Fish Post

Releases – June 7, 2018

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The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries recently changed the way it conducts peer reviews of its stock assessments. The division now facilitates the peer review using in-person workshops.

The peer reviewers and stock assessment scientists meet for several days to thoroughly review an assessment. This in-person peer review workshop is the process used by regional commissions such as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and federal councils such as the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to review their stock assessments.

Prior to December 2017, all stock assessments were reviewed through a process known as a desk review. In a desk review, the stock assessment and related materials are sent to the peer reviewers, usually via e-mail, and the reviewers are given a set amount of time to conduct the review.

North Carolina is one of the only state fisheries agencies that now routinely conducts in-person peer review workshops for state stock assessments. Meeting in person has greatly improved the process by fostering communication between the reviewers and the stock assessment scientists. The workshops are also open to the public, which improves transparency and public understanding of fisheries stock assessments.

Stock assessments tell us how many fish are out there and the harvest rate over time. They are the primary tools used by fisheries managers to assist in determining the status of stocks and developing appropriate management measures to ensure long-term stock sustainability. Stock assessments should be based on sound science and reflect the current best available information.

The peer review is essential to ensuring stock assessments are scientifically sound. A peer review is a rigorous evaluation of scientific work by independent and unbiased experts. A peer review of a fisheries stock assessment provides a judgement as to the appropriateness of the science and scientific methods that produced the assessment to ensure decision makers are provided adequate advice. It lends professional objectivity and credibility to the stock assessment process.

The peer reviewers are experts in stock assessment science and/or the biology and ecology of the species and are unpaid. The peer review scientists have not been involved in or had input into the development of the stock assessment and have no stake in its outcome. The intent of the peer review is to gain an objective evaluation of the quality of a stock assessment as well as practical suggestions for improvement.

Peer review is a well-understood process with a long history within the scientific community. Improvements to this process within the division have led to improved science and more reliable information on which to base management decisions.

 

Interest in shellfish aquaculture, especially for culture of the native Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica), has increased exponentially in the past several years. Part of this growth is due to the increased availability of triploid oyster seed for grow-out on shellfish leases.

Most organisms, including wild Eastern oysters, have two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent. These are known as Diploids (2N). Chromosomes are tiny, thread-like structures of DNA made up of many genes. The genes determine the specific traits of the oyster, such as shell height, or resistance to a certain disease. Although cross-breeding diploid oysters over many generations has been successful for selecting for advantages traits, the oyster is still fertile and as such, spends a lot of energy reproducing; creating a gonad that will be either eggs or sperm.

Enter the triploid oyster. Although triploids rarely occur naturally in the wild, the usual method is through a patented process that crosses a wild diploid female (2N) with a patented tetraploid male (4N). In this cross, nearly all offspring are triploid oysters (3N). The benefits of triploid oysters are that they are sterile and will typically grow faster than their diploid counterpart because they do not expend any energy in reproducing. The other benefit is that they are “fat” all year long as opposed to a diploid oyster that is “watery” during the summer as they expend energy spawning and reproducing. This makes triploid oysters available year-round in excellent quality for consumers.

Triploid oysters prompt a lot of questions to the division. The following are some common misconceptions:

(1) Triploids are GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms): FALSE. Triploids are genetic manipulations that result in a sterile Eastern oyster and can be found (though rarely) in nature. Other examples of manipulated triploid organisms are seedless watermelons and blueberries. GMO usually refers to a genetic modification that cannot take place in nature, even by mistake, such as splicing a gene from bacteria (for example, Bacillus thuringiensis) into seed corn to prevent corn borer insect damage. BT corn is now quite common and reduces the amount of pesticide needed in these crops.

(2) Triploid Eastern oysters are not native oysters: FALSE. Triploid oysters are the same species of our native oyster, just with an extra set of chromosomes.

(3) Triploid oysters outcompete native oysters: FALSE. Triploid oysters do not reproduce, but feed selectively the same as native oysters. Oysters eat microscopic plankton and algae and are very particular about the size food particles they eat. Diploid oyster larvae also eat phytoplankton and are not food for other oysters. Diploids will often settle and grow on cultured oysters.

(4) Chemically induced triploids cause illness: FALSE. Early methods to produce triploid oysters used a fungal toxin, Cytochalasin B, to induce triploidy in diploid oysters. This method did not affect the meat, however. In the United States., this method was replaced by the patented 4Cs method.

Find out more about North Carolina’s Shellfish Lease Programs in the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Habitat and Enhancement Section webpages.

 

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) today announced its 2018 Tommy Gifford Award winners in recognition of their significant contributions to recreational angling as captains, guides, or crew.

This year’s recipients include tuna-fishing legend, Captain Walter Voss; acclaimed Pacific coast tournament captain, Steve Lassley; Cape Hatteras charter fishing pioneers, the Foster family; Southern California billfish guru, Captain Mike “The Beak” Hurt; and early offshore adventurer and mothership operator, Captain Jim Donovan. These recreational angling greats will be honored at the IGFA Legendary Captains & Crew Awards Ceremony during the 59th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on November 1, 2018, at the iconic Pier 66 Hotel & Marina in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

”Named for Tommy Gifford, one of the greatest saltwater charter captains of all time, this prestigious award recognizes incredible personal achievements and innovative contributions to the development of our sport,” said IGFA President Nehl Horton. “For many recreational anglers, charter captains and crews are the key to the angling experience as they open up a world of opportunities not always available to the average angler.”

The 2018 recipients were selected by a committee of internationally-renowned captains and mates chaired by Captain Skip Smith. Previous winners include Jose Wejebe, Allen and Buddy Merritt, Ron Hamlin, Charles Perry, Ralph Delph, Laurie Wright, Jimmie Albright, Bouncer Smith, and more.

The Foster Family put Hatteras on the world’s sport fishing map. In the then-isolated commercial fishing village of Hatteras, North Carolina, Ernal Foster had the foresight to see the potential in taking people fishing for pleasure in the mid-1930s and had his first boat, the Albatross, built for charter in 1937. At that time, the Fosters were the first full-time charter operation on the East Coast. The Foster family (Ernal and Bill, brothers, both deceased) and Ernal’s son Ernie have been fishing the waters off Hatteras continually since 1937, and the Albatross fleet of charter boats is still operational today.