Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Venting Tool Changes in the Gulf Provide New Options for Anglers

Did you know anglers targeting reef fish such as grouper and snapper in the Gulf of Mexico are no longer be
Venting a red grouper
required to use venting tools to treat fish suffering from barotrauma. Barotrauma is the rapid expansion of gases inside a fish’s swim bladder due to changes in pressure when brought to the surface. Venting is the process of releasing these trapped gases by inserting a sharpened, hollow needle into the side of the fish, which has shown to be a useful method for returning fish back to depth. However, while venting can be attributed to increased survival rates for some species, research for many other is either lacking or inconclusive, particularly in deeper waters. In addition, new gear known as fish descending devices can be used to return fish back to depth without the need of venting in many cases. Research from the U.S. Pacific coast has shown that fish descending gear have been highly effective at increasing the survival rates of several species of released rockfish. It is hoped that these devices will have similar results for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Because of the reasons, the Gulf Council voted to remove the venting requirement. It is important to note, however, that both venting and descending devices are options of last resort and should only be used if fish can’t get back down on their own. Knowing when and how to properly use these devices is key to improving the survival rates of fish that are released.Are you new to fish descending gear?
While fish descending gear is not necessarily new, their use has been more prevalent on the west coast than 

A Seaqualizer Fish Descending
Tool being used to
return a red grouper
suffering from barotrauma
here in the Gulf and South Atlantic. Check out the following videos that show some examples of these devices.

Using the Fish Saver Descending Tool
Using a Utility Crate (aka fish elevator) Fish Descending Tool
Using the Seaqualizer Fish Descending Tool

 To learn more about barotrauma, venting tools, and fish descending gear visit Florida Sea Grant's catch and release website.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sawdust in the Water? Trichodesmium Algal Blooms

 Boaters and beachgoers in southwest Florida periodically observe what appears to be large mats of
“sawdust” floating on the water’s surface. What they are seeing is not the remnants of someone’s woodworking project, but a marine cyanobacteria (also known as blue green algae) called Trichodesmium.

Trichodesmium naturally occurs in tropical and subtropical waters including the Gulf of Mexico. When environmental conditions are right, Trichodesmium cells rapidly repro-duce resulting in a bloom of the cyanobacteria that can be visible by onlookers.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Trichodesmium cells form long chains, called trichomes. Trichomes then can gather into colonies called “puffs” or “tuffs,” and these colonies can aggregate at the surface of the water and form large mats that can extend for miles (also called “sailor’s sawdust”). The amount of Trichodesmium on the surface may vary with time of day, as this species is capable of migrating up and down in the water column. Blooms generally occur offshore in nutrient-poor waters, but currents and winds can push them near shore.

Trichodesmium blooms can take on a range of colors depending on stage of the bloom. Healthy blooms are typically brown in color, while blooms in initial decay may take on a green appearance due to accessory pigments leaching out and exposing the cyanobacteria’s chlorophyll. When the chlorophyll begins to deteriorate the blooms appear white in col-or. Trichodesmium blooms are also reported to have a unique “sweet” smell when it decays and large blooms can turn the water red or pink when stressed cells leaks out water soluble, accessory pigments.

Unlike other algal blooms that occur in the region, Trichodesmium blooms are not related to coastal nutrient sources or pollution. Most or all of the nutrients Trichodesmium requires are taken up directly from the water.

Interestingly, the occurrence of Trichodesmium blooms in Florida is thought to be connected to weather events on the other side of the planet. Blooms in the Gulf of Mexico tend to occur between May and September, which is also a time of high storm activity in the Sahara Desert in Africa. Iron-rich dust from these storms are transported across the Atlantic Ocean by wind currents, and deposited into the Gulf of Mexico. Trichodesmium cells contains enzymes that utilize this high concentration of deposited iron to convert nitrogen into useable forms.

