- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Conservation and recreational fishing organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, are frustrated because action to protect Atlantic menhaden was postponed once again by a multi-state regulatory commission in favor of further research into localized depletion and the ecological role of menhaden.

In a motion written by Pete Jensen, Maryland’s assistant secretary of natural resources, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) menhaden management board now says it will face the issues related to the ecological role of the Chesapeake Bay’s menhaden population, but it will not meet until February when its scientific advisers might wish revise goals to help manage the menhaden and look at its importance as a forage fish and filter feeder.

The board had been asked to consider some type of interim action to cap the menhaden harvest at current levels while more research is carried out, but it postponed that decision.

One thing is certain: Omega Protein, the Houston-based company that operates a refurbished fish processing facility in Reedville, Va., and which removes 90 percent of the menhaden catch on the East Coast (most of it coming from the Chesapeake Bay) is glad that no action has been taken.

As we said before, don’t expect the ASMFC to do much of anything that would harm commercial fishery operations. For example, the Maryland DNR’s Jensen has long been a supporter of commercial fish netters, so let’s not get all jiggly about possible protective action. When the meeting finally takes place, I don’t expect much to change.

All the same, some sportfishing groups figure that even if the menhaden meeting is delayed until February, there is hope that big things, such as severe restrictions for commercial netters, will happen.

I’m not that optimistic about the whole deal.

Symbolic wild turkey release — At a special Thanksgiving wild turkey release, several of America’s grandest game birds will find a new home at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Fairfax County Park Authority played host to the release yesterday morning.

“We began a wild turkey restoration program in 1926 in Virginia,” said William L. Woodfin Jr., Virginia’s fish and game boss. “These efforts resulted in the successful reintroduction of turkeys in southwest and eastern Virginia. By 1993, our restoration efforts were completed. Today natural range expansion has lead to healthy turkey populations throughout the commonwealth.”

The wild turkey release was a symbolic demonstration of efforts made by hunters on behalf of wild turkey restoration and wildlife conservation.

For more information on the National Wild Turkey Federation, call 803/637-3106, check the Web at www.nwtf.org or e-mail questions to [email protected]

Watch “Island Reborn” on MPT — Not far from Bloody Point in the Chesapeake Bay, Poplar Island is being returned to its former size and important ecological role.

On Nov.30 at 7:30p.m., Maryland Public Television premieres “Island Reborn,” an “Outdoors Maryland” special documenting efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, the Maryland Port Administration and other federal and state agencies to restore Poplar Island using dredged material from Baltimore Harbor and the Channels federal navigation projects.

The island, on the verge of totally disappearing after shrinking from 1,200 acres in 1847 to five scattered tiny islands in the early 1990s, today is a national model for habitat restoration and the beneficial use of dredged material. “Island Reborn” will be repeated Dec.2 at 5:30a.m. and Dec.4 at 5:30p.m.

In the 1970s, what remained of Poplar Island was the frequent destination of rockfish anglers. We’d enter its shallow waters in the morning and cast topwater lures all around the various grass patches and old pilings and often hooked rockfish that were in there feeding on baitfish.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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