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This Week's Fishy News - 25 August


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Don't worry, it's only a big fish

The Times Online - August 19, 2006

Australia has decided that the giant sawtooth killer crocodiles that strike fear wherever they swim are not reptiles after all. They are, in fact, fish.

The Australian Parliament agreed that the new definition was needed to ensure the country could enforce export controls on a wider range of fish, including crocodile products, shellfish and prawns. The Australian Macquarie Dictionary — the arbiter of the country’s language — still defines a crocodile as a reptile.

Tuna study could change fish harvesting

ABC News Online

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tuna harvested in Port Lincoln this morning could change the way the fish are marketed in South Australia.

The Tuna Boat Owners Association has just finished a study, which kept tuna in captivity for up to four times longer than normal to measure the effect on the size, health and quality of the fish.

The association's research manager, David Ellis, says the results of the study are yet to be analysed, but if successful, it could enable Port Lincoln's tuna to be marketed throughout the year.

He says the findings could also benefit employees.

"At the moment in the industry we have a few months where the fish aren't in the water and we're getting prepared to go to sea and normally that's the time where people take holidays, or the casuals normally find some other work to do," he said.

"By having long-term holding it could open up a more continuous workplace arrangement for employees."

Paul Watson: Toxic roulette and the revenge of the fish

New Zealand Herald

Tuesday August 22, 2006

It looks like the fish are turning the tables on humanity. Not by choice but because ecological realities have boomeranged back upon humankind.

Tins of tuna fish now contain warnings that the product should not be eaten by pregnant women or young children because of high levels of mercury and other toxic heavy metals.

Farm raised salmon in North America contain antibiotics, growth hormones and even a dye to colour the flesh a pleasing pink while still alive.

Long-living fish like halibut, cod, orange roughy and swordfish contain large amounts of heavy metals. When you can live over a century like a halibut, you accumulate decades of toxins. When you live high up on the food chain, you build up mercury and other heavy metals.

Orcas in the Pacific Northwest of the United States are the most chemically contaminated animals in the world. Beluga whales in the St Lawrence River are treated as toxic waste when they die.

We treat the oceans like sewers and then act surprised that the fish that is eaten is polluted.

Humans can be wilfully blind and deliberately ignorant when it comes to food. We would never eat a piece of fish sitting in a bowl of mercury, arsenic and PCBs garnished with a lump of human fecal material on top. Yet when the lump of crap is brushed off and the toxins washed away, we serve that lump of sautéed toxic fish flesh up without a thought of what has penetrated the cells of the meat.

The federal government of Canada has just allocated C$190,000 to investigate the impact of traditional fish diets on West Coast native communities.

Canadian Inuit have exceptionally high levels of toxic contaminants in their bodies because of their traditional reliance on whales and seals. The study currently being undertaken on the West Coast will reveal how high the level of contaminants are among Pacific Northwest First Nations.

I predict that the study will reveal that over 100 West Coast aboriginal communities are indeed facing a crisis of increasing levels of toxicity in the fish they eat.

This crisis is not one created by the activities of most Native people but is the consequence of mining, logging, sewage, manufacturing and salmon farming. Clear-cutting, agricultural run-off and mine tailings are actions that invite ecological consequences.

The chemical stew includes dioxins, furans, PCBs, flame retardants and DDT, mercury, arsenic and lead, all of which can accumulate in the bodies of humans and animals.

Quatsino First Nation Chief Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, who was raised in the traditional style on the northwest tip of the island, said in a recent interview that in a recent seven-day period, she ate salmon and crab on four of the days.

Unfortunately for the Chief and her people this is no longer a healthy diet.

On the other side of the world in the Faeroe Islands about halfway between Iceland and Scotland, the level of mercury toxicity in the brains of Faeroese children is the highest in the world. Mercury literally eats away brain tissue. Faeroese health officials are now the world's experts on Minamata disease which is the name given to mercury poisoning.

I myself was raised in a fishing village on Canada's East Coast. The staples of my childhood were lobster, scallops, clams, cod, flounder, and smelts. We did not eat mussels because they were considered dirty. Today the restaurants in my hometown serve mussels because they are the most common shellfish that remains. They are even dirtier today than they were three decades ago.

It is hard to have an appetite for clams when the mud they are being dug from reeks of raw purplish oozing sewage.

I've given up "seafood". I don't have the ability of disassociation needed to separate the realities of over-exploitation and toxicity from the food that I eat.

And eating the flesh of mammals and birds instead still does not alleviate the pressure on marine wildlife. More than 50 per cent of the biomass taken from the sea is converted to fishmeal to be fed to domesticated land animals. We have literally converted herbaceous mammals like cows, sheep, pigs and sheep into the world's foremost aquatic predators.

