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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Monday, August 30, 2010

First Annual Pine Island Scallop Search a Success!!!!

On Saturday I had the privledge of participating in the first annual Pine Island Scallop Search put on my colleague Joy Hazell, the Lee County Sea Grant Extension Agent and the Sannibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. The event is a resource‐monitoring program where volunteers snorkel, looking for scallops in select areas within Pine Island Sound. The purpose of this program is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population, and is modeled off of the successful Great Bay Scallop Search conducted in Tampa Bay since 1993. One hundred and twenty volunteers participated in the event and 335 scallops were counted!!! 
Unfortunately, we don't have many bay scallops in Collier County, but they are fascinating animals, and I must say absolutely delicious! I thought you'd enjoy some more information about them.

(Content take from Betty Staugler, Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension Agent) The Florida bay scallop is a bivalve mollusk that grows and lives in seagrass beds in relatively shallow water, 4 to 10 feet deep. At one time scallops could be found from Palm Beach to Pensacola. Today, consistently healthy populations can only be found in selected locations along Florida's West Coast - principally St. Joseph Bay, and the area between the Econfina and Weeki Wachee rivers.

In recent years, bays scallops have been seen in greater numbers in southwest Florida waters, in part due to restoration efforts in the area. With greater awareness of their recovery, unfortunately come many reports of illegal harvesting. Readers should be aware that recreational harvest of bay scallops is prohibited in all southwest Florida waters.

Legal Requirements
In Florida, commercial harvest of bay scallops is prohibited. Recreational harvest is allowed only in state waters from north of the Pasco-Hernando county line to the west bank of Mexico Beach Canal and only during a limited season, typically July 1 through September 10. For 2010, FWC allowed an early opening date, June 19, to provide economic relief to those counties which rely heavily on the tourism industry associated with scalloping and might be impacted by loss of revenue from perceived impacts of the oil spill. All other rules remained in place, including the boundaries of the approved harvest areas and the harvest limits.
For readers interested in traveling to the Big Bend during the recreational harvest season a few rules apply. In general, recreational scallopers between the ages of 16 and 65 must have a current Florida saltwater fishing license to collect scallops. There are some exceptions; these are listed in the FWC "Florida Recreational Saltwater Fishing Regulations," which is available in bait shops, FWC offices, or at the FWC web site. All non-residents over the age of 16 are required to buy a license unless they are fishing (scalloping) from a for-hire vessel (guide, charter, party boat) that has a valid vessel license

To learn more about the life history and ecology of bay scallops click here.
To participate in future bay scallop search events in Southwest Florida you can contact:
Betty Staugler: Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension Agent: 941-764-4340
Joy Hazell: Lee County Sea Grant Extension Agent: 239-533-7518
A bay scallop sits on the bottom of a sea grass bed
Healthy seagrass communities and good water quality are crucial to
having viable bay scallop populations
Add caption
The "eyes" of a scallop are a defining characteristic of the bivalve mollusk

Friday, August 27, 2010

Goodland Boat Ramp is Open!

For those of you that fish in the Goodland and 10,000 Islands area, access to this region just got a bit easier! Collier County recently opened up its newest boat ramp which is located at 750 Palm Point Drive  in Goodland. I went over there this morning to check it out  and it is beautiful! The site has approximately 70 spaces for trailered vehicles plus additional parking for vehicles. The launch can accomodate 2 boats at a time and there is also a very nice boardwalk along the water's edge with boat slips that can be rented. The site also has a very nice ship store although its not completely stocked yet. They will eventually have live bait in addition to tackle and groceries. There is a fish cleaning station in addition to fishing line recycle bins for patrons. Like other County ramps there is a $5 launch fee, which is pretty cheap in my opinion. If you use the ramp, keep in mind that the nearby waters are a part of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve as well as the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge. There is a lot of shallow sensitive habitat in the area including seagrassess and oyster beds so make sure you boat wisely. To learn more about the ammenities associated with the County's newest site click here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Great Goliath Grouper Count Results

Back in June I blogged about the Great Goliath Grouper Count(GGGC) which is a Florida Sea Grant Extension Program pilot project conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The goal was to provide a regional snapshot of goliath grouper size distribution and abundance on artificial reef sites where they are known to congregate throughout the region. It was also an opportunity to see if a sufficient number of trained volunteers could collect fundamental fisheries data in a short time frame that woud be beyond the scope of researchers working alone.

Last week Angela Collins, who is a researcher with FWC/FWRI presented the initial results of the GGGC with me and some of my colleagues. First off, I have to say, this program could not have happened without Angela's help. She developed the survey protocol for the event as well as the data analysis and interpretation.Overall she was extremely pleased with the results. Here are some of the outcomes. Please note that all graphs and maps were created by Angela Collins.

  • 52 volunteers surveyed 59 sites between Monroe and Pasco Counities (the majority were between Collier and Pinellas)
  • Surveys were completed between June 2 and June 13 with 52 (88%) of the sites surveyed within the first 5 days.
  • The range of depths surveyed was from 13-125ft. 43 sites were considered "shallow", meaning less than 20 m and 16sites were considered "deep", meanin greater than 20 m
  • The survey spanned approximately a 340km x 130km area
  • A minimum of 312 goliath groupers were observed
  • 86% (51/59) of sites had a least one GG on them.
  • The number of GGs on each site ranged from 0-16. (Only sites north of Sarasota had 0 GG counts)
  • The average number of goliaths observed per site was 5.3
  • Collier surveyed 8 sites and counted approximately 80 GGs
  • The avg number of GGs seen at Collier sites was approx 10
  • There was no direct trend between the number of GGs and depth of site. The numbers were all over
  • The largest numbers of GGs observed were on shipwrecks (~160) and pilings (~70) although the site with the hightest number of GGs on it was a tower off of Monore County (16)
  • As expected the majority of GGs (~180) were in the 3-5 foot range putting their age somewhere between 5 and 11 years old. The size range of goliaths looked like typical bell curve.

