Get dark this week, new tarpon rules for Boca Grande Pass
We're all a little more in the dark than usual this week: observing National Dark Sky Week, that is.
The second annual NDSW began April 19 and runs to April 26. Its goal is to douse nighttime illumination, according to high school student and founder Jennifer Barlow of Virginia. She said it is a time for people to "temporarily reduce light pollution while raising awareness about light pollution's effects on the night sky, encourage better lighting and promote an interest in astronomy."
What Jennifer failed to note is that light pollution in Florida and elsewhere is also detrimental to sea turtles nesting on the beach. Female turtles come ashore during the summer months on Anna Maria Island and lay eggs in the sand. The mother turtles, and the little hatchlings that crawl out of the nests a couple of months later, use the faint light reflected from the moon and stars on the Gulf of Mexico to find their way back to the water.
If stronger lights are visible on the beach, from houses or condominiums or businesses or street lights, the turtles can turn toward that brighter illumination, often ending up under the tires of cars or lost and dehydrated in beach shrubbery, with deadly results.
Jennifer's NDSW has been endorsed by the Astronomical League, American Astronomical Society and the International Dark-Sky Association
"The most important way one can participate is to turn out unnecessary lighting," according to Jennifer, "but it is also crucial that everyone spreads the word about NDSW to gain more participation. The week is the perfect opportunity to host a star party, visit an observatory, get the telescope out of the attic, learn more about the universe, and simply reconnect with the night sky."
It's a good time to stay in the dark.
New fishing rules in Boca Grande Pass
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has dramatically constricted fishing in Boca Grande Pass, known throughout the world for its spring tarpon fishing.
FWC board members said no more than three fishing lines per vessel may be in the water at any one time in the pass regardless of what fish is being sought. Officials say the change will "reduce user conflicts and decrease the amount of non-degradable material deposited on the floor of the pass by anglers" during tarpon season, which is April, May and June.
That "non-degradable material" matter is no small deal. More than seven tons of lead weights, jigs, fishing lines, crab traps and anchors have been hauled from the floor of the pass in the past two years' cleanup efforts. To limit the litter, FWC officials have passed rules that prohibit use of breakaway gear to harvest any fish in the pass during April, May and June.
Breakaway gear is defined in the rules to mean "any bob, float, weight, lure or spoon that is affixed to a fishing line or hook with wire, line, rubber bands, plastic ties or other fasteners designed to break off when a fish is caught."
You can still use a breakaway-style jig, as long as the weight is not affixed to the hook with fasteners designed to break off when a fish is caught.
The new measures will take effect July 1.
FWC had earlier approved another rule at the pass that prohibits the intentional "snagging" or "snatch hooking" of tarpon, which is defined as "the intentional catch of a fish by any device intended to impale or hook tarpon by any part of its body other than the mouth."
Extra boat cops will be at the pass this year to explain the new rules and crack down on reckless boating.
FWC proposes changes in blue, stone crab fisheries
Crabbers may become a little more crabby if the FWC enacts some proposals to change the stone and blue crab fisheries.
For commercial stone crabbers, the proposal may mean little: a ban on mechanical trap-pullers for non-commercial fishers. It seems that recreational crabbers, and some lobstermen, in mostly Monroe County, are using the devices instead of muscle to haul up traps. The change, if approved, would not impact anyone who falls under the Americans With Disabilities category.
For blue crabbers, the proposal would extend a ban on blue crabbing currently in effect in the Big Bend area of the state from Sept. 20-Oct. 4 to all Gulf of Mexico state waters between 3-9 miles from shore.
FWC commissioners predict that extending the closure would help prevent fishers from stockpiling stone crabs in blue crab and black sea bass traps just prior to the opening of stone crab season.
There is also a proposal to begin the lobster and stone crab trap certificate transfer window to June 15 rather than Aug. 1 in order to give fishermen another 6-7 weeks to transfer trap certificates to other persons; allow the biodegradable panel in a wire stone crab trap to be oriented either vertically or horizontally; and allow a stone crab trap certificate holder to voluntarily and permanently give up some or all of his/her certificates.
The final public hearing and decision on the proposals is scheduled in early June.
Happy 100, Thermos
It's a brand name that has become synonymous with its product. Like its sister products Kleenex and Scotch tape, Thermos means a way to keep liquid cool in summer and warm in winter in an often-stylish container.
And Thermos is celebrating its centennial in 2004.
(Editor's Note to copyright attorneys: Assume the "®" is placed after every mention of Thermos.)
The company has donated a huge collection of Thermos bottles and lunch boxes to the Smithsonian Institution.
"Lunch boxes and their bottles are fascinating storytellers, filled with the complexities of American childhood," according to David Shayt, cultural history curator at the National Museum of American History. "The Smithsonian sees such food containers as memory boxes, where family and school merge with American popular culture."
Celebrities who have appeared on the lunch boxes were Henry Winkler as The Fonz, Pam Dawber of "Mork and Mindy" fame, plus David Hasselhoff ("Knight Rider"), Shirley Jones ("Partridge Family"), June Lockhart ("Lost in Space," "Lassie") and Meadowlark Lemon of the Harlem Globetrotters
The history of Thermos dates back to 1892, when an Oxford University scientist who experimented with temperature retention made the first vacuum flask by sealing two glass bottles together and pumping the air out in between. The first glass vacuum flasks were fragile, obviously, and in 1904 Thermos added a protective metal casing, making the glass practical for the general public."
To say that Thermos became well-traveled is an understatement. In 1907, Sir Ernest Shackleton took a Thermos bottle on his expedition to the South Pole. Lt. Robert Peary took one to the North Pole. Charles Lindbergh had one aboard the "Spirit of St. Louis," and Amelia Earhart took one along on her first solo trans-Atlantic flight.
Lunch boxes began in 1911, and Roy Rogers was the first face on the steel boxes in 1953, which sold 2 million sets in the first year.
Glass gave way to stainless steel in 1966 in Thermos, making the containers all but invulnerable to breakage.
I had to rummage through a cupboard or two, but yes, I have a Thermos bottle. Who doesn't?
Here's a baby harp seal hunt update: Canadian officials have extended until May 15 the killing of the seals because the 350,000 quota has not yet been reached. A total of 280,000 seals, most less than a month old, have been killed to date. The seals are killed for their skin, which brings about $42, and is used for hats and gloves.