the MDNR generated by the program exceeded $80,000.  Plans for 2006 include expanding the program statewide in Michigan and involving multiple retail partners.


Company drops bottled water lawsuits

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) - A water bottler last week withdrew lawsuits against the state of Michigan over regulations that limited the company's ability to sell its product outside the Great Lakes drainage basin.

One of the lawsuits asked the courts to throw out a 20-year-old federal law enabling the governor of any Great Lakes state to veto proposed diversions of the region's water.

 

Nestle Waters North America Inc. filed state and federal suits last year after the Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit for Nestle to buy water from the city of Evart for bottling at its Ice Mountain Spring Water plant in Mecosta County. The permit said the Evart water couldn't be sold outside the Great Lakes basin.

 

At the same time, Gov. Jennifer Granholm imposed a moratorium on new or expanded water bottling operations until the Legislature approved long-awaited measures overseeing large water withdrawals in Michigan.

Those laws were enacted last month. After signing them Feb. 28, Granholm rescinded her moratorium and the DEQ issued Nestle a revised permit without the sales restrictions.

 

"Once that happened, the disputes were resolved and both parties are able to move on," DEQ spokesman Bob McCann said. In its lawsuits, Nestle Waters said the restrictions were unfair and discriminatory and exceeded the DEQ's authority.

 

The new legislation requires permits for large water withdrawals, including bottling operations taking more than 250,000 gallons per day, and orders major users to develop conservation plans.

 

In a key concession to the industry, it provides that water packaged in containers of 5.7 gallons or less and shipped outside the basin is not a diversion of Great Lakes water. Most diversions would be illegal under a regional compact being considered by the region's eight states.


Ohio

Port Clinton Commercial Fishing Company guilty of Felony Charges

Fines of $160,000 the latest in the sting of rogue harvesting of Lake Erie gold

COLUMBUS, OH - A Port Clinton commercial fishing company and its owners, Richard Stinson and Orville (Lee) Stinson, were ordered to pay $160,000 for their part in a racketeering ring that illegally netted thousands of pounds of yellow perch from Lake Erie, according to the Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife.

 

"We're halfway home," said Kevin Ramsey, head of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Lake Erie enforcement unit. "We expect to bring more cases within the next month or two."  The guilty pleas concluded a two-year investigation by Ramsey and his team that started in 2002 and resulted in the indictments of five fishing companies and 14 commercial fishermen on racketeering, theft and money laundering charges.

 

Ramsey expects an even bigger Lake Erie poaching case to be presented to the Grand jury later this year.

       

 Port Clinton Fisheries, Inc. Wholesalers entered a guilty plea in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to charges of engaging in corrupt activity a felony of the first degree and theft a felony of third degree. Judge Brian Corrigan subsequently ordered the company to pay a $160,000 in fines and restitution to the state for the stolen fish. The judge placed the company under sanction for five years and ordered it to donate 250 lbs of yellow perch to a community food bank.

 

Richard Stinson was found guilty of theft, a misdemeanor of the first degree; Orville Stinson was found guilty of theft, a misdemeanor of the first degree.  This latest case and the pattern of corrupt activity demonstrated by other convicted commercial fishing operations has resulted in proposed new regulations by the Division of Wildlife that will tighten the rules on the industry.

 

With all this illegal commercial harvest activity going on in Lake Erie by both Ohio and Ontario commercials, the buyout of the netters is taking center stage, and furious angling groups are banding together to effect a buyout. Even if possible it will take years, but it won’t deter determined these conservationists seeing their beloved resource manipulated and stolen by rogue commercials.

     

"The widespread poaching of yellow perch and corruption within the commercial fishing industry could seriously impact sport fishing into the future, if the current fines and restitution do not prevent recurrences of their past practices," said Dan Schneider, Law Enforcement Administrator for the Division of Wildlife.

 

Schneider adds the current commercial case is considered the biggest criminal case in the history of the Division of Wildlife, and involves the illegal taking and selling of 40 tons of yellow perch which is equal to 6,133 daily sport fishing bag limits.

