Archive for » February 20th, 2012«

Boat sales expect strong rebound

BOSTON – Recreational boating sales are expected to rise to their highest level since 2007, reported Saturday.

The publication pointed to the expanded Progressive Insurance New England Boat Show, which increased its exhibit space 40 percent from last year. The boat show was at the Boston Convention Exhibition Center in South Boston last weekend.

The show’s manager, Joe O’Neal, said this year’s turnout from dealers and manufacturers was the strongest since 2008.

Boat sales dropped 55 percent from 2006 to 2010, and used-boat sales slipped 7 percent, according to the Chicago-based National Marine Manufacturers Association. The group sees a 6 percent increase in 2012 sales of new boats and engines.

“The industry’s fortunes are closely tied to consumer confidence, which has been improving nationwide and locally,” said.

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Electronic system remotely monitors fishing boat catches

In an effort to save the world’s oceans from overfishing, many countries now require commercial fishing vessels to bring along an observer, who checks that the crew aren’t exceeding their catch limits. That observer takes up cabin space on the boat, however, plus they require a salary, and probably aren’t made to feel particularly welcome by the crew members. This month, however, a Spanish purse seiner became the world’s first tropical tuna-fishing vessel to try out something different – an electronic monitoring system. Designed by Archipelago Marine Research, the EM Observe system is already in regular use in the company’s home province of British Columbia, Canada.

EM Observe is able to detect fishing activity via multiple sensors placed around the vessel, such as hydraulic and drum rotation sensors, that are triggered when the net is being hauled in. Video cameras then record the type, size and amount of fish that are being captured, while a GPS registers the location and time of each catch.

All that information is stored on an onboard computer, which transmits the data by satellite once an hour. When the boat next returns to port, its hard drive can be removed, so fisheries personnel can have all the data in one place for review. In order to help make sense of the reams of data that may be on that drive, the company’s EM Interpret software organizes everything into a single timeline display representing the entire fishing trip.

Along with the current trial run in Spain, EM Observe has additionally been tested on a trawler fishing for whiting in Oregon, and on two halibut vessels in Alaska. The system is also now in continuous use on all of British Columbia’s commercial hook-and-line/trap groundfish fishing vessels, of which there are approximately 200.

Source: Archipelago Marine Research

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Boat tax would sink marine industry

There is little doubt in my mind that the O’Malley administration is behind this latest proposal to raise fees on the citizens of Maryland (“Bill would drastically raise state boat registration fee,” Feb. 17). I guess everyone forgot about Gov.Martin O’Malley’s campaign commercials where he tauntsRobert L. Ehrlich Jr.with “a fee is a tax” mantra.

Make no mistake, you increase a boat registration fee from $24 to $125 (or more depending on the size of your vessel), on top of the increase in fuel cost from the governor’s proposed sales tax, and a lot of boats will get sold, and new ones will sit in the showroom unsold. Sales staff will lose jobs, marine mechanics will lose jobs, marina staff will lose jobs, and a very important segment of Maryland’s economy will take another hit.

My boat will be sold. That means the marina, which already has a lot of empty slips, will lose out on $4,000 or more in revenue from just me alone. The Democrats are creating such a smoke screen about how the wealthy are the problem with the economy and the Republicans are just out to help the wealthy stay wealthy. It is time for the people of this state to wake up. Everything this administration has done economically has been a direct blow to the people who can afford it the least.

Michael A. Carper, Fallston

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Cruisers Yachts purchases sport fishing boat company; more jobs expected – Green Bay Press

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OCONTO — The parent company of Oconto-based Cruisers Yachts and Rampage Sport Fishing Yachts said Friday it has acquired the assets of Azure sport fishing boats, a move expected to add jobs in Oconto.

The announcement by KCS International Inc. was made at the Miami International Boat Show.

Production tooling from Azure’s plant in South Carolina will be moved to Oconto with the first Wisconsin-built boats in the Cruisers Sports Series rolling off the line in May or June.

