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Friday Fishy News - February 2


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Youth bites fish, dies

The Fiji Times Online

January 29

Health authorities in the Northern Division have issued a warning after an 18-year-old boy died after choking on a fish whose head he was trying to bite off.

Several people, mainly in rural communities have died trying to bite the head off fish they caught.

Sub-divisional medical officer Savusavu, Dr Mohammed Ishaque said a similar incident occurred in Bua last year.

He warned warned people to do away with the practice.

"They should be more careful when handling fish," Dr Ishaque said.

"It is mainly women who are fond of doing it," he said. "Accidents do happen and they must take extra attention while out fishing."

The death reportedly occurred at 2pm while the boy was fishing with a friend in waters off Jerusalemi Village, 10 kilometres, from Savusavu Town.

The boy died on arrival at the hospital after being transferred from the village by shocked relatives.

Dr Ishaque said a post mortem examination was to be conducted on the deceased today.

Won't be my Valentine? Fish and wreath in the mail


30 January

ROSES are red. Violets are blue. Our love died, now why don't you? With Valentine's Day approaching, love is the air - and so is revenge, with jilted lovers sending bitter notes, funeral wreaths and even dead fish to former partners.

"We definitely get a bounce in our business at this time of year," said Alan Harris, founder of the Web site www.Poisonpen.com, which, for a small fee, will send an anonymous poison pen card or letter to a former lover.

"Sometimes, people find it very cathartic. It's like therapy, only cheaper," said Harris, whose motto is: "When you care enough to send the very worst."

According to a report in Reuters, among his best sellers at this time of year is a card that features the phrase 'Words Fail Me' written in red ink on a black background and opens to reveal an illustration of a hand with a raised middle finger.

Yahoo! Personals has dubbed the period between the December holidays and Valentine's Day on February 14 as national break-Up season.

The online dating service survey asked 2,583 of its users and found that couples were more than twice as likely to think about separating during this period than at any other time of the year.

"People tend to 'put up' with current relationships in order to have a partner for holiday gatherings, but once the festivities are over, it's time to decide whether to fish or cut bait," said Anna Zornosa, vice president of Yahoo! Personals.

Rare fish washes ashore near Seaside

By Teresa Bell


January 27


SEASIDE -- For the second time in three months, a rare fish was rescued after washing ashore near Seaside.

The aquarium staff doesn't know if this rescued longnose skate will survive.

Last Friday, a group of concerned citizens discovered something flopping around in the surf at Sunset Beach, just north of Seaside.

"They dug a hole in the sand around it to keep in water," Chandler said. "It was incredible that it was still alive. That's extremely rare.”

The creature turned out to be a longnose skate, an extraordinary find because this species usually lives very deep in the ocean, according to Keith Chandler with the Seaside Aquarium.

It was eventually taken to the aquarium for rescue and rehabilitation. The fish was not doing well when it got there, apparently because it had been out of the water for so long.

“He's in pretty bad shape because of being in the air so long, so it's hard to say if he's going to make it,” Chandler said. "He doesn't appear damaged, although he was bumped around a bit by coming up on the surf. He's still getting acclimated to his surroundings. He hasn't eaten, but that's common for a fish new to captivity.”

The scientific name of the creature is Raja rhina, according to aquarium staff. They can reach a size of about four feet in total length, although the average size is two to three feet. The rescued fish was 32 inches long.

Llongnose skates feed on small fish and invertebrates. They have adapted a unique way of capturing their prey by pouncing on top of their victim and pinning it to the ocean floor.

Little is known about their life span, although one was recording in a study as living 13 years. A longnose skate is what is called a benthic fish, meaning it spends most of its time on the ocean floor, or anywhere from 82 feet to 2000 feet below the surface. They are usually found from the Bering Sea to Baja California.

Drought leads to native fish relocation

ABC News Online

February 2

The impact of the drought in southern New South Wales has led to an emergency relocation for a rare species of native fish.

Usually found in the Murray River, the southern pygmy perch has come under threat because of rapidly shrinking waterholes.

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industry says the fish used to be widely distributed and could be found in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania but it is now a threatened species living in a tributary of the Murray.

The department's Stephen Thurston says the drying pools have left the fish more vulnerable to predation by birds as well as rising temperatures and a lack of oxygen in the water.