While Trichodesmium blooms can be aesthetically unappealing, it is not toxic and does not pose a health risk to humans. Ironically, Trichodesmium blooms are often seen prior to a Florida red tide bloom, which is a toxic algae that can result in numerous fish kills and human health issues.
Reference: http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/archive/historical-events/trichodesmium-fl-2004/

Friday, February 1, 2013

2013 Florida Seafood Brown Bag Webinar Series

Join the Florida Sea Grant Extension Programs from Collier and Miami-Dade Counties for the 2013 Florida Seafood Brown Bag Webinar Series. This year's sessions will focus on seafood health and saftety.
See below for dates and topics.
To register for this FREE program visit: http://2013seafoodsafetyseries.eventbrite.com/#

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Are You Smarter than a Stone Crab? January 23rd

It’s that time again for another round of “Are You Smarter than A Stone Crab? The next tour will be Jan 23, 2013. This time the tour will begin at the Evergaldes City Museum so participants can learn more about the heritge associated with commercial fishing in Everglades City. This program is a great way to learn more about the economic and cultural importance of one of Florida’s most valuable fisheries. Hope to see you there! To register, click on the flyer below.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2013 SW Florida Marine Fisheries Workshop

I hope you will be able to join us for our 2013 SW Florida Fisheries Regulations and Management Workshop!
To register visit:

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Florida Stone Crab's Life Cycle

Stone crabs are one of Florida’s most valuable fisheries, and like other species we depend on for seafood, they often utilize a variety of habitats and undergo a series of physical transformations throughout their life.

Mating in stone crabs takes place near and offshore during the fall and can only occur when the female has molted and her shell is soft. While eggs are fertilized internally, they are eventually deposited beneath the female’s abdomen or “apron” in an external mass called a sponge. Spawning typically occurs during summer months and females can release millions of fertilized eggs in several intervals.

The eggs, which float in the water column, usually hatch within two weeks and then larval development takes approximately a month to complete. Larvae are planktonic and are transported to coastal and estuarine waters. The first larval stage to emerge from the egg is a called a zoea. As the zoea larvae grows they pass through five distinct changes before developing into a post-larval form called a megalopae. The megalopae, which is more crab-like in appearance, will settle to the bottom where it will take shelter. Here, it will molt several times before transitioning to a juvenile stone crab.

A juvenile stone crab in my hand
Unlike adult Florida stone crabs, which are tan in color, juvenile stone crabs up to about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in width are deep purple to black with white flecks on their carapace. Like the adults though, they have distinctive white bands on their legs. As they grow and molt, they will begin to take on the appearance of adult stone crabs. Juveniles can be found living among shell rubble, oyster beds, sponges, and tunicates in estuarine and nearshore habitats.

An adult stone crab hiding under a ledge
Florida stone crabs becomes sexually mature by two years of age. Adults will move around and can be found living in burrows among seagrass communities, or offshore out to depths of 200 feet, where they live under ledges or in burrows and crevices associated with hardbottom communities. Age estimates suggest male Florida stone crabs live for seven or eight years while females can live up to eight or nine years.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Overview of Florida's Commercial Snapper Fisheries

Image credits: Dianne Pebbles, SAFMC
Snappers (Family Lutjanidae) are a widely-distributed group of fishes that inhabit a diverse range of coastal and marine habitats. They are generalized predators characterized by the presence of strong jaws with prominent canine teeth. Generally smaller than grouper, they can range from a few pounds to over 60 pounds. Florida has approximately 15 snapper species; only half of which are targeted by commercial fishermen as they are prized for their firm texture and mild flavored meat.

2010 Florida Snapper Landings (lbs)
by FloridaCoast: Source:FWRI

Over the last decade, an average of 4.3 million pounds of snapper worth an average of $10.7 million were landed by Florida commercial fishermen. Despite the diversity of snappers found in Florida waters, approximately 90% of commercial landings come from three primary species; yellowtail, vermillion, and red snapper. Top landings for red and vermillion snapper occur in the Panhandle region, while south Florida dominates yellowtail landings. Much like grouper, the overwhelming majority of snapper are landed on Florida's Gulf coast in federal waters.

Snappers are heavily regulated with high demand from both the commercial and recreational sectors. Stocks are managed separately in the Gulf and Atlantic waters. State regulations typically mirror federal rules for consistency, but this is not always true. Management of the snapper fishery has been challenging due to a lack of data on both the resource and the fishery. Improved data collection during the 1980s and 1990s has provided more management information on some of the more commercially and recreationally valuable species, but lack of basic management data on many of the species still remains the major obstacle to successful management.

