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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Sunday, October 31, 2010

FMSEA/FWC Aquatic Species Educators Collection Workshop Announced for Dec 14th, 2010

For any questions contact me at fluech@ufl.edu

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hodges University Seafood Course a Success

Students enjoy sampling local seafood as I play a game
with them called "Who's Smarter than a Stone Crab?" The
purpose of the activity was to teach them about Florida's
Stone Crab fishery
Yesterday I finished up teaching a 3-part class on seafood safety and sustainability for Hodges University's Center for Lifelong Learning Program. Fourteen people attended the course. I delivered several presentations relating to seafood including:
  • Gulf Seafood Safety in light of the Oil Spill
  • Balancing the Health Benefits and Risks of Seafood
  • Seafood Supply and Demand and Sustainability Issues
  • Proper Seafood Handling for the Consumer
  • Florida's Stone Crab Fishery
Participants received plenty of handouts relating to these topics, and also had the opportunity to sample examples of seafood from South Florida including stone crab, blue crab, and pink shrimp. Captain Kirk's Seafood in Naples gave me a discounted price so that I could provide my students with the samples. Needless to say, the seafood was a huge hit! Several of the participants had never tried stone or blue crabs. Initial responses from the participants have been overly positive. As a result of the feedback, I plan to teach a similar class this winter. Keep a look out for announcements!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NOAA Announces Action Agenda for Recreational Saltwater Fisheries

  For all you recreational fishermen out there, I thought you'd find this of interest.

(Source: NOAA Press Release)
 NOAA has released the Recreational Saltwater Fisheries Action Agenda, a national plan to address the complex issues facing marine recreational fisheries. The plan will improve science and stewardship and build a stronger partnership with the recreational community. It is a direct outcome of input received from recreational fishermen during the April 2010 Recreational Saltwater Fishing Summit organized by NOAA.

The Action Agenda includes a set of broad national goals, while focusing immediate attention on five priority issues:
  1. ensuring balanced recreational representation in the management process;
  2. more fully integrating recreational fishing values into the NOAA mission and culture;
  3. improving data on recreational fishing and fisheries;
  4. addressing recreational interests in NOAA’s catch share policy;
  5. supporting cooperative research and monitoring.
“The Action Agenda is the roadmap for us to fulfill our commitments made during NOAA’s Recreational Fishing Summit,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. “We know it is the strength of our actions that matter in the end, and we are committed to moving forward aggressively.”

Schwaab also announced that NOAA will provide a $276,000 grant to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to help give recreational fishermen conservation information. A portion of the national grant will support a collaborative workshop in spring 2011 to examine how best to reduce barotrauma – the injury to deepwater fish when pulled to the surface rapidly – in recreational fisheries, in order to improve survival of fish caught and then released.

“The resulting mortality due to barotrauma is a contentious issue among stakeholders,” said John V. O’Shea, executive director of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. “The workshop will provide recreational fishermen, scientists, and managers the opportunity to develop a common understanding and approach to address this important issue.”

“Collaboratively, the recreational fishing community is a leading player in this program that will introduce stewardship to new anglers and reinforce the stewardship of existing anglers to reduce mortality of caught and released fish,” said Andy Loftus, coordinator for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission project. “The workshop will develop the best information available on catch-and-release practices that will be communicated to anglers for implementation. It’s a win-win in the best tradition of the recreational angling community and NOAA

Monday, October 25, 2010

The First Annual Naples Stone Crab Festival

This weekend I participated in the First Annual Naples Stone Crab Festival. I set up a booth by Kelly's Fish House. Beside a display and fact sheets I created on stone crabs and the fishery, I also had plenty of recipes and nutritional information about other types of Florida seafood. In addition, I had a tank with live stone crabs in it. My booth was a big hit. In all, approximately 500 people visited the booth during the two day event. I partnered with FWC law enforcement, who also helped educate visitors about stone crabs and other fisheries-related information. People seemed to be very appreciative of the information and materials we provided. I was amazed how little people knew about stone crabs despite loving to eat them. For example, a lot of people didn't realize that only the crab's claws are harvested and that the crab is returned to the water alive. In addition, they didn't know that if both of the crab's claws are legal size (2 3/4 inches), they can be harvested. Of course the next logical question was if the claws can grow back. Yes, it takes a crab approximately a year to regenerate and up to 3 years to regain 95% of the origin size. The festival seemed to be a huge success, and I look forward to participating in it next year. It was also a great opportunity for me to work with our local fishing industry and build a stronger work relationship with them.
visitors got their share of stone crabs during the festival

Workers from Kelly's Fish House stayed busy during the event

Despite long lines, they never ran out of claws!