He says 100 of the fish have been taken into care as insurance against the demise of the wild populations.

At its last count the southern pygmy perch population was just over 370.

Sorry to be late, but the fish was this big’

by Chris Taewa

The Gisborne Heral Online

February 1

New Zealand


SCOTT Willson had a 108.45-kilogram excuse for missing two weddings on Saturday.

Willson landed the only marlin of the Enterprise Nissan Bay Bonanza three-day fishing tournament, the timing of the catch meaning he missed the wedding ceremonies of two of his first cousins — Pam Willson and Bridget Muir.

"I wasn’t in the good books," he joked after his $1000-winning effort.

Willson hooked the striped marlin off Steve Riach’s boat Predator.

The unlucky fish was just five minutes from remaining free.

"We were on our way back . . . we were about to pull the lures in," he said.

"It came from out of the blue.

"All our drags were set up for tuna."

Forty minutes later Willson had the third and biggest marlin of his fishing career, the latest effort surpassing his previous heaviest of around 95kg.

Had it been another 10.5kg, he would have pocketed $5000 for the heaviest marlin over 120kg. The $1000 for "second-heaviest" marlin was ample consolation.

Willson got to the aftermath of both weddings — his badly-timed catch an acceptable excuse. Just.

Willson’s effort was well shy of the highlight of the tournament, a 121kg bigeye tuna reeled in by Dugald Hamilton, but it was one of many excellent fish weighed in.

The Falloon family were dominating the tuna class until Hamilton’s club record catch.

Ryan Falloon and mother Trish caught 60.55kg and 58.95kg bigeyes on Friday.

The following day the pair, off their family boat Ann Maree, did it again with 64.85 and 60.35 fish. They did not go out on Sunday.

Ryan won the class for heaviest fish by a junior and second heaviest tuna, while Trish won heaviest fish by a woman.

Graham Brown, off Gotta Go, landed the third-heaviest tuna, a 64.05kg bigeye.

Other fish to impress included Terry Brooking’s 23.9kg albacore caught from the boat Jasmine. Had he been a member, it would have been a club record.

Kris Dixon’s 63.7 mako shark off Spindrift was also a good fish and took honours in that category by just five grams from Brian Hall on Noah.

Results —

Marlin: Scott Willson 108.45 (from the boat Predator).

Tuna: Dugald Hamilton 121.65 bigeye tuna (Poldark); Ryan Falloon 64.85 bigeye (Ann Maree); Graham Brown 64.05 bigeye (Gotta Go).

Heaviest fish: Hamilton 121.65 bigeye tuna.

Heaviest fish by a lady: Trish Falloon 60.35 bigeye tuna (Ann Maree).

Heaviest fish by a junior: Ryan Falloon 64.85 bigeye tuna; Kris Dixon 63.7 mako shark (Spindrift).

Hapuku: Nathan Wigglesworth 30kg (Lurker); John Nalder 26.47 (Reel Addiction); Barry Robinson 25.7 (Water Rat).

Kingfish:Tony Vincent 32.3 (Hukaz); Paul Webley 22.78 (Deep Blue).

Tarakihi: Kevin Farmer 3.3 (Sashimi); Jason Low 2.195 (C Crazy); Carla Boyle 2.130 (Yo Sioux).

Kahawai: Dylan Thomson 2.56 (Taurus).

Blue cod: Burnard Cranswick 2.36 (Catchy).

Trevally: Mike Christison 3.765 (Micky Finn).

Conger eels: Dean Windybank 8.7 (Off Shore).

Porae: Peter Donaldson 4.4 (Brokus).

Skipjack: Ray Smith: 3.42 (Jasmine); Angela Dolman 3.365 (Kaikora).

Mako: Kris Dixon 63.70; Brian Hall 63.65 (Noah).

Snapper: Neville Richards 8.42 (Hey Jude); Viard Sheridan 8.28 (Nicolette).

Trumpeter: Tony Wallace 8.995 (Reel Addiction).

Red snapper: Dinah Smith 3.04 (Tight Lines).

Albacore: Terry Brooking 23.9 (Jasmine); Les Barbara 21.78 (Tuff n Up).

