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Friday Fishy News - June 29


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G'day Raiders,

Just a quick note to advise you that there may not be any Friday Fishy News for the next two weeks as I won a scholarship to attend the International Science School (this Year's topic is Ecoscience! :thumbup::yahoo: ) at Sydney Uni, where I'll be boarding from this Sunday (July 1) to the 14th of July. There'll be a massive triple edition on the 20th, though! Now, for this week's news:

Drug use in fish farms concerns Tasmania

The Age

June 23

The rising use of antibiotics to combat disease flare-ups in Tasmania's fish farms has alarmed the authorities.

The Tasmanian government has written to the state's Salmonid Growers' Association to raise its concerns over the potential for the drugs to enter the human food chain.

"It is disturbing ... that the industry has used nearly double the amount of OTC (Oxytetracycline) than was anticipated under the permit application," Primary Industries Minister David Llewellyn said in a letter obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald.

He also raises concerns over the use of amoxicillin, and its potential for allergic reactions in humans.

The fish farms say a holding period is in place to ensure the treated salmon is free of the medication before it is harvested.

But Mr Llewellyn said there remained a risk to fishermen who caught wild fish that had eaten run-off medicated feed, or treated salmon that escaped from their sea pen.

The newspaper, citing departmental figures, says use of antibiotic treatments on Tasmania's farmed fish has jumped from just 12 kg a year a decade ago to eight tonnes in the first three months this year.

Proper steps must be taken with trophy-worth fish

By Tom Mitchell

Leader Times - Piitsburgh, US

June 15

While not a record, John Shannon of Kittanning was proud of the 27-inch long Northern pike he caught in the Allegheny River in September 1998. Shannon said he caught the fish on what he had decided would be his final cast of the day while fishing for carp. He did not weigh the fish but released it back into the water. The state record for Northern pike is 35 pounds, caught by Carl Stoltz of Bradford while fishing in the Allegheny Reservoir in McKean County in 2003.

You've caught a big fish, and it's certainly a trophy worth mounting. It might be a state record. Now what?

If you are considering having the fish mounted, the first thing you must never do is gut it, said area taxidermist Derek Bowser of Silvis Hollow Road. Bowser offered some additional tips to fishermen considering having a trophy catch made into a wall mount. Bowser advised not putting the fish on a stringer.

"It could damage the gills, and if you want an open-mouth mount this could make it difficult for the taxidermist to do," he said. "The very best thing to do is get it to a taxidermist shortly after landing the fish -- or the same day if at all possible. If you cannot make it to a taxidermist immediately there are several ways to preserve your fish so that it will be easier for the taxidermist to work with.

"If at all possible, vacuum-seal the fish and put it in a freezer until you can take it for mounting. If vacuum-sealing is not possible, double wrap it in large plastic bags or garbage bags. Get as much air out of the bags as possible. Do not wrap it in newspaper or towels.

"What you are shooting for is avoiding freezer burn. Freezer burn can be dealt with, but it makes the taxidermist's job more time consuming and therefore more expensive. A good color photo is also a great idea. Fish start to lose their color or special markings in less than an hour after being caught. If you have a good quality photo, the taxidermist can restore the original colors to the mount."

If you've caught what you believe an is an above-average fish you may apply for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Angler Award. Complete details of the program may be found on the Commission's Website: www.fish.state.us.

To qualify for an award, you need a color photograph of the fish. It's recommended that a ruler or tape measure be placed alongside the fish in the photo. There are extra incentives for catch-and-release awards.

Bowser said that most taxidermists can make a realistic and detailed copy of a fish from a photograph if catch and release is involved.

"You don't have to have the actual fish," he said. "With today's technology, we can make a very realistic mount from a photograph."

If you think a fish might be a state record, Mike Goodman, of Goodman's Bait and Tackle on Route 66, said the first thing to do is weigh the fish on a fish scale.

