Pete Heley Outdoors 11 / 39 / 2016

It’s mostly bad news. All crabbing in Oregon south of Tillamook Head remains closed. Bay clamming remains open, but most of the recent minus tides have been at night. Most of the rivers are blown out – and even if they weren’t, we are betwwen good fishing for salmon and good fishing for winter steelhead. Rough ocean conditions have kept bottomfish anglers in port and made jetty fishing downright dangerous. Rough surf conditions have kept surfperch anglers from enjoying what is normally good beach fishing.

We are on the verge of getting some colder weather and last year when the frigid weather hit, it stopped the good yellow perch fishing cold.

So in an effort to cheer myself up, I’m looking for good news – and the first good news is the realization that almost everything is almost certainly going to get better fairly soon. Bass fishing on the larger coastal lakes is productive by March. The coastal lakes usually start receiving trout plants by April and most of the area’s steelhead streams offer good fishing by mid-December. Always clear Eel Creek opens for steelhead fishing on January 1st.

But the most encouraging thing I found was an article by Ken Pope that covered an event that happened 3,000 miles away

I wish this encouraging article by Karl Pope was about the Pacific Ocean. With the crabbing and shellfish closures we could certainly use good news, but I found this article very encouraging anyway. Pope is an ex-executive director and former chairman of the Sierra Club. The article states that that the mercury levels in Atlantic bluefin tuna, because of tougher emmission rules on power plants and a declining use of coal, in only eight years dropped by 19 percent.

There are similar findings for bluefish, but tuna are much longer lived, so the results are extremely surprising — concentrations of mercury in even much older tuna fell at the same or faster rate as mercury concentrations in sea water, suggesting that fisheries contamination can be reversed far more quickly than anyone had dreamed.

Bluefin tuna are still not healthy for women of child-bearing age — and most of the tuna which had led over 10 percent of U.S. women having unhealthy mercury in their blood is not from the Atlantic ocean, which is healing, but from the Pacific, where coal consumption and mercury loading remains unabated.

Mercury contamination is a serious public health issue. In the U.S. alone, hundreds of thousands of newborns are at risk of lower IQ’s from the mercury burden they are borne with. Concentrations of mercury have been coming down as a result of broad public education and advisories on which fish to avoid. Overall, mercury emissions in the U.S. have also declined sharply as a result of EPA regulation.

Now the news from the North Atlantic suggests that globally the epidemic of mercury poisoning can be reversed far more rapidly than scientists had imagined. Requiring the clean up of coal power plant emissions in Asia, the globe’s largest remaining source of mercury pollution, will begin to allow Pacific ocean fisheries to recover as well. It’s important that countries considering the economics of building coal factor in the almost certain necessity to control for mercury — and when they do, they are likely to find that coal power is no longer economically competitive, so that not only will current plants reduce their emissions, but fewer new ones will make any kind of economic sense — which will be wonderful news for the communities where coal is mined and burned, as well as the climate.

More fundamentally, the North Atlantic story goes at the heart of the popular version of climate denialism — which is the initially plausible notion that the world is so large, and each human so small, that it’s just not likely that anything each of us does can really change the climate — or poison the oceans. And if we have, it’s so terrifying that we really don’t believe we can do anything about it. Isn’t it too late?

What the declining mercury level in Bluefin tuna shows is that we can — and have — had enormous impacts on the natural world, but that we can, and are, reversing those impacts. Nature, if we stop abusing her, can heal herself not in centuries or even decades, but mere years.”

Steelhead and salmon anglers need to pay close attentio to river flows. There are almost always a few streams that are open and in prime fishing condition.

Also good news for many is that the ODFW regulations for 2017 should start showing up in fishing tackle retailers this week.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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