Blue nose: Hamilton 24.055.

Gurnard: Jan Newman (gurnard, 1.04, Many Moons).

Barracouta: Robert Donaldson 5.32 (Brokus).

John Dory: Mark Kingsbeer 2.53 (Gotta Go).

"Electric" Fish Shed Light on Ways the Brain Directs Movement


January 31


Scientists have long struggled to figure out how the brain guides the complex movement of our limbs, from the graceful leaps of ballerinas to the simple everyday act of picking up a cup of coffee. Using tools from robotics and neuroscience, two Johns Hopkins University researchers have found some tantalizing clues in an unlikely mode of motion: the undulations of tropical fish.

Their findings, published in the January 31 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, shed new light on the communication that takes place between the brain and body. The fish research may contribute to important medical advances in humans, including better prosthetic limbs and improved rehabilitative techniques for people suffering from strokes, cerebral palsy and other debilitating conditions.

“All animals, including humans, must continually make adjustments as they walk, run, fly or swim through the environment. These adjustments are based on feedback from thousands of sense organs all over the body, providing vision, touch, hearing and so on. Understanding how the brain processes this overwhelming amount of information is crucial if we want to help people overcome pathologies,” said Noah Cowan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering. In studying the fish and preparing the Journal of Neuroscience paper, Cowan teamed up with Eric Fortune, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, also at Johns Hopkins.

Cowan and Fortune focused on the movements of a small, nocturnal South American fish called the “glass knifefish” because of its almost transparent, blade-shaped body. This type of fish does something remarkable: it emits weak electrical signals which it uses to “see” in the dark. According to Fortune, several characteristics, including this electric sense, make this fish a superb subject for the study of how the brain uses sensory information to control locomotion.

“These fish are ideal both because we can easily monitor the sensing signals that their brains use and because the task we asked the fish to do – swim forward and backward inside a small tube – is very simple and straightforward,” said Fortune, who also uses the fish to study the neural basis and evolution of behavior.

The fish prefer to “hide” inside these tubes, which are immersed in larger water tanks. In their research, Cowan and Fortune challenged the fish’s ability to remain hidden by shifting the tubes forward and backward at varying frequencies. This required the fish to swim back and forth more and more rapidly in order to remain inside the tubes. But as the frequency became higher, the fish gradually failed to keep up with the movement of the tubes.

The team’s detailed engineering analysis of the fish’s adjustments under these conditions suggested that the animal’s sensors and brains are “tuned” to consider Newton’s laws of motion, Cowan said. In other words, the team found that the fish’s nervous systems measured velocity, so the fish could accelerate or “brake” at just the right rate to remain within the moving tube.

“The fish were able to accelerate, brake and reverse direction based on a cascade of adjustments made through their sensory and nervous systems, in the same way that a driver approaching a red light knows he has to apply the brakes ahead of time to avoid overshooting and ending up in the middle of a busy intersection,” Fortune said. “Your brain has to do this all the time when controlling movement because your body and limbs, like a car, have mass. This is true for large motions that require planning, such as driving a car, but also for unconscious control of all movements, such as reaching for a cup of coffee. Without this sort of predictive control, your hand would knock the cup off the table every time.”

The researchers’ understanding of the complex relationship between the glass knifefish’s movements and the cascade of information coming into their brains and bodies via their senses could eventually spark developments in areas as far reaching as medicine and robotics.

“That animals unconsciously know that they have mass seems obvious enough, but it took a complex analysis of a very specialized fish to demonstrate this,” Fortune said. “With this basic knowledge, we hope one day to be able to ‘tune’ artificial systems, such as prosthetics, so that they don’t have the jerky and rough movements that most robots have, which is critical for medical applications.”

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Cool water surges could affect fish stocks: report

Reuters News

February 1

PARIS (Reuters) - Surges of cool waters from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean became stronger off Morocco in the 20th century, apparently because of global warming that could affect fish stocks, a study showed on Thursday.

The report, in the journal Science, said there was evidence of similar upwellings in the Arabian Sea, off California, Peru and Chile, also apparently driven by higher temperatures and shifts in winds tied to greenhouse gases.

The upwellings could be commercially important because areas where cooler waters rise near coasts provide about 20 percent of the world's fish catch even though they cover less than one percent of the world's ocean surface, they said.