The purchase of Azure is expected to add 185 new jobs in Oconto over two years, according to the company.

“This is an exciting time for our company,” Mark Pedersen, president of KCS International, said in a press release. “We are sending a message to our dedicated employees that KCS intends to be in the boat business for a long time.”

KCS has also added Spencer Ship Monaco to oversee the new export development team for Central and South America, the Far East and Australia.

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Sailing club makes maiden trip to Tinian for pika festival

Marianas Sailing Club members, from left, A. “Kamal” Rahaman, commodore Dave Johansen, Matthew Pastula, Bruce Siewert, and Ron Smith. About 20 members of the group arrived in a maiden voyage to Tinian for the 8th Annual Hot Pepper Festival at 11:30am on Feb. 18. (Clarissa V. David)

The Marianas Sailing Club sailed to Tinian for the 8th Annual Hot Pepper Festival, taking about 20 passengers with the objective of educating island residents about the importance of sailing.

Commodore Dave Johansen led club officers and members in navigating three 25-footer sailboats, pulling from behind two small boats and two kayaks that were used by the mariners to teach some 15 aspiring young sailors on the island south of Saipan.

The group left the Saipan dock around 5am on Saturday and arrived at their destination in time for a spicy lunch at the festival grounds in Tachogna Beach at 11:30am.

Johansen said that the over-six-hour maritime journey was due to the “uncharacteristically light and pleasant winds.”

“We are shooting for about 20 knots of wind. That’s our ideal wind. Too light winds, not fast; too much winds, very difficult and too many big waves,” explained Johansen, who heads the non-profit organization with Lino Olopai and Cecilio.

Johansen said they brought smaller boats to give their young students “every facet of the challenges in big boats,” including ways to overcome them.

According to Johansen, there is a lack of sailing skills in the islands and acquiring these skills is something that could really impact the Commonwealth in a positive way, given that the islands are interconnected via seaports.

“The old technology of sailing is the green technology of the future,” Johansen told Saipan Tribune.

While the group has yet to receive their official organization documents, member A. “Kamal” Rahaman said they are giving their “full energy” to efforts to get younger members of the community into traveling by sea and without the use of engines.

“We are run by the power of the wind,” he added.

Another member, Bruce Siewert, said their basic requirement is for club members to know how to swim but they do provide life jackets and have a safety program in place for those who want to learn how to sail.

Siewert pointed out that their students do not just become skilled at sailing.

“The second aspect of it is we teach them confidence,” he explained. “Younger ones are learning a tremendous amount of confidence. They can actually control a boat and control that energy in nature.”

At present, Siewert says they have about 60 members. The club asks for a minimum annual fee of $25 per person or $40 per family unit.

“What we’re looking for [are] sponsors to fund these boats,” said Siewert, who noted that they are building their boats from scratch. “The goal is to have 10 of the small boats.”

According to Siewert, each small boat costs $1,800 and companies or businesses can come together to sponsor these boats for use in their sailing program, which also aims to keep the youth out of trouble.

The group is inviting the community to join the club or check out their organization by attending their training every Saturday from 10am to 3pm at the Oleai Beach or every first Monday of the month at 6pm at the American Memorial Park pavilion closest to Hyatt Regency Saipan.

For information, call 285-7901.

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Black fish scandal: How fishing quota scam saw tiny isle of Whalsay earn ‘Millionaires Island’ nickname

Feb 20 2012
Charlie Gall

Fishing trawlers large image

SETTING foot on the island of Whalsay is something like being teleported to a real-life Land of the Giants.

Rising out of the water like monsters from the deep are a 21st-century phenomenon, huge fishing boats that are among the largest in Europe.

The gigantic trawlers, not far off the length of a football pitch, tower above other fishing boats and pleasure craft.

But the pride of Shetland’s fishing fleet became embroiled in a scheme that made another island saga – the Whisky Galore plunder of 50,000 cases from the shipwrecked SS Politician – seem like small beer.