The main staple of the puffin in the North Sea, the sand eel, has been so overly exploited by Danish fisheries for animal feed that puffins have starved by the thousands.

A great percentage of the fish caught off Chile goes to feed the ever-expanding populations of farmed salmon.

Domestic cats throughout the world actually consume more tuna than all the world's seals combined.

This kind of biological upheaval in feeding patterns is having serious environmental consequences.

And then to add insult to injury, humans point an accusatory finger at seals, dolphins, seabirds and whales - and whine that diminished fish populations have been caused by these aquatic predators. At the same time they suggest that humans are innocently just trying to feed their families and enjoy a prawn cocktail.

This disassociation has gone so far that recently a branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Canada attempted to host a live crab boil where they would have inflicted cruelty on some sea animals to raise funds to prevent cruelty to cute and cuddly land animals.

We humans can justify anything and everything we do.

In the end, nature bats last, and the fish are having their revenge as the natural reaction to our ecologically criminal actions kicks into high gear.

But telling people that smoking causes cancer does not deter some people from smoking and telling people that eating fish can kill you will most likely not deter some people from eating fish.

They prefer to continue playing toxic roulette.

* Paul Watson is founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Shop wisely or 'go fish'

Natascha Mirosch - The Courier Mail

August 21, 2006 12:00am

AUTHOR and keen fisherman Tim Winton calls it "the culinary currency of celebration". Seafood.

It represents the quintessential Australian good life, whether prawns thrown on the coals at a casual birthday barbie, or oysters, bugs and prawns with a chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc at Christmas lunch. Not only does seafood taste good but we are encouraged to eat it as part of a healthy diet.

The problem is that we are loving our oceans to death. Fish stocks are reaching crisis point and Australia's Bureau of Rural Sciences has declared that almost half of Australia's 70 principal fish species are fully fished or overfished.

The old maxim intended to comfort heartbroken women "there's plenty more fish in the sea", has a ring of irony about it as we come to the realisation the days of thinking of the ocean as an infinite resource are long gone.

Mark Maric, head chef at the award-winning Lure at The Coro seafood restaurant in Milton, says he has noticed that it's getting trickier to find good seafood. "It's definitely getting harder. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for fish. I've actually recently travelled up the coast personally, trying to find a reliable supplier. It's getting ridiculous. Suppliers get better prices overseas, so a lot of it goes there," he says.

Therein lies one of the problems. With the rest of the world willing to pay big bucks for our seafood after having depleted their own oceans, the temptation is to both overfish our seas and ship it out for big profits.

In the meantime, to provide for our own seafood hungry population, we are importing up to 60 per cent of our seafood from places such as Thailand, South America, China and Vietnam, often farmed from waters with much less loosely regulated aquaculture farms than our own. It's plentiful and it's dirt cheap, making it hard for our own small suppliers to compete.

"Things such as soft shell crab, which are becoming popular, can be imported from Asia for around $15 a kilo," Maric says, "whereas the local sells for $60 a kilo. The upside is that the local stuff is clean, fresh and as good as the best stuff we can import from the premium suppliers, the US."

The competitiveness of imported product is also threatening our wild fish stocks in an unexpected way. According to the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Animal Biosecurity, with imported prawns so cheap, recreational anglers have been using supermarket prawns as bait, putting the state's prawn stocks at risk of a disease outbreak.

The prawns imported from many Asian countries can carry exotic viruses such as white spot syndrome, taura syndrome or yellowhead virus and, while they have no effect on humans, could potentially devastate our prawn fishing industry.

While demand obviously dictates the types of fish chefs choose, Maric and other chefs are trying to be more ecologically aware. "Water quality is definitely something I worry about. I also buy line-caught fish as much as possible," he says.

Brisbane's Pier Nine chef Mike Wood has an extensive knowledge of the market, after 18 years of working at the seafood restaurant, and says that consumers often tend to be lazy when choosing fish.

"We tend to go for the same things all the time, the big names. However, there are lot more species out there that are just as good and not as overfished. Often they're much cheaper too," he says.

Wood suggests as an alternative squid or calamari, and says while not the prettiest of species, they are tasty.

According to Craig Bohm of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), sustainability has been a hot topic in the US for five years or more. But it has only recently made its way on to the agenda here. "People are staggered and shocked, when they realise how bad things are. We've been treating fishing with a harvest mentality for far too long," he says.