Status of Populations
Of Florida's three major commercial snapper species, yellowtail populations appear to be the most robust. They are neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing in either the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. While vermilion snapper are abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, population levels are lower in the Caribbean and South Atlantic. They are not considered overfished, but are experiencing overfishing in this region; management measures are currently in place to end overfishing

* denotes the stock is undergoing a rebuilding plan.
Source: Gulf and S. Atlantic Fishery Management Councils
Perhaps no other snapper species has generated as much controversy surrounding its management than red snapper. Because of its high demand by both commercial and recreational fishermen, it has undergone intense fishing pressure for years and is one of the most tightly regulated fisheries in the United States. South Atlantic stocks of red snapper are overfished and experiencing overfishing. The decline in the Atlantic population is thought to have occurred since the 1950s with continued pressure in following decades. The 2008 stock assessment indicated that overfishing was occurring at 14 times the sustainable level. Based on this information, the entire snapper fishery was shut down in the beginning of 2010. Recent considerations to shut down large areas off of Florida and Georgia’s coasts to all snapper and grouper fishing was negated due to updated stock assessment data that indicated the stock was in slightly better shape than previously thought. It is expected, however, that the fishery will remain closed for several more years and a full recovery won’t be for several decades.

Source: NMFS
Since implementing a catch share program in 2007 the commercial Gulf red snapper fishery has seen a 40 percent increase in the total allowable catch. In fact, overfishing of red snapper in the Gulf ended in 2009. While still classified as overfished, the stock appears to be rebuilding faster than anticipated; even with the better than expected news, the stock is not expected to be fully recovered until 2032.

Several factors have contributed to the complexity associated with red snapper management:

Shrimp Trawl Bycatch
Historically, the unintended bycatch of juvenile red snapper in shrimp trawls contributed to a significant portion of snapper mortality. Over the past several years though, the domestic shrimp fleet has been significantly reduced due to fuel prices, competition with imports, and hurricanes. As a result, juvenile mortality levels have decreased, contributing to faster than expected rebuilding efforts. In addition, improved designs in Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) in shrimp nets is thought to have contributed to recovery efforts.
Discard Mortality
Because of strict regulations such as closed seasons and size and bag limits, many red snapper are released by fishermen. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of these released fish (approximately 40% of released recreational fish and up to 90% of released commercial fish) do not survive, which further hinders management efforts to rebuild the fishery. Recent regulations requiring the use of circle hooks, dehooking devices, and venting tool have helped to reduce release mortality of released fish.
Management Mandates
In 2006 the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act set new guidelines to end overfishing and rebuild U.S. fish stocks. The re-authorization directed managers to act quickly to implement regulations to reduce mortality and end overfishing of affected stocks. As a result, managers were forced to implement more stern actions to rebuild red snapper stocks.
Public Perception
Despite red snapper populations being considered overfished, many fishermen report catching more than ever before. Part of the issue has to do with the life history of red snapper. Red snapper are thought to live at least 50 years, and larger fish do not always mean older fish. Despite recent increases in overall numbers of red snapper, the age structure of the population remains truncated and there are not enough older fish to successfully repopulate the stock. Adding to the frustration of fishermen is that the ongoing snapper regulations have occurred during tough economic times, thus affecting their ability to earn a living from snapper fishing.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recording: Florida Hard Clam Industry Webinar

Did you know that Florida is one of the top producers of farm raised hard clams in the country?
I invite you to watch a recording of a webinar I presented on Florida's hard clam aquaculture industry. There are three main goals of the webinar
  1. Increase your knowledge of basic hard clam biology & ecology
  2. Enhance your understanding of the trends, importance, & management of Florida’s hard clam industry
  3. Make you more informed about the purchasing, storing, & handling of hard clams
Webinar Recording
View the Blackboard Collaborate recording

Hard Clam webinar Evaluation
How did I do? If you watch the webinar please take a minute to complete a short evaluation. Your feedback will me in the preparation of future presentations

Hard Clam Resources
I refer to several hard clam resources during the presenation and want to share them with you.

UF/IFAS Florida Shellfish Aquaculture Resource: shellfish.ifas.ufl.edu

Florida Seafood Brown Bag Webinar Series Recordings
 Finally, if you would like to watch the recordings of past webinars in our series visit:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Snapshot of marine economic impacts in and around Collier County

Economic impacts measure the level of economic activity in a given area. They may be viewed in terms of: (1) business output (or sales volume), (2) value added (or gross regional or domestic product), (3) business taxes, (4) personal income (including wages) or (5) jobs. Any of these measures can be an indicator of economic well-being (source: Economic Development Research Group, 1997). Below is a snapshot of the marine recreational and commercial industries and activities in Collier County (and surrounding areas) and their economic consequences and impacts.