Seventeen skippers, most of them from Whalsay, and a processing firm netted £47.5million in the biggest fishing scam in Scots history.

The colossal “black fish” haul – in which skippers under-reported their catches of mackerel and herring to breach EU quotas – dwarfed sums stolen in many of Britain’s most notorious robberies.

So it is little wonder that Whalsay, a tiny isle off the north-east tip of the Shetland mainland, quickly earned the nickname “Millionaires Island” with a fleet of trawlers capable of hauling seven-figure fortunes from the sea.

The Vikings dubbed the five-mile by two-mile land mass “Hvals-oy” – the island of whales – but by far the biggest fish on the island by the new millennium were wealthy skippers.

Fortunes have been made from the sea from one generation to the next and, with a population of just over 1000, Whalsay boasts more millionaires per head of the population than any other place in Britain.

Fishing trawler medium image

Often referred to as the “Bonnie Isle”, it is served by roll-on, roll-off ferries from Laxo and Vidlin on the mainland. The crossing takes half-an-hour.

The main industry of the island has always been fishing and the harbour at Symbister had to be improved to make room for the larger pelagic – deep ocean – trawlers.

Last week, three of the giants – the Antares, Charisma and Zephyr – around £50million worth of fishing vessels – were tied up, standing idle in the port. Amazingly, it’s a familiar sight.

The boats are so big they are capable of scooping up their entire annual quota of mackerel and herring in just a handful of trips to sea.

Under tough European Union rules, our fishermen are limited to how many days they can spend at sea and to how much fish they can bring home.

These highly tuned, powerful vessels often “hoover up” their entire quota in six to eight weeks, leaving them idle for 10 months of the year.

But they are still making a living.

Depending on the market price of mackerel and herring, just one trip to sea could net a £2million catch.

The master of the Charisma, David Hutchison, 66, of Symbister, Whalsay, was one of those snared in the black fish inquiry, admitting 49 landings worth £3,698,433.

Reluctant to talk about the court proceedings, all he would say was that he was “disgusted” at being compared to a drug baron.

As the skippers await their sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh, many on the island are keen to express their sympathy for them. A close friend of many of the men involved is retired skipper Josie Simpson, a former chairman of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association who is also political leader of Shetland Islands Council.

He is angry that the community’s hard-working fishermen are being “criminalised” by the courts.

He said: “In my opinion they are being very harshly dealt with.

“At the same time as this was happening, there were extra tons being landed across Europe and all they got was a slap on the wrist.

“Our boys here have had to endure court appearances and the rest.”

Simpson laughs at the “Millionaires Island” tag, which does seem hollow on a bleak winter weekday.

The island has a haunted, gloomy feel as heavy black clouds hang over it. And there are brief periods of sunshine when the horizontal hail and rainstorms stop.

On the face of it, there are no obvious signs of great wealth. If millionaires abound, they certainly aren’t flaunting it to nosey outsiders.

Simpson said: “They may own million pound companies but I’m not willing to say who’s a millionaire and who’s not.

“They have made a living – and rightly so. They own their boats and reinvest in what they have just now.

“Fishing is very important as far as Whalsay is concerned.

“The white fish fleet has been reduced greatly over this past decade. But the big trawlers are still in Whalsay.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that the ‘black fish’ is out of the game on both the pelagic and white fish sectors.

“But what drove men into landing black fish is that the quotas are out of kilter with the fish that’s in the sea.

“There are fish out there they’re not allowed to catch and, on top of that, they’re regulated with the number of days they can spend at sea. They’re going through very difficult times.”

Simpson added that the skippers only had a short window to make their money.

He said: “Some of those big trawlers are at sea for maybe two months of the year. They are beautiful ships but they need these big trawlers nowadays. You need the right craft for the job.

“Some of the newer boats will have big loans outstanding on them. It’s big, big money that you are talking about for one of those ships nowadays.

“It’s very difficult to buy up more quota and more effort now. If they go out and catch their mackerel or herring then that’s them finished for the year.