James Belcastro of the Fresh Fish Co in James St, Fortitude Valley, says he is amazed at how many people are oblivious to the idea of sustainability. "I get requests for things like orange roughy and swordfish (two of the most endangered species) all the time. Only two people have ever asked me questions about species and sustainability," he says.

Belcastro sees himself as the last line of defence, sandwiched between the DPI, which dictates what we can fish, and consumers.

"I have a blackboard where I have put up the web address of David Suzuki's webpage which has a lot of great information on sustainable fishing, and try to suggest alternatives to customers when I can," he says.

A major barrier to getting information about choosing sustainable species is partly down to labelling. "We as consumers need to educate ourselves more about which seafood we should choose," Bohm says. "However, those who want to do the right thing often find they are hampered by the lack of labelling.

"These days, the country of origin has to be displayed and also whether the product has been frozen or not, but there is a problem with species labelling. Reef fish is a pretty common term used, for example, but could mean anything.

"Flathead too – there are 40 different species of flathead."

Bohm and the AMCS would like to see the species-accurate name as part of the labelling process, as well as the supplier and source, the country of origin and the method of capture or harvest (is it a product of aquaculture, farmed or wild?)

"There are some people in the industry who are trying to create a cleaner, greener product who welcome these sort of changes, because it means that it differentiates them from everyone else. But others are very resistant. It's costly and complicated to change labelling, but it needs to be done. Our oceans just can't provide for the level of demand any more and we'll end up losing diversity," Bohm says.

Another problem is lack of knowledge at the point of sale, with supermarkets prime culprits. "There's just not the level of information to help people," he says.

Aquaculture is being touted in some areas as a panacea for the crisis, but when it comes to taste, the verdict is mixed. Maric says farmed seafood has a place, but it's not at restaurants.

"I feel the market for that is supermarkets. Wild fish from the ocean is special, something people are willing to pay more for," he says.

But Philip Mitchell, executive chef of Sebel Reef House at Palm Cove near Cairns, says he actually prefers the taste of sea-farmed barramundi.

"It's more consistent. Sometimes the wild barra can be a bit tough but the saltwater farmed is kept in pristine waters and fed on kelp. While people think barra will taste muddy, saltwater farmed barra is very clean tasting," Mitchell says.

The AMCS, however, remains unconvinced of the value of aquaculture, despite big plans and investment by the state government, including the recently announced Great Sandy Region marine aquaculture plan.

"Fish can escape from pens, spreading disease in the wild. They also require huge amounts of caught fish to feed them. It takes 5kg of small fish to grow a 1kg salmon. Aquaculture is not a golden pill," Bohm says.

The AMCS produces a sustainable fish guide advising consumers which species are in danger of being fished out. In the colour-coded booklet, it's the species marked red that consumers are asked to say no to; orange, they are asked to think twice about; and green are better choices for sustainability.

Biology student nets toothy fish

Piranha or not, fish is unusual find, wildlife official says

By AMY RITCHART - The (Clarksville) Leaf-Chronicle - 24/8/06

Graduate student Jon McMahan suspects he's netted his best fishing story at 23, and he's been enjoying telling everyone in town.

The biology student believes he caught a piranha, or a similar aggressive exotic fish with a mouth full of teeth, on a Wednesday night fishing trip with his friend Adam Neblett.

The pair was on a quick fishing trip at the Cumberland City Steam Plant when McMahan hooked the tropical fish.

"We were fishing near the steam plant at the mouth of a stream that opens into the Cumberland River," he said. "It was kind of like a normal day of fishing. I hooked something, and all the sudden we saw a red belly flying through the air.

"This is probably my biggest fish story. I've hit my peak at 23. I'm going to have to go to the ocean to top this one."

The fish ended up in the boat, nearly in Neblett's lap, after it bit through the steel lure, McMahan said.

"We didn't want to throw him back in the water," he said.

McMahan, who has a bachelor's degree in biology and is studying aquatic biology at Austin Peay State University's graduate school, wants to have the fish officially identified.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fisheries biologist John Riddle said he receives one or two calls each year from fishermen who catch something that looks like it came out of an aquarium.

"This was the first call" about a piranha this year, he said. "It's been years since I've had a summer when I didn't get a call. We have people bringing them by regularly."

Riddle said they're not always piranhas.

"Apparently people let a lot of their pets loose," he said. "It is illegal to do that. They are breaking the law, and they are running risks of doing damage to the environment."

Riddle also said people don't need to be worried about these fish and most do not survive the winter, except near the warmer water from the steam plant.

"They do not winter-over here. We don't have populations of those things," he said. "Most of them are not something that attacks large animals individually."

McMahan said even if it turns out not to be a piranha, it's a strange fish to find.