"The weight of a fish that is a potential record must be verified on a certified scale," he said. "We've had a lot of people coming in here believing they caught a state record only to find their fish was far short of the weight necessary to qualify. Portable fish scales may not be 100 percent accurate, but they will give you a good idea of the weight."

Record weights for all species of fish and complete instructions for claiming a record catch may be found on the Commission's Web site. The Fish and Boat Commission is the only agency in the state that can certify a record fish. In Pennsylvania, records are established by the weight of the fish only, regardless of the length or girth.

Fish is foul-looking, but sold as an Asian aphrodisiac

June 20

abc7 Online - US


The hagfish is a bottom feeder so repulsive it had a cameo on TV's "Fear Factor." It slimes its enemies, has rows of teeth on its tongue, and feeds on the innards of rotting fish by penetrating any orifice.

But cooked and served on a plate, it is considered an aphrodisiac in South Korea.

And the overseas appetite for the hagfish -- also known as the slime eel -- is creating a business opportunity for struggling West Coast fishermen confronted with tough restrictions on the catching of salmon and other fish.

California's annual catch jumped from practically nothing to 150,000 pounds over the past four years. Oregon and Washington state last year reported around 1 million pounds of hagfish caught.

The 14- to 18-inch hagfish looks like an eel. In fact, there is debate over whether it is really a fish. The 300 million-year-old creature has no jaws and one nostril. Essentially blind, it dwells in the dark more than 1,000 feet down.

"The average person would be disgusted just by looking at them," said Mark Crossland, a state Fish and Game warden. "The product is difficult to deal with and handle -- it's a little eel that once it gets stressed it excretes this slime."

On NBC's "Fear Factor," two contestants sat in a vat of the creatures and had to push handfuls of them through holes. They described the experience as sticky, stinky and disgusting.

Hagfish has a modest following among older Korean men who savor it as an appetizer broiled in sesame oil, sprinkled with salt and accompanied by a shot of liquor.

Peter Chu, a seafood exporter in Eureka, Calif., said the fish sells for as much as $20 a pound in South Korea, which he estimates consumes 9 million pounds a year.

"There's a myth there that it's an aphrodisiac. It gives you energy like fairy floss ha ha," Chu said. "It's like oysters here."

Fisherman Mark Tognazzini, who used to catch hagfish in the early 1990s, said it is relatively inexpensive to get into hagfishing. They are caught in five-gallon barrels fitted with trap doors and baited with rotting fish.

In April, California officials encountered a fishing boat near Morro Bay carrying more than 15,000 pounds -- approximately 45,000 writhing hagfish -- that were to be loaded on jumbo jets live and flown to South Korea. The Washington-based crew was cited for violations that included fishing without permits and having oversized traps as big as wine barrels.

The hagfish's predators include whales, seabirds and seals. There are no catch limits for hagfish, and the species is in no immediate danger. But some experts worry it could be threatened if the boom continues, because hagfish do not reproduce quickly.

Tognazzini said they are an important part of the marine ecosystem whose job is to clean up the ocean floor. "The thing is, they're not cute -- they don't hit people's hearts," he said.

As if its looks weren't enough of a turnoff, hagfish, when agitated, vomit and secrete a protein that reacts with seawater to create a thick mucus.

A single animal can turn a five-gallon bucket of seawater into a pool of goo in a matter of moments, said Eddie Kisfaludy of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. While the slime distracts predators, it also occasionally suffocates the hagfish.

"They're definitely more interesting than maggots, but then all these researchers who work on fruit flies will probably argue with me," Kisfaludy said.

Electric fish conduct electric duets in aquatic courtship

Biology News Net

June 20

Cornell researchers have discovered that in the battle of the sexes, African electric fish couples not only use specific electrical signals to court but also engage in a sort of dueling "electric duet."

The study is the first to compare electrical and behavioral displays in breeding and nonbreeding Brienomyrus brachyistius, a type of mormyrid electric fish, which emit weak electric fields from a batterylike organ in their tails to sense their surroundings and communicate their species, sex and social status with other fish. It is also the first study to successfully sort signals in electric fish based on sex.