    

In June of 2005, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor indicted 14

individuals and five businesses on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, theft, and receiving stolen property related to commercial perch fishing. All the offenses took place between 2001 and 2003, according to DOW investigators.

 

Several individuals and commercial fishing companies already plead guilty in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court and received steep fines totaling $356,000. Those individuals and companies are Joseph Smith, Roy Greene, Gary Rowan, Vito Ernande, Darlene Ernande, Craig Carr, Dale Trent, Billy Mitchell, Richard Stinson, Orville Stinson, Lake Fish, Inc., State Fish, Inc, Smith Fisheries, Westwater Fisheries and Port Clinton Fisheries, Inc. A felony investigation of yellow perch involving additional commercial fishermen and companies is still open in Lorain and Erie counties.

 

In light of ongoing the investigation into Ohio’s commercial fishing fleet, the DOW has proposed tightening the rules with three new commercial fishing regulations that could go into effect May 1.

 

“Yellow perch are extremely valuable to Ohio sport fishermen,” said Roger Knight, Lake Erie Program Administrator.  “It is essential that we are able to accurately measure both sport and commercial harvests.  These changes in the commercial rules are a step toward improving our confidence in the numbers of fish actually harvested.”

       

The first change in regulations proposes prohibiting commercial fishermen from having yellow perch from the Central and Western basins of Lake Erie on their boat at the same time. “It is critical that harvest from each basin be separately and accurately measured, given the need to properly manage perch populations,” Knight said.

       

The second change proposes requiring all commercial fishing vessels to notify the DOW at least 30 minutes prior to docking with the fish they have netted. A voicemail system would collect information, such as the location of the dock where the fish will be unloaded, the name and number of the trap net boat, license number, the weight of each harvested species, and the estimated time of arrival of the boat at the dock.

       

Under current regulations, commercial fishermen must display flags on their nets. The third change proposes requiring different color flags to be displayed according to whether the commercial fishermen are operating in the Western or Central basin.

       

Lake Erie’s yellow perch are managed through a quota system between the five states that border the lake, and Ontario. Quotas are set in order to balance Ohio’s share of the lake’s yellow perch harvest between sport anglers and commercial fishermen. Commercial fishermen are required to keep accurate and legible catch reports and to stay within their licensed yellow perch quota in a given year. Safe harvest levels of yellow perch are determined by fisheries biologists to maintain healthy fish populations and provide quality fishing opportunities on Lake Erie.


Over $3 million available to Improve Boating Access

Grant Application Deadline is June 1

COLUMBUS, OH - Communities across Ohio can apply for a portion of the $3.6 million in grants available for boating access facility projects on waterways across the state, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Watercraft. Applications for the grants are being accepted until June. 1.

       

Grants are available for various projects, including new boat launch ramps, docks and improvements or repairs to existing boating access facilities. The program, which is funded through the Ohio Waterways Safety Fund and administered by the ODNR Division of Watercraft, has provided more than $62 million for boating access projects statewide since 1960.

       

“The new construction and improvement of boating access

facilities benefits all Ohio boaters,” said Mike Quinn, acting chief of the ODNR Division of Watercraft. “This grant program directly returns boating dollars to local communities to improve waterways, enhance boating opportunities and support local economies.”

 

Applications for the Cooperative Boating Access Facility Program grants can be found online at www.ohiodnr.com .  Grant applications are scored on a competitive basis and require a match in local funds. Additional information on this and other Division of Watercraft grant programs is available through the ODNR website and by calling 614-265-6643.

       

An estimated 3 million Ohioans enjoy recreational boating each year. Ohio is a popular boating destination, ranking eighth nationally in 2005 with a total of 412,445 registered watercraft.


Marine retailer fined $2.5 million for bad hull

MarineMax of Ohio, Inc., the world's largest marine retailer, must pay a Columbus man $2.5 million for selling a yacht with a hull that had been severely damaged while saying only minor repairs had been made to it -- and then refusing to take it back for the purchase price. 