Florida Master Naturalist Alumni Trip to Cayo Costa State Park

On Friday I lead of a group of Florida Master Naturalist Alumni to the beautiful barrier island state park, Cayo Costa! We couldn't have asked for better weather. Park Ranger Mary Olson gave us a tour of the island via golf cart, which was unique in itself. If you have never been to the park, I highly reccomend it. You can't ask for a better example of a pristine barrier island. You can only get to the island by boat. We took a ferry from Pine Island. The day was a great lesson in barrier island ecology. We drove through tropical hardwood hammock, pine flatwoods, coastal scrub, and of course saw the islands amazing dune and beach habitats as well. We also had the opportunity to pull a seine net on the lagoon side; we caught a sea robin, lizardfish, mojarra, scaled sardine, sheepshead minnow, goldspotted killifish, bay anchovie and blue crab. Unfortunately, I had to take the early ferry back because I wasn't feeling so great, but it was still a wonderful day. Enjoy the pictures.

There use to be a quarantine station on the north end of the island

look out to Boca Grand Pass

Ranger Mary tells the group about some endemic plants
to the island

There is a cool cemetary on the island with head stones
from the 1800's

Driving through some coastal habitats

This is the lagoon where we did our seining

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stone Crabber for a Day

Yesterday I was privileged to be able to go out with Captain Ricky Mayfield, a local commercial stone crabber and his crew to see first hand what a typical day on the water is like for these guys. I already knew they put in long hours, but being able to help pull, bait, and deploy traps along side them only deepened my respect for them and the industry. It was a great learning experience for me. In all we pulled about 400 traps. Although I thought this was a lot, I was informed that this was considered a "slow day". (Well, my back says otherwise-I can't argue that I didn't get a heck of workout though!). By the end of the day we ended up bringing back close to 200 pounds of claws (again, this is considered a low). If there was anything I learned from yesterday's experience, it was the crew was all about working smart and efficient. It took all I had to keep up with them. It is a good thing they didn't solely depend on me to declaw the crabs or else we'd still be on the boat! I took plenty of pictures for you to get a better idea of what it was like. By the way, if you dine at Kelly's Fish House in Naples in the next several days, you might just eat some of the claws I helped catch!!! Enjoy!

If you'd like to learn more about stone crabs and the fishery visit:

On the water by 6:30AM. Note the trays
of hogs feet, which will be used as bait

Part of the mornings catch!

Stu cooling off the crabs until their claws are
removed and they're put back in the water.

An undersized crab in the a trap with
a piece of bait

Captain Ricky at the helm

Stu and Roberto declawing the crabs and
using a gauge to make sure the claws meet the
2 3/4 inch min size limit

Stu with a "hog" crab

Captain Ricky and Roberto unloading the day's catch

Weighing part of the day's catch back at
Combs Fish House

Saturday, October 16, 2010

3rd Annual National Wildlife Refuge Week Kids Fishing Clinic a Success!!

For the third year in a row, I have partnered with the Panther/10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuges and Port of the Islands Marina to host a kids fishing clinic in honor of National Wildlife Refuge Week. Each year we invite students from Collier County's Migrant Student Program to attend, and I can say hands down, they are the best kids to work with!! I don't know who has more fun-them our us! We had 48 kids participate in this year's clinic, and the weather couldn't have been better!!
The students rotate through a series of skills stations before getting to fish along the marina's seawall. The kids did an awesome job fishing. They caught tarpon, snappers, and mojarras! Then half the group has lunch while the other half goes on a manatee tour and then they switch.
The event is a great example of team work. Collier County Parks and Recreationa dontates shrimp, the Marco Island Sport Fishing Club sends volunteers, FWC sends an officer, and the refuge sends staff and volunteers to teach the skills stations, Port of the Islands Marina donates the lunch (pizza), Double R's Manatee and Nature Tours donates the manatee tours, and Fish Florida donates the rod and reels and tackle boxes that the kids get to keep and take home-one of many highlights of the day! I can't thank our partners, volunteers, and sponsors enough! Enjoy the pictures

Friday, October 15, 2010

The 2010 Stone Crab Season is Open!!!