The research, which is the cover story in the July 1 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, is authored by Carl D. Hopkins, Cornell professor of neurobiology and behavior, and Ryan Wong '05, who conducted the study as an undergraduate for his senior honors thesis and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas in Austin.

"Our study provides strong evidence that the 'rasp' [a certain electric signal] is a male advertisement call during courtship in this species," said Wong, noting that the males also serenade females with lower frequency "creaks."

The researchers developed custom software that offers new techniques for separating and documenting electrical pulses based on sex. They video recorded four pair of mating mormyrids (a feat in itself, since the species rarely breeds successfully in captivity) and identified nine common motor displays and 11 specific pulse sequences common to courtship and mating.

"Knowing the electrical and motor patterns during courtship allows for further exploration of such topics as mate choice and neural basis of pattern generation in these fish," explained Hopkins, noting that the next step in the research will be to decode the fish transmissions and unravel their meaning.

Genetic model of fish obesity created

Science Daily - United Press International

June 19

PORTLAND, Oregon, -- U.S. scientists have described the first genetic model of obesity in fish -- an accomplishment that could speed development of new anti-obesity drugs.

Researchers from the Center for the Study of Weight Regulation and Associated Disorders at the Oregon Health and Science University said: "Being able to model human disorders like obesity in zebrafish allows scientists to understand the molecular basis of disease. This may ultimately increase the efficiency and power of the drug discovery process, thus bringing new medicines to the market faster and cheaper."

In the study, researchers caused obesity in zebrafish by introducing the same type of genetic mutation that causes severe obesity in humans. The zebrafish is used as a model animal for the study of many diseases because it has a backbone and its genetics have been well described.

The research is to appear in the July issue of the FASEB Journal, a publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

US golfer survives bite by alligator - Not really a "fish" story per se...

June 27

A man who lost his ball in a golf course pond in Florida nearly lost an arm when an 3.3m alligator bit him and pulled him in.

Bruce Burger, 50, was playing the sixth hole, which has a "Beware of Alligator" sign posted nearby.

"Unfortunately, that's part of Florida," course general manager Rod Parry said.

"There's wildlife in these ponds."

Burger managed to free himself by beating the alligator with his other arm, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"I saw him reach down to get his ball and he yelled ... 'Help. Help. I've been bitten by a gator'," said Janet Pallo, who was playing a nearby hole and ran over to drive the man to the clubhouse.

Burger was taken to a hospital but was not seriously injured, Morse said.

It took seven Fish and Wildlife officers an hour to trap the one-eyed alligator, Morse said.

Eating fish oil can save eyesight: study

Channel NewsAsia

June 26

PARIS - A dollop of fish oil may be enough to prevent the loss of vision and even blindness that sometimes afflict premature babies, a new study has shown.

When researchers gave tiny doses of omega-3 fatty acids -- found in wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and other coldwater oily fish -- to mice with the eye disease retinopathy, the loss of blood vessels which causes the condition decreased by 50 percent.

The genetically-modified lab rodents showed no ill side effects, and researchers will soon begin a clinical trial on premature infants at the Children's Hospital Boston, said lead author Kip Connor, a doctor at the hospital.

Babies born before their eyes have finished growing run the risk of contracting the disease, which inhibits the development of vessels and thus deprives the retina of oxygen.

The more premature the baby, the higher the risk and the more severe the symptoms. In extreme cases, it can lead to total blindness.

The lack of oxygen sets off a biological alarm, but when the child's eyes try to grow new blood vessels to compensate, they are deformed, compounding the problem.

"Toward the end of the disease, the retina can come loose, and when that happens there's very little you can do," explained Ann Hellstrom, an eye professor at Sahgrenska Academy in Sweden, and one of the study's authors.

Retinopathy also afflicts millions of working-age adults with diabetes, as well as older people experiencing age-related degeneration, according to the study, appearing in the July issue of the British journal Nature Medicine.