 

State Judge Paul C. Moon of Ottawa County, Ohio awarded triple and punitive damages, attorneys fees, pre-judgment        

interest and costs to Doug Borror, said Borror's attorney, Jim Arnold of Clark Perdue Arnold & Scott in Columbus.  Arnold filed the case under the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act. 

 

Judge Moon called MarineMax's sale in 2002 of a 51-foot 2001 Sea Ray yacht to Borror for $780,000, "conscious, deliberate, malicious, deceitful and particularly gross and egregious."


Wisconsin

Chinook harvest at all time high

By Kevin Naze
When Lake Michigan fishermen someday look back at the heyday of chinook salmon fishing, odds are the focus could be on the early years of the 21st century.

 

"These last four years have been absolutely phenomenal," said Paul Peeters, a state fisheries biologist based in Sturgeon Bay. "It's hard to believe we can keep this kind of fishery going at such a high level." Anglers caught an estimated 418,918 Chinooks, a state record, in 2005. That topped the previous best, from 1987, by more than 20,000. The four-year total of more than 1.4 million Chinooks smashed the previous high, set in the mid- to late 1980s.

 

Even more remarkable, the record-setting catches have come despite two substantial salmon stocking cuts, one in 1991 and the other in 1999. A third is set to start this spring. Wisconsin will be stocking fewer than half as many Chinooks as it did in the mid-1980s. Stocking peaked at more than 2.7 million Chinooks a year three times between 1984 and 1989. However, all those salmon almost ate themselves out of their favored food; the alewife, an oily, exotic forage fish.

 

Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan began stocking salmon in the late 1960s to control exploding alewife populations. But when alewife populations declined in the late 1980s, Chinooks began dying of bacterial kidney disease. Fishery managers cut chinook stocks to 1.5 million to 1.7 million fish a year beginning in 1991, then to 1.4 million to 1.5 million in 1999.

 

The reduction in the number of salmon produced at hatcheries meant better conditions for fish: more room, better water quality and less competition. Those fish have been able to feed on a large year class of alewives produced in 1998. A number of state records have since been set, including the Coho salmon and brown trout leaders. But declining salmon body weights in recent years have biologists again concerned that salmon are having a hard time getting enough to eat.

 

Chinooks averaged 13 pounds in 2001, according to creel census clerks; last year, that figure dropped to 8.6 pounds. Smaller-than-usual salmon are winning fishing contests.

Peeters said the average weight of a 30-inch chinook fell to its lowest level last year at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Strawberry Creek egg collection facility.

 

Peeters said an increase in natural reproduction on the Michigan side of the lake makes it difficult for fish managers to keep salmon numbers in line with the forage base. Also, a decline in alewives in Lake Huron in recent years resulted in an unknown number of salmon migrating into Lake Michigan.

 

Last year, fishery officials from the four states surrounding Lake Michigan agreed to collectively decrease chinook stocking again by 25 percent. Wisconsin's share of the decrease is 21 percent, or about 300,000 fish. Michigan will take the biggest cut, 30 percent.

 

"Alewives appear to be just kind of holding their own at a low level," Peeters said. "That's why I think it's important that we took action to cut back on the number of salmon we stock into the lake."

 

Kewaunee County was tops in the rainbow trout — or steelhead — catch, with an estimated 15,023. Manitowoc was second at 6,435 and Sheboygan third at 5,756. The total rainbow count of more than 48,000 nearly doubled 2004 but is still well below the long-term average.

 

The brown trout harvest of more than 27,000 was the best in the past three years, but also well below average. Milwaukee led the ports with nearly 14,000 fish; Green Bay waters were second at more than 3,800.

 

Coho salmon fishermen saw a decrease of more than 17,000 fish from 2004, at 59,244, but that was about 9,000 better than the 2003 catch. Port Washington was tops with more than 15,000 cohos, followed by Kenosha and Racine, both with nearly 10,000 each, and Milwaukee, with more than 7,500.

 

The lake trout catch dipped to a record low estimate of 14,139. Manitowoc County was first with more than 2,600 lakers, followed by Port Washington, Kewaunee and Sheboygan, all with more than 2,000.

 

(Naze is a contributing editor to the Great Lakes Basin Report)


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