But the scientists, at research institutes in Germany, Australia and Romania, did not predict whether fish stocks would get bigger or smaller because of the increased upwelling.

"Upwelling regions...show extremely high levels of biological activity, yet the ecosystem response in these regions is dependent on a complex balance of temperature, ocean chemistry, ocean circulation, and fishing pressure," it said.

The report, reconstructing a 2,500-year record of temperatures based on seabed sediments off Morocco, said surface waters were the coolest from 1965-98 because of cool waters from the depths.

"These results strongly imply that upwelling may continue to intensify with future increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming," Helen Victoria McGregor of the University of Bremen and co-authors wrote.

Almost all scientists say that a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuels, is blanketing the planet and driving up temperatures.

EU govts rapped for not protecting deep-sea fish

January 29

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU countries are not doing enough to save Europe's deep-water fish, exotic but threatened species that are fast becoming an alternative to overcaught mainstays such as cod and hake, the EU executive said on Monday.

Europe's deep-sea fish, such as the orange roughy, black scabbardfish, forkbeard, blue ling and roundnose grenadier, grow and reproduce far more slowly than fish in shallower waters and are more vulnerable to overfishing.

As numbers of EU commercial stocks such as cod, sole and hake started to fall in the early 1990s, the deep-water fish became an attractive catch as trawlers switched from traditional fishing grounds. Some deep-water fish live for up to 150 years.

Last November, EU ministers thrashed out a deal setting quotas and permitted days at sea for vessels catching these species for 2007 and 2008. Quota cuts ranged between 10 and 25 percent below the quotas allocated to EU countries in 2005.

Those reductions were partly based on similar cuts agreed for the previous 2005-06 period.

But according to a recent European Commission report, it was impossible to assess the effects of the 2005-06 quota cuts since EU countries had failed to submit proper reports or carry out adequate controls on illegal fishing and volumes of fish caught.

"Concerns have ... been raised about the effectiveness of the inspection and surveillance of the designated ports for the landing of deep-sea species on which member states have to communicate their inspection and surveillance procedures to the Commission," it said in a statement.

"Not surprisingly, the Commission concludes that the implementation of the measures has been too poor to adequately protect deep-sea stocks."

The EU has strict rules to control deep-water fishing. Special permits are needed for vessels to land or transship more than a certain amount of fish, which may only be delivered to specified ports. But enforcement has historically been patchy.

France, Spain and Portugal rank among the EU countries with the most developed deep-sea fishing industries, followed by Britain and Ireland.

In European waters, deep-sea fish are mainly found in the north Atlantic at depths of 400 metres (1,310 feet) and more. Scientists have warned that many are at risk of disappearing and have repeatedly urged a total ban on fishing them.

EPA must make power plants protect fish

By Larry Neumeister & William Lamb

North Jersey Media Group

NEW YORK -- The Environmental Protection Agency must force power plants to protect billions of fish and other aquatic organisms even if it's expensive, a federal appeals court said in a ruling favoring states and environmental groups.

The ruling drew praise from the groups and six states -- including New Jersey -- that had sued the EPA, saying the Clean Water Act requires the agency to force power plants to use the best technology possible to protect the environment.

The decision, issued late Thursday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, concluded that it was improper for the EPA to let power plants circumvent environmental laws -- for instance, restocking polluted water with new fish instead of paying to upgrade their technology.

It said the EPA's decisions must "be driven by technology, not cost," though it said an exception can exist when the EPA is choosing between two technologies that produce essentially the same benefits but have much different costs.

In Washington, Benjamin H. Grumbles EPA assistant administrator for water said: "EPA's goal is to protect fish and the ecosystem while meeting the nation's need for reliable energy sources. EPA is carefully reviewing the 2nd Circuit's opinion to assess next steps."

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the ruling would have its strongest impact on the Salem and Oyster Creek nuclear plants in South Jersey.

"This is a big step forward for protecting aquatic life and dealing with our bays and our shores," Tittel said.

The other states in the suit are Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Massachusetts and New York.

"This decision is a strong and stinging rebuke of the Bush administration's underhanded practice of issuing rule changes to undercut environmental laws," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement Friday. "The court ruled that the Clean Water Act accords the environment priority over profits."