“The older boats that have been established for a while are OK but some of the newer ones, I think, must be struggling.”

Simpson added: “It’s a very small island and we’re just all together – we are one big family.”

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Bristol Evening Post published Buoyant sailing school launches new boats

A SAILING school that has taught thousands of youngsters the skills of getting afloat in Bristol has launched four new boats.

The racing vessels were put onto the water at the headquarters of the West of England Schools Sailing Association (Wessa) during a ceremony at Baltic Wharf.

Donations of more than £10,000 had allowed Wessa to increase its fleet of sailing and power craft.

The school’s spokeswoman, Gill Hannan, said: “We have formed a Bristol racing squad, which can take part in regional and national competitions. The new boats mean we can now develop the racing potential of our young people.

“They will allow our promising young sailors to compete at regional regattas, as well as in national events organised by the National Schools Sailing Association, giving our club sailors something to which they can aspire.”

She said team racing involved two or three boats being raced against a similar number, with those sailing them working together to beat their opposition.

It brought tactics, good communication and team work into play, as well as the sailors having to know the rules of sailing “inside out”.

The money needed for the boats came from health insurance firm Simply Health, which gave £5,000, and pound-for-pound match funding from Sport England. A further £750 was donated by a private trust fund.

Wessa is a registered charity and voluntary organisation that promotes sailing among school children in Bristol and the surrounding area.

It is run by a voluntary management committee and has been in operation for more than 30 years, in that time teaching 15,000 students aged seven to 19 to sail.

In the 1980s it took over the Bristol Sailing School, which now operates as the trading arm of the organisation to help fund Wessa activities. In recent years it has also broadened its scope to incorporate Bristol Sailability, which was set up to help people with disabilities to learn sailing.

Wessa is recognised by the Royal Yachting Association as a training and Sailability centre and aims to provide water-based coaching and recreation to the widest range of ages and abilities as possible.

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Sales up at annual boat show in GR – WOOD

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – If sales at the Grand Rapids Boat Show are indicative of industry growth, boat retailers are optimistic about the future.

“It’s discretionary income and everyone’s been feeling the prices of gasoline and the economy,” Mitch Jordan of Portside Yacht Brokers said.

He’s been selling used boats all over the world for decades. On average, he sells 70 a year. Last year, Jordan sold 45.

“People are interested in boating. This is has been the best show of inquiries we’ve had in the last couple of years,” Jordan said. “I think I can attribute that to everybody starting to feel a lot better about the economy. They’re getting ready to do some boating and spend some discretional income.”

The 67th Annual Boat Show in Grand Rapids, held at DeVos Place, wrapped up after five days on Sunday. Exhibitioners optimistically watched the crowd, which was much larger than years past.

“After 2008 and 2009, it was a struggle in the marine business,” Jim Rigby of Hall’s Sport Center said. “That seems to be over. People are now going back and doing the things they want to do”

Christine and John Bopp purchased a new platoon for their family on Sunday. They said they waited for the right time to do so.

“People have to be smart about what they purchase and what the value is,” Christine said. “Part of the reason we picked this boat is because we knew it’s going to retain its value.”

“It’s important that everyone feel good about the economy or that the economy is turning around before you make a purchase,” John said. “We feel that everything’s headed in the right direction.”

In Michigan, spending on boats and boating activities is crucial for the economy. Across Great Lakes states, on a good year, sales fall between a combined $16 and $19 billion. The boating industry directly and indirectly supports almost 250,000 jobs in the region, according to a study done by the Great Lakes Commission.

In December 2011, the Michigan Boating Industries Association saw an increase in sales of fishing boats, pontoons, fiberglass boats and personal watercraft.

Other water sporting equipment, like waverunners and wakeboards, have also been selling better.

“Sales have been increasing every year,” Chris Weber, a wave-runner representative with Action Water Sports, said. “As the economy started to turn around and get a little bit better, sales have been going up every year. We had a great boat show.”

