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James Drake

Last week, Transocean Deepwater agreed to plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act for their part in the largest oil spill in U.S. history that began April 20, 2010.

This happened at the Macondo well site in the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon rig had an uncontrolled blowout with related explosions and fire which resulted in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

In pleading guilty, Transocean Deepwater admitted that members of its crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon were negligent in failing to investigate fully some clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well.

According to The Outdoor Wire, Transocean Deepwater will pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties because of that human and environmental disaster.

$150 million of the $400 million criminal recovery is dedicated to acquiring, restoring, preserving and conserving the marine and coastal environments, ecosystems and bird and wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and bordering states harmed by the oil spill.

An additional $150 million will be used to fund improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf through research, development, education and training.

$1 billion will go toward reviving the economies of the states in the region by funding projects for the environmental and economic benefit of the region.

The company also has to implement measures to improve the operational safety and emergency response capabilities at all their drilling rigs working in any waters of the United States.

These proposed civil settlements are subject to a public comment period and final court approval.

Striped bass decline

According to the 2012 striped bass survey conducted by Stripers Forever, recreational saltwater fishermen from Maine to South Carolina reported a major and continuing decline in the numbers of striped bass caught and in the overall quality of striper angling.

”The recreational catch of wild striped bass on the Atlantic coast — including fish released alive by anglers — has plummeted from a high of nearly 29 million in 2006 to about eight million in 2011, the last full year of available data,” said Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever. “That negative trend is consistent throughout the striper’s range and reflects the generally poor annual spawning success in the Chesapeake Bay over the past decade. The number of saltwater fishing trips has declined from 6.3 million to 5.7 million and although there are other fish for anglers to pursue, stripers are the primary target species.”

Stripers Forever is a conservation organization advocating game fish status for wild striped bass on the Atlantic coast in order to significantly reduce striper mortality, provide optimum and sustainable public angling opportunities and secure the greatest socio-economic value from the fishery.

It should also be noted that despite the poor spawning success in the Chesapeake Bay in 2012 — with the lowest number of young stripers observed on record — the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates striped bass fishing along the entire Atlantic coast, has elected to not cut back on the historically high commercial harvest quota nor have the recreational bag limits reduced.

Burns said, “Stripers Forever thinks the upcoming striped bass stock assessment will show the significant deterioration in the fishery recognized by anglers up and down the coast and convince the ASMFC to introduce meaningful conservation measures to better manage the fishery coast-wide beginning with the 2014 season. In the meantime, fewer people will fish for stripers and the large and valuable recreational fishing and guiding industries will continue to suffer.”

Full results of this latest survey from Stripers Forever can be viewed at Click on “Recent News” on the right side of the homepage.

Nice guys don’t always finish last

Joseph Jones, a retired officer with Maryland State Police, was born and raised in St. Mary’s County. Jones now lives in Albertville, Ala., and has just been promoted to promotions manager with Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits.

Jones has been associated with Yamamoto since 2001 as a professional bass angler competing on the Bassmasters and FLW tournament trails. He’s also a member of the United States International Bass Fishing Team, which placed second in Portugal, third in Italy and was captain of the team which took first-place honors in Mexico.

In his new job, Jones will travel throughout the United States and Europe visiting tackle stores and appearing at fishing and outdoor shows teaching anglers about Gary Yamamoto products.

Jones will be at the huge Green Top Sporting Goods Outdoor Show and Bassarama at the new Virginia State Fairgrounds in Doswell, Va., from Jan. 25 to 27.

To get there, take I-95 south to Exit 98, go left onto Route 30 and the fairgrounds will become visible in about a mile.

Restricted boating

Should this beautiful weather stay with us and you decide to take a little boat ride on the Potomac River from Jan. 20 to 22, be aware that the U.S. Coast Guard will have established a temporary security zone during that time.

Security zone enforcement may limit or prohibit navigation by commercial and recreational waterway users.

Going upriver, this zone will begin approximately 350 yards south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and will include sections of both the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

The Coast Guard also reserves the right to limit movement of vessels in this area from Jan. 15 to 19 and Jan. 23 and 24. During these times, both commercial and recreational boats may be asked to either secure or leave the area.

Should you need to enter or transit the security zone, contact the Coast Guard via marine-based radio, VHF channel 16.

Obey the rules

The Associated Press reported on the results of a June 2010 blue marlin tournament held in North Carolina.

It seems an 883-pound monster marlin was caught and brought aboard the boat “Citation.”

Tournament rules clearly stated that all anglers aboard each boat were required to have a fishing license. One of the crew members from “Citation” did not, saying later he thought the boat had a license that covered everyone aboard.

However during this tournament, the boat did have a computer on board, with Internet access, and he purchased his license online while they were still in international waters.

The tournament organizers disqualified the catch. Then, the lawyers got involved.

Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge John Nobles Jr. decided, without a jury, to dismiss the suit brought about by the crew and fishermen aboard the “Citation.”

During the hearing, the attorneys for “Citation” learned that the judge was a former law partner and good buddy to the attorney representing the owners of the second-place tournament boat, “Carnivore.”

In fact, these two jurists even took a vacation together during the time this lawsuit was working its way through the legal system.

That didn’t matter. The judge ruled against “Citation” and now the owners and crew from the “Carnivore” will be dividing up the $993,453 in prize money.

$15 was the cost of that required North Carolina fishing license.