May 17, 2019
McGraw report details value of striper fishery
Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program/flickr
Fishing—both recreational and commercial—is a powerful contributor to the economies of coastal communities, with striped bass among one of the most valuable fisheries along the Atlantic seaboard. This species is a valuable natural resource that generates significant economic gains and jobs from Maine to North Carolina. A recent study commissioned by the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership and conducted by Southwick Associates, the nation’s leading outdoor market research and economics firm, discovered that in 2016, the fishery accounted for more than 48 million pounds of landed fish by both commercial and recreational anglers. This total fishing activity contributed a total of $7.8 billion toward our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

While commercial fishing plays a vital role in providing key jobs and revenues with regards to striped bass, recreational anglers accounted for 90 percent of the striped bass caught and accounted for 98 percent of the total economic contributions from this fishery.  The study, “The Economic Contributions of Recreational and Commercial Striped Bass Fishing,” reveals the true economic significance the commercial and recreational striped bass fishery presents to coastal economies under current management structures.

The report looked at 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, plus the most productive year in the past 10 years for each coastal state from Maine to North Carolina to help show the fishery’s potential. The study was based in part on publicly available and recently revised NOAA participation, landings, expenditure and economic data. Additionally, recreational contributions were based on trip and equipment expenditures made by anglers that could reasonably be attributed to striped bass fishing. Commercial contributions included the harvest, processing, wholesale and retail industries involved in moving striped bass from sea to consumer.

Other key findings of the study included:
  • New Jersey and New York accounted for the most recreational harvest of the surveyed states in 2016, the most recent year data is available, with 12.7 million pounds and 12 million pounds caught respectively.

  • Maryland and Virginia accounted for the largest haul from commercial fishermen in that same time span, landing 1.7 million pounds and 1 million pounds respectively.

  •  Millions of anglers pursue striped bass from North Carolina to Maine each year accounting for nearly 30 percent of all recreational fishing trips in the region.

  • Despite a 24 percent reduction in recreational striped bass fishing trips between 2009 and 2016, the number of jobs supported by striped bass stayed steady and expenditures actually increased by nine percent.

“The findings in this study are significant as changes to striped bass management policies can have significant impacts on coastal and state economies,” says Charles S. Potter Jr., President and CEO of the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership. “Smart management plans depend in part on understanding how changes to the fishery can impact local commercial and recreation communities as well as the public at large.”

Are Illinois’ prairie chickens beyond saving?
By Cindy Dampier/Chicago Tribune
Photo by Ron Knight/flickr
It’s pitch-black in Jasper County, Ill. — not yet 5 a.m. — and Bob Gillespie is running late.

Gillespie, a wildlife biologist at Prairie Ridge State Natural Area near Newton, opens a gate with a do not enter sign at the edge of a meadow and starts a wet slog across the uneven ground on his way to a patch of field that he has carefully prepared for the main event in his working year — the mating dance of the Illinois greater prairie chicken, one of the state’s most endangered species.

In spite of decades of conservation efforts, this unique species remains imperiled. This month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released  a groundbreaking scientific study on biodiversity , which found that 1 million species worldwide are facing extinction. “The numbers are so big,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, chief program officer of the Natural Resources Defense Council, “that they sound a call for action throughout the world.” That, she says, includes our state’s 200-odd remaining prairie chickens.

“The story of the greater prairie chicken is the story of so many species,” says Casey-Lefkowitz. “Their decline mirrors the decline of the prairie, and all the species that depend on it. There’s an interconnectedness to the greater prairie chicken story.”

Wasps are smarter than you think
By Cara Giaimo/The New York Times
Photo by Dann Thombs/flickr
Here’s a pop quiz for you. Tom is taller than Dick. Dick is taller than Harry. Who’s taller, Harry or Tom?

If you said Tom, congratulations! You just demonstrated what’s called “transitive inference” — the ability to compare things indirectly, based on previous juxtapositions. But before you pat yourself on the back too much, you should know that this skill was recently demonstrated by another creature:   the humble paper wasp that might be living in your backyard right now.

In the summer of 2017, researchers at the University of Michigan put two species of paper wasps through a transitive inference test. A statistically significant portion of the time, the wasps passed. Other animals — including  rats geese  and  cichlid fish  — have also exhibited this capacity. But  this study , which was published Tuesday in Biology Letters, is the first to successfully showcase it in an invertebrate (honeybees  failed a similar test  in 2004).

Dam threatens Africa’s last great wilderness
By Adrian Blomfield/The Telegraph
Photo by George/flickr
It is arguably the Empire’s greatest legacy to conservation, the outrageous vision of a British poacher-turned-naturalist whose misanthropic cussedness would shape Africa’s largest wildlife sanctuary.

Stretching across a swathe of woodland savannah four-fifths the size of the Republic of Ireland, the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania is among the world’s biggest protected wildernesses, home, until Africa’s latest poaching frenzy, to one of the largest elephant concentrations on the continent.
For much of its 123-year history, the Selous has been threatened, coveted by prospectors and industrialists who saw in its untouched vastness the possibility of equally vast wealth.

Until this year the profit-seekers had been held back.

That is about to change, with work beginning on a development that will forever change the Selous’ landscape.

Rewriting conservation in the 21 st century
By Hal Herring/Field & Stream
Photo by USFWS/flickr
It took me a week or so to catch up to Chris Madson on the telephone because he was on a month-long road trip, following what he calls his Solstice Rule—30 days, or more, of camping and chasing roosters and sharptails across Wyoming, Montana, and down through western Nebraska and Iowa, before the winter solstice on December 21. "The dogs and I have been working our tails off this year," Madson told me. "Twenty-eight days, 26 wild roosters, and now I'm headed home to Cheyenne. I kind of feel like this is a day of mourning. It is pretty much all over for us until next September."

I've known Madson for about 15 years now, as a friend, a source for stories, and a clearinghouse for  information on conservation  and hunting. He knows a lot, and he's earned that knowledge: Madson worked 30 years as the editor of Wyoming Wildlife, which he made one of the most beautiful and respected state game-and-fish magazines in the U.S. Before that, he spent six years working for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, putting to use his master's degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin.
But it was Madson, the writer, who I first came to know—specifically through his Wyoming Wildlife column, "The Land Ethic," which he named after an essay in Aldo Leopold's seminal text of American conservation, A Sand County Almanac. Madson began his writing career following in the footsteps of his father, John.

"My father knew Ding Darling and some of the other greats of his time," Madson told me. "If I know how to splice two words together, well, a lot of it is
because of him. You could say that I come by that talent honestly."

“Adoration is as alien to wild nature as blasphemy. Nature transcends love, goodness, malevolence or evil. It is simply a primordial force …” 

- John Madson
To read past McGraw Reports click here.