The true value of the effort will only be realized if it can be expanded and conducted in future years.
It must be stressed that the information provided by the recent goliath grouper count will be far from sufficient to answer the question of the present status of the stock. Instead it is hoped the results will provide one small piece of the overall puzzle, especially if the count can be conducted in future years. Thank you to all my volunteers, Angela Collins, and my colleagues who made this initial event a success!!! Looking forward to making the 2011 GGGC even better.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Santa Lucia Reef Clean Up

Boats from the Sheriff's Office, EMS, Solo
 Lobo Charters and Grand Slam Charters
 particpated in today's clean up event
Today my colleagues and I did a clean up on the Santa Lucia Reef, one of the most heavily fished artificial reefs in Naples. The reef sits in about 28 feet of water north of Gordans Pass and is made up of a 46-foot long concrete Cuban turtle boat surrounded by concrete pilings. As a result of its popularity, the reef accumulates large amounts of fishing gear including cast nets, lines, lures, and anchors. Besides the threats the abandoned gear has on marine life, it also acts as a hazard to anglers who commonly get their equipment caught up on the site.
This is the 3rd year we've done the clean up and as always, its a multi-partner effort. Divers from Rookery Bay, City of Naples, the County's Environmental Services and Coastal Zone Management Departments and the Collier County Sheriff's Department participated in the clean up.

A few of many cast nets
 retreived from today's
clean up
We also had the help of  Captains Eric Alexander and Brandown Lawson of Solo Lobo Charters and Captain Will Geraghy of Grand Slam Charters. They have always been more than generous with the use of their boats and time, and their volunteerism is greatly appreciated.

For safety purposes, medical staff from the County's Emergency Management Services were also present topside in case something was to happen. Fortunately, it did not, but I wanted to thank them for coming.

The visibility wasn't great, and removing nets from the wreck made it even worse, but overall it was a successful event. We removed about a dozen cast nets, three anchors, several beer bottles, and lots of fishing line and lures. In all we removed several hundred pounds of debris from the site. Not a bad way to start off the week. Thanks everyone for their hard work!!!

From Left to Right: Chris Darco, Pam Keyes, Me, Monique Banhart, Katie Laakkonen,
Carly Points, Captain Brandon Lawson, and Captain Eric Alexander

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gulf Seafood Safety Webinar

Today I hosted a brown bag lunch webinar on frequently asked questions relating to the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. The webinar addresses examples of control measures used to monitor the safety of seafood products, details about Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs),a contaminant of concern from the oil spill, factors that influence the degree of contamination in seafood products, and trusted seafood safety resources to learn more this issue. If you'd like to view the webinar, click here. It lasts approximately 25 minutes.
Depending on how strict your security settings are, you might get a pop-up blocker message when you access the site. You just have to to select "temporarily allow" for the software to download.

I also wanted to provide you with a list of resources relating to Seafood Safety and the Gulf Oil Spill that you might find helpful.

Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Program Oil Spill Website

FDA Testing Protocol to Re-open Harvest
Waters that were Closed in Response to
the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services-Florida Seafood

NOAA Fish Watch: U.S. Seafood Facts

Seafood Network Information Center (CA Sea Grant)

Please let me know if you have any questions
Thanks, Bryan!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

RBFF Special Report on Fishing and Boating 2010

Obviously fishing is a popular part of our culture and economy, but if you get a chance, check out this report by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and Outdoor Foundation. It has some great statistics about fishing and boating paticipation in the U.S. 
Here are some of the stats from the report. Enjoy!

-In 2009, fishing participants made 996 million outings (down slightly from one billion in 2008).

-More than 45 percent of fishing participants say the economy impacts how often they participate in outdoor activities. More than 85 percent of those fishing participants plan to spend more time participating in outdoor activities in 2010.

-Freshwater fishing is most popular among young people, with more than 22.5 percent participation under the age of 18 (down slightly from 24.6 percent in 2008).

-The largest age bracket of saltwater fishing participants is over the age of 45, making up 48.1 percent of all participants.

-Fly fishing has significant growth opportunities across a number of demographics, particularly females (25.2 percent of participants), minority groups (21.5 percent of participants), and youth (16.1 percent of participants).

Hispanic Participation
-13.6 percent of Hispanics over the age of six fish - more than 70 percent are male.
-In 2009, Hispanic fishing participants made more than 62 million annual outings (up from 45.8 million in 2008).
-Hispanic youth ages six to 12 have the highest participation rate among all age groups (17.4 percent).

Youth Participation
-There are 11.2 million fishing participants ages 6 to 17, unchanged from 2008.
-Youth participation in fishing drops from 25.4 percent among those ages 6 to 12 to 19 percent among those ages 13 to 17. Time, other sports/activities, schoolwork, TV and video games are cited as barriers.

Female Participation
-Female participation in fishing falls significantly more than males through adolescence, down 44 percent as opposed to 12.9 percent.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Oil Contaminatin and Seafood Safety Video from Lousiana Sea Grant

photo credit: Bill Haber Associated Press
I've had lots of people look at me funny when I explain to them that one of the most effective ways that trained inspectors detect for oil contamination in seafood is by simply smelling it. Never under estimate the power of the human nose!! This short video  that Lousiana Sea Grant put up on You Tube does a great job of explaining the process.
 (From LA Sea Grant) In response to consumer concerns about oil contaminated seafood from the Gulf of Mexico reaching the marketplace, Louisiana Sea Grant has produced a short video outlining the precautions taken to ensure tainted shell and finfish don't end up on the table.