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Chalk one up for the good guys and for fishermen who just can’t help showing off.
Two Florida men who tried to illegally sell a 700-pound giant bluefin tuna were caught and fined a total of $27,500 by NOAA Fisheries.
They probably never would have been caught if pictures of the catch had not been posted on social media websites.
When word got out about the catch, law enforcement officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took notice.
The tuna ended up being confiscated and NOAA Fisheries agents were brought in on the case because giant bluefins are a federally managed species and federal penalties can be much greater than those levied by the state agency.
A Notice of Violation and Assessment of Administrative Penalty, more commonly known as a NOVA, was sent to David Fidel, of Boynton Beach, who was fined $12,500 for violating the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
“Specifically, on or about June 3, 2013, [Fidel] transferred a giant Atlantic Bluefin tuna landed on board his vessel to a person that did not have a valid dealer permit issued under [Magnuson-Stevens Act regulations] for commercial purposes.
“Moreover, when the giant Atlantic Bluefin tuna was landed aboard [Fidel’s] vessel, [Fidel] had an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit, which precludes the sale or transfer of recreationally caught Atlantic Bluefin tuna for commercial purposes.”
The person to whom Fidel transferred the tuna was Mikylo Senkowicz, of Boynton Beach, who received a NOVA for $15,000 for his Magnuson-Stevens Act violation.
“Specifically, on or about June 3, 2013, [Senkowicz] received a giant Atlantic Bluefin tuna for the purposes of selling said tuna that was landed by the owner of a vessel that was not permitted to sell the tuna.”
According the NOVAs issued to the two men, law enforcement officers seized $2,260 “from the sale of one Atlantic Bluefin tuna.”
So, essentially, Fidel was fined for trying to sell a tuna he wasn’t allowed to sell and for giving it to a dealer who wasn’t authorized to sell it. Senkowicz was fined for taking a tuna to sell from someone who wasn’t allowed to sell it.
The NOVAs state that the violators can ask to have the amount of their penalties modified if they don’t have the ability to pay them. They have 30 days to respond to the NOVAs, during which time they can ask to have the penalties reduced, accept the penalties or request a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the violations and penalties.
The tuna was caught on Fidel’s boat while daytime swordfishing. That has become a popular pastime in South Florida and the Florida Keys. Anglers typically use electric fishing reels to put baits such as squid and dolphin bellies on the bottom in 1,500-1,800 feet to catch swordfish.
Those anglers occasionally catch sharks and some deep-dwelling bottom species. This was the first giant bluefin tuna heard of being caught while daytiming, but then again, others may have caught bluefins and kept the fish stories to themselves.
Did the Bureau of Reclamation just announce that the first domino had toppled toward water shortages in the southwestern United States? Here’s the seemingly innocuous language only a water engineer could love:
“[I]f the August 24-Month study projects the January 1, 2014, Lake Powell elevation to be less than 3,575.0 feet and at or above 3,525.0 feet and the Lake Mead elevation to be at or above 1,025.0 feet…the water year release volume from Lake Powell will be 7.48 [million acre-feet (maf)]. This August 2013 24-Month study projects that…the January 1, 2014, Lake Powell elevation [will] be 3,573.69 feet and the Lake Mead elevation [will] be 1,107.39 feet. Therefore…the Lake Powell operational tier for water year 2014 is the Mid-Elevation Release Tier with an annual release volume of 7.48 maf.” – August 24-Month Study (emphasis added)
Let’s back up a moment before answering that.
Sitting at either end of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Lake Mead are the two primary storage reservoirs on the Colorado River. Lake Powell, the upstream reservoir, sits on the border between Arizona and Utah. Lake Mead is in the southeastern corner of Nevada about 35 miles east of Las Vegas and supplies water to Arizona, Nevada and California. The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates both reservoirs, tries to equalize the amount of water in each reservoir to maximize their combined storage capacity. However, this goal becomes difficult to achieve when there simply isn’t much water in the river, which is the case right now.
The southwestern United States is suffering through an extreme drought. The last 14 years have been the driest period in the last 100 years. Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead are less than half full. The elevation of water in Lake Mead is 120 feet below its maximum, leading to the infamous “bathtub ring”.
Fortunately, the seven states in the Colorado River Basin – Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California – and the Bureau of Reclamation saw this coming. They came together in the early 2000s to reach an agreement for how to share the pain during times when water is scarce. Their agreement is known as the 2007 Interim Guidelines. Among other things, it specifies how much water Reclamation will send from Lake Powell to Lake Mead based on the water levels in each reservoir. Historically, this amount is 8.23 million acre-feet.
However, when the water level in Lake Powell gets low enough, Reclamation will send less water downstream. This month – for the first time ever – Lake Powell crossed that threshold.
So in 2014 Reclamation will release 7.48 million acre-feet of water to Lake Mead, a decrease of 750,000 acre-feet from the historical amount and the lowest amount ever released since Lake Powell filled in the 1960s. This doesn’t mean that 6 million fewer people in Arizona, Nevada and California will get water next year. (An acre-foot of water is approximately as much water as two families of four will use in a year.) It does mean there is about a 50 percent chance these states will get less water from the Colorado River by 2016. (Circle of Blue has a good description of how this supply reduction will likely play out in practice.)
What Reclamation’s announcement makes clear is that we have entered a new paradigm in the Colorado River: Water shortages, which never have occurred before on the river, are not something that may happen sometime in the distant future – they are on the doorstep. Population growth and climate change will put more demands on the river and make droughts more frequent and more severe, ensuring that managing water in the face of shortage will only get harder from here.
The Colorado River Basin states and Reclamation are making decisions now about how to live in this new paradigm. There are ways they can keep the southwestern United States vibrant for the next 50 years, but if sportsmen don’t engage in those decisions, making their preference for strong habitat and species protections known, water for fish and wildlife could be the first to go. That’s why the TRCP is working to conserve and improve water resources management for hunting and fishing areas. Sign up to become part of this effort. (Bob Marshall at Field & Stream makes an impassioned case for why sportsmen need to get engaged.)
The goal for sportsmen should be to keep Reclamation’s announcement from becoming the first domino toppling toward a tragic, inevitable conclusion. Rather, we should take it as a call to action to ensure the Colorado River – and other critical waterways – is managed for the 21st century and beyond.
The government is hearing comments ranging all the way from don’t allow hydraulic fracturing at all on federal lands, to don’t pass new rules regulating it on such lands, as it considers a proposal to do the latter.
A public comment period ended Friday on a Bureau of Land Management proposal to update drilling rules on federal lands to reflect the widespread use of modern fracking techniques in oil and gas development.
Food & Water Watch estimates that more than 1 million comments have been submitted to the White House and BLM “urging them to protect public lands from fracking.” It said a coalition of 276 environmental and consumer organizations including itself, Americans Against Fracking and 350.org have delivered President Barack Obama and the BLM nearly 650,000 public comments asking the government to outright ban fracking on such lands.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More