"Once again, the courts have prevented EPA from rewriting the Clean Water Act at the behest of industry," said Reed Super, senior clinical staff attorney at Columbia Law School's Environmental Law Clinic and lead attorney for the environmental petitioners.

Steve Fleischli, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance, said the "indiscriminate and illegal slaughter" of aquatic life "will now stop."

The lawsuit was brought after the EPA published regulations in July 2004 describing how power plants must protect aquatic life when they use water from bays, rivers, lakes, oceans and other waterways for cooling.

Scientists say fish, larvae and eggs are killed in the water-cooling process, which is used heavily in states with many older, mostly fossil-fuel plants.

In the lawsuit, the state and environmental groups accused the federal government of changing the rules so that power plants could avoid costly upgrades. The improvements would have protected the aquatic life sucked into cooling water intake pipes.

The appeals court noted that in an earlier decision, it had rejected arguments that some species are nuisances and require eradication. The court had also dismissed the claim that other species respond to population losses by increasing their reproduction.

No fish for Mr Percival, and the Coorong will never be the same

By Jo Chandler


January 29

OLD-TIMERS say vast flocks of water fowl once blackened the skies over the Coorong, the wetland where the Murray River meets the sea. These days little is left of the Murray after it is siphoned off to irrigate farmland and communities in four states.

This year Professor David Paton, who has been counting birds at the Coorong for 20 years, recorded the lowest tallies yet of water fowl and of some migrating birds. There is little left for them in the Coorong, and it seems they know it.

Water levels are so depleted that for the first time in memory water no longer moves between the north and south lagoons, cutting the Coorong in half, throwing salinity balances out of kilter and wiping out fish.

Trawling the south lagoon in the past month with nets, Dr Paton found not a single fish. In past years a sweep would yield a couple of hundred of the small hardy-head fish on which birds like the Coorong's pelican - part of Australian folklore thanks to the story Storm Boy by the late Colin Thiele - survive.

The south lagoon was once home to about a quarter of the global population of fairy terns. "I remember counting 1500 back in the 1980s and early '90s," Dr Paton says. "But with no fish to harvest near their breeding islands, safe from foxes in the south lagoon, they cannot breed successfully."

This year the count is down to 300 and he is talking about regional extinction.

In the past Dr Paton and his team from the University of Adelaide would wade through thick forests of Ruppia tuberosa, the annual aquatic plant that was central to the Coorong's ecology. Now the plant has all but gone. "This year the beds of Ruppia have been left high and dry, and none flowered, that tells a pretty sad story. As a consequence of no plant material, there's very little to feed the ducks."

Coastal wetlands like the Coorong have been important during droughts. "It could always be relied on to have water in it, along with abundant fish and plants. This is the place birds come to sit out the drought in inland Australia."

But this year it provided no refuge, and Dr Paton believes the consequences will soon be seen in bird populations more broadly.

The Coorong is a reverse estuary stretching for 100 kilometres south-east from the Murray Mouth, the last wetland of the Murray-Darling Basin to be watered by the river, before the Murray's water spills into the Southern Ocean in South Australia. Its environment earned it a listing as a wetland of international importance in 1985 under the Ramsar Convention.

It has been home to more than 100 bird species. The latest published data revealed a two-third reduction in migratory bird numbers since the 1980s, and the extinction of several species of fish. This year the preliminary analysis of the Paton team's observations indicate a further slide in numbers.

The Coorong's ecosystem has been destroyed by increasing salinity and fluctuating water levels, the byproducts of years without an adequate flow from the Murray-Darling system.

The Federal Government's priority in wresting control of the system from the states is to find ways to meet the needs of the communities and economies that rely on it for survival. Dr Paton wants the survival of the Coorong to take those plans into account, as required under several international agreements.

"It's unfortunate because I actually think the system could have been saved … had some environmental flow been allowed through, on and off, in recent years as promised. It would have picked this system up a little bit and it could have lasted, and made it a far better resource and refuge during the drought."

Any changes would "all take time, and this environment doesn't have that time".

"Sure, you'll have a Coorong with water in it, but it might be a very different system. It just isn't going to go back to what it was."


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