Recreational Saltwater Fishing Activities
  • In 2010, 26,275 recreational saltwater fishing licenses were purchased in Collier County resulting in over $ 4.7 million dollars in sales. In addition over 2,000 special endorsements such as snook and lobster permits and tarpon tags were purchased with an estimated value of  over $21,300.  (source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – FWC).
  • Charter captains in Collier County purchased 221 fishing licenses for either the captain or vessel in groups of 4 or less, 6 or less, 10 or less or 11 or more passengers resulting in over $60,130 in sales (source: FWC).
  •  Fishermen and divers who use southwest Florida’s artificial reefs sites spend over $253 million in the region annually. (source: Florida Sea Grant)
  • Expenditures on artificial reef-related activities in Southwest Florida generated almost $227million in economic outputs that supported over 2,500 full- and parttime jobs.
  • In southwest Florida (Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Desoto, Lee and Collier counties) recreational fishing activities resulted in $1.3 billion in sales and supported 14,530 jobs in 2007 (source: FWC and NOAA Marine Fisheries)  
  •  In the 2010/2011 fiscal year, over 1.2 million individuals bought a saltwater recreational fishing license including more than 860,000 Florida residents and 394,000 non-residents. Total revenue for all marine recreational fishing license sales was over $25 million. (source:FWC)
  • Recreational fishing resulted in over $5 billion in economic impacts and supported approximately 50,000 jobs during 2009 (source: FWC).

Commercial  Fishing Activities
  • 171 commercial fishermen held saltwater products licenses in Collier County during 2008/09. There were 20 wholesale dealers, and 93 retail dealers over the same period (source: FWC).
  • Over 1.5 million pounds of  seafood products were landed by commercial fishermen in  Collier County in 2010. Of this amount, 608,000 pounds were stone crab claws worth an estimated $5.5 million in dockside value (source: FWC)
  • San Carlos Island shrimp harvesting and processing resulted in $54.9 million in economic impact for Lee County and supported 1,555 jobs in 1998 (source: Florida Sea Grant).
  • In Florida commercial fishing and seafood production resulted in $12.9 billion in sales and support-ed 64,744 jobs during 2009 (source: NOAA Fisheries of the US).
Boating Activities
  • 21,691 vessels were registered in Collier County in 2010 (source: Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles – DHSMV).
  •  In Florida, boaters spent $3.4 billion on boating trips in 2007 and $5.2 billion in watercraft expenses, which together supported 97,000 jobs. The economic effect of these same activities in southwest Florida (Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Desoto, Manatee) was $483 million in trip spending, $825 million in watercraft spending, together supporting 14.530 jobs (source: FWC)

Economic Summary
  • In 2009, there were over 10,000 people employed by 616 marine/coastal-related establishments in Collier County who earned over $270 million in wages with a GDP of over $618 million. (source: NOAA's State of the Coast)
  • Florida’s coastal counties account for 79% of the state’s overall economic productivity (source: National Oceans Economic Program, 2010).


Friday, August 31, 2012

How are you connected to south Florida?

Have you ever thought how you are connected to south Florida's marine environments? Fortunately, if you don't quite know the answer to the question, there is a new book that can help you see the many connections that exist between the region and those who visit and live there.

Pam Fletcher with Florida Sea Grant and and William Kruczynski of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are the co-editors of a new book called Tropical Connections: South Florida's Marine Environments. The book summarizes technical information on the south Florida marine ecosystem in a way that is easy to read and understand, and it is intended for students, educators, lay readers, and decision makers.

The book is comprised of fact pages that were prepared by 162 experts in their scientific disciplines. They can be used individually, but are arranged in chapters that help synthesize the information.

According to the editors, The title contains the word "connections" because the marine habitats of south Florida are interconnected physically, chemically, and biologically, as well as connected with other geographic regions. If you live, vacation, boat, swim, snorkel, SCUBA dive, fish, spear fish, bird watch, or eat marine fish or shellfish in south Florida, you are "connected" to the south Florida marine habitats. Also, people who read about, study, or enjoy knowing that the marine habitats of south Florida exist as natural wonders have a special connection to this place that may be no less significant than physical experiences.