"I want to find out. Piranha or not, anything with teeth like that, it's definitely tropical," he said. "It's obviously not from here."

In October 2001, a similar toothy fish was caught in the Cumberland River but near the Red River. It was identified as a member of the piranha family.

Flying Fish Slams Into First Coast Boaters

8/22/2006 11pm report

By Grayson Kamm

First Coast News

DIXIE COUNTY, FL -- Flying fish are making part of a river in Florida downright dangerous. Just this summer, leaping sturgeon have slammed into people six times on the Suwannee River. The latest victims are from Lake City.

Bobbers, beer, and chips -- you can get it all at Pam Browning's Trading Post in Dixie County. But these days, the hottest thing going is fish stories.

"They're in awe over how many there is and how many people are being injured and all that from the sturgeons," Browning said.

Down the road out back, on the sleepy Suwannee River, a fish as old as the dinosaurs is churning up a new problem.

Sturgeon are laying eggs, looking for love, and jumping everywhere.

"It's just what they do," explained Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Officer Dorvan Daniel. And here, what they do -- is now a real danger.

This weekend, Officer Daniel was patrolling a stretch of the river known as a haven for leaping fish. As he watched, a five-foot-long, fifty-pound monster leaped into a speeding boat full of folks from Lake City.

"They were headed straight south, near the center of the river," Daniel remembered. He says the fish came right over the bow of the boat.

It sliced into the neck and face of a 9-year-old girl.

"When you see a little girl fly out of the boat and hit the water, it makes you feel good when she's screaming for help, because you know she's still conscious," Daniel said.

Then that same flying fish shattered the bone in a woman's arm.

Officer Daniel radioed for help, then he climbed into the victims' boat with his first aid kit. He started to work on the little girl. The whole time, in the boat with them, was the sturgeon, flopping around on the ground -- all five feet of it.

"And when they're plated with the bony armor that they are, that's sharp. They can hurt you, seriously," Daniel said.

Both of the victims were taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, according to a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman. Officer Daniel said the two have recovered, and the young girl even went to school the next day.

Their run-in was the sixth sturgeon strike on this stretch of the Suwannee this summer.

"Everybody wants to be on the river on the weekend. And a lot of people don't know to slow down. And they think it just won't happen to them," Daniel said.

So he's trying to tell a new tale: make your boat trips more like the rest of life around the Suwannee River -- nice and easy.

"If they'd seen what I've seen, they'd slow down," Daniel said.

State officers figure so many people are being hit because there are more boaters on the river these days. On top of that, the sturgeon, which was once a species in very bad shape, is starting to make a comeback. There are just more of them out there leaping into the air and coming close to collisions.

Officials enlist tiny fish to fight N.O. mosquitoes

By ED CULLEN - The Advocate

Advocate staff writer

Published: Aug 21, 2006

In the bizarre world of post-Katrina New Orleans, LSU AgCenter fisheries scientists, the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board, Orleans Parish Prison and the disaster relief branch of Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network are battling mosquitoes hatching in the city’s 6,000 abandoned or ruined residential swimming pools.

Bill Horan, president and chief operating officer of Operation Blessing, calls the organization he heads “the Swiss Army knife of FEMA.”

“We can move quickly without a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense slowing us down,” said Horan in a telephone interview from his office in Virginia Beach, Va.

Steve Sackett, research entomologist and field superintendent at the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board, got a sympathetic reception from Horan when Sackett called in April to say he needed money to buy mosquitofish.

“Before Katrina,” Sackett said, “we would use minnow traps to catch a few fish in drainage ditches.”

With the potential for West Nile virus from mosquitoes breeding in the abandoned swimming pools of New Orleans, Sackett needed a lot of mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and fast!

Horan, who once raised fish in his family’s gravel pit in Michigan, found what first seemed an unlimited supply of mosquitofish at a fish farm in Laurel, Miss.

When Horan called to say he’d buy all the farm’s Gambusia affinis, “a trash fish,” the fish guy “must have thought he’d won the lottery,” said Mark Schexnayder, LSU AgCenter’s hurricane recovery coordinator.

The Mississippi fish farm FedExed 100 fish in oxygenated bags to Sackett in New Orleans who had them checked to be sure they were the right fish. They were. Operation Blessing bought 12,000 at 10 cents each and helped find volunteers to get the fish to the swimming pools.

Using Mapquest, volunteers and Sackett’s staff put mosquitofish in 200 pools the first day.

The Laurel fish farm couldn’t keep up with demand, Horan said, and there were casualties in shipping. That’s when Horan and Schexnayder got together.