In the experiments groups of mice genetically manipulated to express the disease were given doses of omega-3 fatty acids, present in common fish-oil supplements, while another group was fed omega-6 fatty acids.

"After an initial loss, vessels re-grew more quickly and efficiently in the omega-3-fed mice," said Connor. The increased oxygen supply to the retinal tissue switched off the "alarm" signal that lead to pathological growth of vessels, he said.

To be sure that the improvement was not due to other factors, the researchers duplicated the results in mice whose omega-3 fatty acid levels were increased through genetic means.

The World Health Organization has identified retinopathy as a leading cause of vision impairment in children in the developing world.

In rich nations, the disease has also become more common with advances in medical care that have vastly improved the survival rates of highly premature infants.

In the United States, where the study was conducted, some 30,000 children weighing less than 1.25 kilos (2 pounds 12 ounces) are born each year. Half develop retinopathy, with about 1,500 suffering severe consequences or total blindness, according to the National Eye Institute.

Laser therapy and cryotherapy -- which burn or freeze the periphery of the retina -- have proven effective, but also destroy some side vision and may have other unknown long-term effects.

Judge sides with wild salmon

Hatchery-bred fish can't be counted toward Endangered Species Act goals

By Robert McClure


June 13

The push by property-rights advocates to count hatchery-bred salmon toward the goals of the Endangered Species Act is misguided and runs afoul of the law, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour ruled Wednesday in Seattle.

His decision flatly rejects the idea that if enough salmon can be produced in hatcheries, there is little need to protect wild stocks. It also strikes down what environmentalists widely viewed as a Bush administration policy to appease building and agriculture interests.

The Endangered Species Act has a "central purpose of preserving and promoting self-sustaining natural populations," the judge ruled.

"Species are to be protected in the context of their habitats, until they are self-sustaining without the interference of man," Coughenour's ruling says. "Artificial propagation is a temporary measure designed to bring a species to the point where the species no longer requires the protection" of the endangered-species law.

Coughenour's ruling specifically addressed protections for steelhead, a seagoing rainbow trout, in the upper Columbia River. But it sets up a conflict on a much broader scale that is expected to affect dozens of species of salmon and other hatchery-raised fish.

Environmentalists were thrilled.

"This decision puts salmon protections on the right footing, since we need salmon in streams, and not in zoos or the equivalent of zoos," said Seattle lawyer Patti Goldman of the law firm Earthjustice, which represented environmentalists in the case. "It means we can't diminish protections for salmon based on how many you can crank out in a hatchery."

Arguing against the environmentalists was the Building Industry Association of Washington, which says restrictions on agriculture and waterfront building -- based on salmon protections -- will unnecessarily drive up costs to consumers.

The builders group maintains that hatchery-bred and wild salmon should be treated the same because they swim together in rivers and go out to sea together and then return to breed -- often with each other, a key criterion under the law.

Coughenour's 40-page ruling dismissed that argument in a single footnote.

Timothy Harris, the building lobby's general counsel, described himself as "astonished" by some of Coughenour's reasoning.

Coughenour's decision "really strains to say that habitat and the protection of naturally spawning populations are what the (law) is meant to protect, and the (law) simply doesn't say that," Harris said. "He unabashedly thumbs his nose at the law."

Under the Endangered Species Act, Harris said, an animal must first be found to be in need of protection before its habitat needs can be considered. But the ruling, by failing to count hatchery-bred fish, is "putting the cart before the horse," Harris said. "It's intellectually dishonest."

Coughenour acknowledges in his ruling that his finding is in direct contradiction to a 2001 ruling in Oregon by a different federal judge, Michael Hogan. Hogan held that salmon raised in a hatchery near the Alsea River in Oregon deserve the same legal protection as salmon that spawned naturally in a nearby creek. He said federal officials improperly refused to protect hatchery-bred fish under the Endangered Species Act.

