- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service are not getting high marks for the recent stoppage of all recreational sea bass fishing in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Why? The black sea bass is a popular target of recreational headboat anglers up and down the Middle Atlantic states. With the closure, which many fishermen believe was rather arbitrary, the boat captains of Atlantic resort towns like Ocean City and Virginia Beach stand to lose a great deal of money.

Last week, a 40-page legal challenge was submitted before the U.S. District Court of New Jersey by the Recreational Fishing Alliance and many of its sport-fishing industry allies. Also named in addition to the NOAA and NMFS was Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.

The litigants complained that the sea bass closure is unprecedented because this is a fish with a population, by the government’s own statements, that has been rebuilt and not overfished. The RFA said the closure was based on “misapplication and misuse of a fatally flawed angler survey which [the] NMFS itself has acknowledged is not to be used for this type of decision.”

The court is being asked to grant a quick reversal of the six-month sea bass closure.

Herb Moore Jr., a co-counsel for the RFA, said, “These cases are very hard to win, but I think we’ve got some very strong arguments. [The] NMFS was extremely arrogant with their sea bass decision, and we’re calling them out on this one.”

Moore charged that the NMFS was deliberate in its actions.

“They purposely chose an insular approach designed to block public scrutiny by claiming that they had good cause to waive prior notice and the opportunity for public comment,” he said.

In other words, the feds decided that the public could be ignored. They acted in a dictatorial manner, which among government leaders nowadays appears to be almost common.

Crab license buy-back works - The Maryland Department of Natural Resources purchased and permanently retired more than 530 Limited Crab Catcher commercial crabbing licenses through a special buy-back program made possible by $3 million from the federal government.

“With the purchase of [the licenses], the buy-back program is certainly meeting our expectations,” DNR secretary John Griffin said.

The program, which was launched in July, works on a first-come, first-served basis. The DNR will continue to pay $2,260 a license until the budget is exhausted or it has purchased 1,327 - more than one-third - of the 3,676 existing LCC licenses.

Sight in your guns - The Fairfax Rod & Gun Club will have its annual sighting-in days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Bring your center-fire, black powder or rim-fire guns to the club grounds at 7039 Signal Hill Road in Manassas, Va. The cost is $5 a gun. Experts will be available to help get any type of rifle or handgun zeroed in.

Trout Unlimited chapter meets -The National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited meets at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center in Bethesda. Vicki Blazer, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, will speak on the subject of intrasex fish and the fish kills that have plagued smallmouth bass in the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. The USGS National Fish Health Laboratory has led the research into these issues. The public is invited, and it is free. For more information, go to www.ncc-tu.org.

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/ sports.

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