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Trout fishing possible by 2013 at Leaser Lake – Erie Times

ALLENTOWN — George White, the chairman of the Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation, reported what many Lehigh Valley area anglers would consider good news.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is thinking about opening up trout fishing on the still-drained Leaser Lake as early as 2013.

Original plans by the PFBC called for the lake to open for trout fishing in 2016, but PFBC executive director John Arway said during the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg this past week that he felt that the 117-acre lake could open to fish for stocked trout as early as 2013.

While that may sound appealing to anglers, White isn’t so sure it will be in the best interests of turning the lake into a model warmwater fishery.

The lake, built in 1971 thanks to a dam that bottled up unnamed creeks, has had issues with the dam and spillway almost since that first construction. It was rebuilt in the 1990s, but leakage issues at the base of the dam forced the current construction project which started in October 2010.

“Recently we’ve been hearing rumblings from Harrisburg that they might step up the stocking program and go with some trout stocking early on in the restocking project,” White said Monday, “and we feel that’s a bad idea from an ecosystem standpoint.”

White set out list of reasons why stocking trout and allowing trout fishing would be a bad idea before the previously announced 2016 opening, but he also is eager to hear what Arway and PFBC Director of Fisheries Leroy Young have to say at the Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation meeting next week. The meeting, open to the public, is at 7 p.m. Feb. 23, at the Lynn Township Building on Route 143.

“I want this to be a friendly meeting,” White said. “We don’t want to ambush these guys because they are willing to come out here and talk to us. I think that’s great on their part. Heck, I’d love to be out on the lake canoeing and fishing tomorrow. We’ve been waiting a heck of a long time.”

The dam project is coming along quite nicely, according to White, although it still isn’t ready to start filling up with water. The concrete work is basically finished; the rail system on the dam and spillway are in place; and more than $100,000 worth of man-made fish habitat has been constructed in the drawn-down lake.

“Right now construction is on hold for the winter,” White said, and it has little to do with the current winter weather.

Instead, last year’s rains so saturated the ground that the soil around the dam simply wasn’t suitable for proper compaction, according to White.

“They are holding out until things dry out so that they can finish it off properly,” he said.

Once the soil is set, the spillway will be closed so that the creeks and springs will fill the lake. Once the lake is at full capacity, roughly 41/2 miles of shoreline will be easily accessible to anglers, with the boat launches ready to send out canoes, kayaks, sailboats and row boats.

The real gut check for Leaser Lake, however, is in the establishment of its ecosystem, and members of the Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation believe that introducing trout too early in the restocking phase can have a permanent negative imprint on the warmwater fish such as largemouth bass, crappies, sunfish and walleye that will be introduced as fingerlings.

White and others believe that, if restocked properly, Leaser Lake has the potential to be a Northeast U.S. destination for warmwater fish. Introducing larger fish early in the restocking process may thwart that possibility.

“The trout will eat any small fish they can find,” White said. “They would take advantage of whatever food stock is in there, and that would be the stocked fingerlings and bait fish. We’re still waiting to hear the full plan from the PFBC. We thought they had a good plan as far back as 2006 when they explained the long moratorium on fishing to start off with bait fish and let the populations explode before introducing bigger game fish.”

This is the biggest fish habitat-from-scratch-project the PFBC has undertaken, according to White.

“As soon as the water starts filling up, plankton and algae will form, and then they’ll introduce bait fish. It will take time for these bait fish to populate the habitat structures. Once the fingerlings are introduced, if we give them time, they will be a great base to restore the fishery. We would rather see the whole ecosystem restored so that we could ensure a sustainable quality warmwater fishery.”

White would rather see the ecosystem develop over the previously announced timeline.

“We’ve been waiting a heck of a long time,” White said, “but I’d rather wait a little longer and see it done right instead of wishing we had waited. There’s nothing worse than looking back with regret. There are plenty of other places around here to go trout fishing. The real beauty of this lake will be as a sustainable warmwater fishery.”

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