The essence of the difference between the two rulings is this: While both judges agree that the National Marine Fisheries Service can protect both naturally spawned and hatchery-bred fish under the Endangered Species Act, Hogan said that both groups' numbers must be considered before deciding to invoke the protections of the law.

Coughenour said that only the wild stocks can be considered at that point.

After Hogan's ruling, the Fisheries Service revised its policy on procedures for protecting fish. But Coughenour said the result was "internally contradictory" and noted that federal biologists protested that its application to hatchery fish "would not be scientifically valid."

Scientists have been documenting differences in the behavior of hatchery-bred and wild salmon at least since the 1950s, and compiling evidence that the hatchery-bred fish are less able to survive in the long run.

The genetic variability of salmon runs has allowed them to survive since the time of the dinosaurs because they can adapt to changing conditions. Consider that some start life in the cool, rain-drenched creeks of the Olympic Peninsula, while others thrive among comparatively hot and arid conditions where the Snake River runs through high desert.

Property-rights advocates argue that the fish's ability to adapt to so many conditions is evidence that any particular salmon run doesn't need to be protected, since some other run could move to fill in the gaps if one disappears.

But fish scientists -- including many working at the Fisheries Service -- point out that wild fish, unlike those in hatcheries, are genetically programmed to spread their risk.

For example, wild fish usually return from the sea over a period of months to spawn. So if some are caught in a drought or a raging flood that washes away their eggs, others will return later to continue the run.

Under traditional hatchery management, the fish all tended to hatch together and were released together into the wild. One result: Predators such as birds learned to congregate at the time of the release, making the hatchery fish easy pickings.

Meanwhile, hatchery fish compete with and overwhelm wild fish. Because they are typically released before wild fish hatch, hatchery fish are larger early in life -- so they gain an advantage competing for living space and food.

Coughenour's ruling notes studies showing, among other things, higher rates of aggression and less-efficient feeding behaviors among hatchery-bred fish.

"It is clear that hatchery fish have important differences from wild fish," Coughenour ruled.

Between the poles of the environmentalists and the business interests, there is a third view: That hatcheries, if properly operated with fish whose genetics are sufficiently similar to the wild salmon and carefully controlled, could be used to supplement the wild populations and rescue them from extinction. Those interests, including Indian tribes, were not represented in the suit.

The Fisheries Service was still studying the ruling late Wednesday and, while disappointed in the result, was unprepared to comment, agency spokesman Brian Gorman said.

The case turned on the agency's decision, once it considered hatchery-bred fish, to classify the steelhead as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, rather than the more restrictive "endangered" label previously applied to it.

Sonya Jones of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented the builders group, the Washington Farm Bureau and Idaho water users, said the case would be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The environmental groups involved were Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Institute for Fisheries Resources, Oregon Wild, the Klamath Forest Alliance, the Pacific Rivers Council, the Wild Steelhead Coalition, the Native Fish Society and the Federation of Fly Fishers.


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Congrats and well done on your scholarship - ecoscience is right up your alley Ryan

Enjoy the experience

Thanks, Donna. You're exactly right - ecoscience is looking fantastic - there's some awesome lecturers. One more sleep! :074: I was just looking back through the Bar to catch up on the posts that I missed when I was incredibly busy - Happy Anniversary for the 21st (very belated, I know :biggrin2: )!!!

Well done on obtaining the scholarship Ryan. Things are moving in the right

direction for you now.

One day I can see us all addressing you as Dr. Flattieman.

Thanks very much, Pete. What about Prof. Flattieman?! :074:


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Thanks, Donna. You're exactly right - ecoscience is looking fantastic - there's some awesome lecturers. One more sleep! :074: I was just looking back through the Bar to catch up on the posts that I missed when I was incredibly busy - Happy Anniversary for the 21st (very belated, I know :biggrin2: )!!!

Thanks very much, Pete. What about Prof. Flattieman?! :074:


Yes, that has a certain ring to it too.

I always associate the Nutty Professor when I see that written though and I KNOW you aint nutz :074::074:


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