The LSU AgCenter hurricane recovery coordinator told the head of Operation Blessing that Orleans Parish Prison had aquaculture pools the prison had used to raise tilapia before the storm.

“We talked to the sheriff,” Horan said, “and agreed to refurbish three of the nine pools to raise mosquitofish.

“I got interested in what they were doing at the prison,” Horan said. “We gave them $25,000 to get the (tilapia) fish culture going again.”

Horan, who’s seen the mosquitofish in action, said, “They’ll eat anything. I saw them feeding on a big glob of algae. It was like feeding at a salad bar.”

Mosquitofish will live in dirty water and can tolerate a wide range of temperature, said Robert Romaire, director of LSU’s Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge.

The fish don’t lay eggs. Born live, the young immediately begin feeding on larvae. Mature fish produce 50 to 100 young every six weeks.

Many of the mosquitofish shipped to New Orleans have come from LSU catfish and crawfish research ponds.

“Although they aren’t part of our targeted research program at the (research) station,” Romaire said, “they do add the benefit of controlling mosquito populations at the station.”

Thousands of swimming pools await cleanup, Sackett said.

“If your house is in shambles, especially if you’re in San Antonio, (Texas,) the swimming pool is way down on the list of the things to do,” Sackett said.

A plant saucer provides a breeding place for enough mosquitoes to infest several yards. In addition to the swimming pools, there are countless containers in New Orleans yards where mosquitoes breed, Sackett said.

Spraying and natural predators have held the mosquito population in check, he said.

The swimming pools give life to mosquitoes that can fly up to a half mile, Sackett said. The mosquitofish helped get control of the mosquitoes fairly quickly, he said, but nature had begun its own work.

“As time went on after the storm,” Sackett said, “the pools matured. They went from chlorinated, pristine, treated pools to swamps. Predators made their homes there — water boatmen and predacious diving beetles.

“Our mosquito population is not abnormal,” he said. “Things have pretty well leveled out. We’re using mosquitofish as a long-term residual control measure.”

Story originally published in The Advocate

Study: Venomous Fish Outnumber Snakes

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 - FOX News

By Robert Roy Britt

It's a good thing fish wouldn't survive long if loose on a plane. A new study finds there are more venomous fish than venomous snakes.

The 1,200 presumably venomous fish tallied in a new study come to six times previous estimates. Fish with a biting bite outnumber all other venomous vertebrates combined, in fact.

"The results of this research were quite surprising," said researcher William Leo Smith of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

This might surprise you, too: More than 50,000 people are poisoned by fish bites every year, Smith and his colleague said. Symptoms range from blisters to death.

Watch out

Among the fish to look out for: lionfishes, catfishes, scorpionfishes, weeverfishes, toadfishes, surgeonfishes, scats, jacks, rabbitfishes, stargazers and stonefishes.

Smith conducted the study along with Ward Wheeler, curator in the museum's division of invertebrate zoology. The results are reported in the Journal of Heredity.

Where are they all?

"Venomous fishes are in almost all habitats," Smith told LiveScience. "They range from mountain streams to the depths of all oceans, but the vast majority of the most venomous fishes are in the tropics."

There are also "plenty of venomous fishes" in the United States, but most are "not particularly harmful," Smith said.

Exceptions include a few scorpionfishes in California and the Western Atlantic.

"However, there is always the possibility of introduced species being quite venomous," he said. "And, we have an example of this in the case of the lionfish/firefish, which became introduced in Florida, and now individuals can be collected at least as far north as Long Island in the fall."

Should swimmers worry?

"For the most part, no," Smith said. "But people should always exercise caution when dealing with unfamiliar fishes or known venomous species."

The good news

The study could be important for the development of new drugs. Venoms pack proteins that can be used to develop drugs to treat a range of ailments from allergies to pain and even cancer, the scientists say.

While many creatures have been tapped for drug development, fish remain a relatively untapped resource.

Six treatments for stroke or cancer developed from snake venom are nearing FDA review, the scientists point out. Scorpion venom has been used in a brain cancer treatment.

The new list was developed through DNA studies and morphological analysis of spiny-rayed fishes.

A separate study last year found there could be more than 1,500 venomous lizards.

Edited by Flattieman
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Thanks Flattieman....there are some real gems there. Fish are truly amazing animals when you read stuff like that.

It's equally amazing how many stories are out there, in unknown newspapers and magazines around the world.

Thanks to the internet..we can all read them now.

Keep 'em coming...I really enjoy reading your fish related tidbits.


p.s. If the moderators think it's worthwhile..I agree that we should have a section for just this type of thing

on Fishraiders...it's both informative & interesting to all fishos I feel.

Edited by MallacootaPete
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