Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

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PF&BC is wondering if it should webcast meetings

Harrisburg — A new-age concept has Pennsylvania Fish & Boat commissioners pondering an age-old question:

“If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, did it really make a sound?”

The modern version of the question for the agency is, “If the Fish & Boat Commission live streams its meetings over the Internet and no one logs on to them, does it do any good?”

Or, perhaps, more to the point for the commissioners, is it worth investing in the technology it will take to produce webcasts of its public proceedings?

Agency staff briefed slightly skeptical board members at their recent quarterly meeting here about the perceived need to live stream Fish & Boat Commission meetings online the way the Game Commission does.

That would allow anglers and boaters to see and hear what goes on at meetings without journeying to Harrisburg.

“The idea is to try to get new people interested in our business, and to do that we need to look at existing programs and maybe develop some new programs,” said John Arway, commission executive director.

“ I am sitting here with an iPad in front of me that really connects me to the rest of the world. Who would have ever thought that would be the case 20 years ago?

“For instance, I can instantly tell at this meeting if Kansas had an increase in license sales last month, so these are the kinds of things that we need to do to stay in touch with what is going on in the fishing and boating world.”

Arway noted that the Game Commission has been live streaming its meetings and work sessions for more than a year “with mixed results.”

“I watched their work session a couple weeks ago and I saw that just me and eight other viewers were logged into the session,” he said.

“ I would say that that is not a very big audience and even though they are out on the World Wide Web, there aren’t many people watching,” he said.

“We would have the ability to webcast the sessions and then archive them on our website so that anyone could go back and watch them at any time.”

Commissioner Bill Sabatose, of Elk County, was unimpressed by the idea.

“I’m sure that I am telling my age here, but  this seems to me to be a waste of money,” he said. “This may be the future, but it seems like a lot of effort for very little gain.

“If the Game Commission had eight viewers, I’m sure we’ll have four, and one of those will be a staffer, so we’ll really have three.”

The agency’s marketing director Ted Walke told commissioners that it would likely cost less than $4,000 to buy the equipment and capability to allow the commission to live stream its meetings.

He predicted that the new technology would allow the commission to reach an “exponentially larger” audience than it does now.

“It will require a minimal investment to live stream commission meetings,” he said. “And so, in terms of return on investment, there is very little risk. There is a guarantee there that you will reach more people, but to quantify how many right now, I just can’t say.”

Arway suggested that live streaming might get the agency better media coverage, as well.  He pointed out that the commission recently started a Facebook page and within a week 50 people “liked” it, despite the fact that the agency did not promote the site.

Several  commissioners wondered aloud whether it is worth it to invest in live streaming and webcasting, given the seeming low level of interest in Fish & Boat Commission business.

“I don’t watch this kind of stuff – I would rather take an Ambien,  but I suppose we could try it and discontinue it if no one is paying attention,” said Commissioner Bill Worobec,  of Lycoming County.

“Then we would not be wasting money.”

Must release shad

In action taken at the meeting, commissioners  approved catch-and-release regulations for American shad on the Lehigh and Schuylkill rivers.

The board approved regulation changes that will impose catch- and-release regulations on American shad on those rivers beginning in 2013. Management of fisheries in state waters along the Atlantic Coast is coordinated through the Atlantic States

Marine Fisheries Commission 

That multi-state and multi-agency body recently called for a catch-and-release regulation for American shad fisheries that  cannot be demonstrated to be sustainable.

“Given that both the Lehigh and Schuylkill rivers remain under restoration and that there is currently inefficient fish passage, the commission cannot determine that the fisheries are sustainable,” said Leroy Young, director of the Fish & Boat Commission’s Bureau of Fisheries.

Little Juniata access

Commissioners also voted to purchase for $56,500 a public fishing access and conservation easement in Huntingdon County, over approximately 4,465 linear feet on one side of the Little Juniata River.

In Porter Township, it will include the stream corridor and will extend 35 feet back from the top of the bank.

Funding to acquire the easement is coming from the commission and grants from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access/Habitat Incentive Program.

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