(taken from a FDACS press release)


Fresh Florida stone crab claws will soon be back in seafood markets and restaurants across the Sunshine State. Stone crab season opens today and runs through mid-May. The fishery is closed for five months each year to help protect and sustain Florida's valuable stone crab resource.
Stone crab, Menippa adina and Menippa mercenaria and their hybrids, inhabit bays and estuaries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. An adult stone crab is easily recognized by its oval-shaped body and two large claws. The body is dark brownish red with dusky gray spots. The large claws have shiny black tips and are used by the crab for hunting and for defending itself. A crab can intentionally drop a claw if the claw is damaged or if the crab is trying to escape from a predator. The claw will eventually grow back, getting larger each time the crab molts.
The stone crab's ability to regenerate lost limbs makes it possible to harvest the meaty claws without killing the crab. Florida law forbids the harvesting of whole stone crabs. Instead, fishermen remove one or both claws and return the live crab to the water, where it can regenerate its lost limbs in about 18 months. Claws must be at least 2-3/4 inches long to be harvested legally, and claws may not be taken from egg-bearing females. Claws must be removed carefully, at just the right spot, in order for regeneration to take place.
"The special way Florida stone crab claws are harvested helps assure the long-term sustainability of these species," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said. "This seafood delicacy that has been a Florida favorite for generations will continue to be enjoyed long into the future."
Stone crabs are caught using baited traps. Though stone crabs can be found as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Texas, stone crab claws are commercially harvested almost entirely in Florida. The majority are harvested off the southern tip of the peninsula from Sarasota to Fort Lauderdale. In 2009 the top three stone crab-harvesting counties were Monroe, Collier, and Citrus. Stone crab is one of Florida's top commercial seafood products in terms of dockside value. Ranking second behind shrimp, Florida's stone crab harvest was worth close to $18 million last season.
Stone crab claws are cooked in boiling water immediately after harvest, on the boat or at dockside, to prevent the meat from sticking to the inside of the shell. Claws are sold fresh-cooked or frozen. They come in several size grades based on weight: medium (up to 3 ounces), large (between 3 and 5 ounces), and jumbo (5 ounces and up). It generally takes about a pound of crab claws to feed one person.
Stone crab claws are usually served in the shell. One of the most popular ways to serve them is cold on a bed of ice with a mustard dipping sauce, but they are also commonly eaten hot with drawn butter and lime juice. The firm, sweet meat tastes similar to lobster. It's extra lean, low in fat, and a good source of protein.
Fresh-cooked stone crab claws should have a mild sea-breeze aroma. Store them at 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the coldest part of the refrigerator and be sure to use them within two days of purchase. Stone crab claws without cracks in the shell can be frozen for up to six months. Thaw frozen claws in the refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours. Thawing them in running water or at room temperature will negatively affect the taste and texture.
To crack the shell, use a crab cracker (a tool available at kitchen supply shops and department stores) or the back of a heavy spoon. Remove the cracked shell pieces, leaving the meat attached to the moveable pincer. The meat can also be picked from the claws and used in soups, stews, and other dishes. Approximately 2-1/2 pounds of cooked stone crab claws yield 1 pound of meat.

Florida Stone Crab Recipes

Curried Stone Crab Claws with Hot Marmalade Sauce:

Stone Crab Claws Miami:

Marinated Stone Crab Claws:

Honey Citrus Florida Stone Crab Claws with Hearts of Palm Salad:

Stone Crab Claws with Spicy Golden Mustard Sauce:

Mango Marinated Stone Crab Claws:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recording of Stone Crab Fishery Webinar

Today, as part of my "Brown Bag" webinar* series I delivered a presentation on Florida's stone crab fishery. The purpose of the presentation was to increase participants knowledge about basic stone crab biology and ecology, enhance their understanding of one of Florida's most valuable commercial fisheries, and make participants more informed consumers regarding Florida's seafood products. If you click on the link below you will be able to view a recording of the webinar. The program I use is called Elluminate Live so before you click on the recording below make sure your computer is compatiable with the program.

Please ensure you are able to connect by first going to http://www.elluminate.com/support/index.jsp and working through steps 1 and 2. If you have connection problems, please contact Ron Thomas with UF/IFAS distance education (http://icsde.ifas.ufl.edu/) (rkthomas@ufl.edu) to sort them out.

(You might get a message that blocks you from downloading the webinar; yout have to click on "allow" to let your computer to download the presentation)

*A webinar is a free presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the internet. This new media platform allows you to interact with the presenter and the content. To join a webinar, you will need the 30 to 90- minutes and access to a computer with internal or external speakers

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Panhandle Outdoors, Oil Spill Special Edition: A Great Resource!

I know this blog is suppose to focus on my Extension work here in Collier County, but I wanted to share with you a great resource some of my Sea Grant and UF Extension Colleagues have put together regarding the Gulf Oil Spill. The "Panhandle Outdoors" is a newsletter put together by the UF Extension Agents in Florida's Northwest districit, which encomposes the Panhandle region. These agents have done an outstanding job working with their local communities to address a variety of  issues associated with the oil spill and the newsletter highlights their work and topics of concern. If you get a scond, please check them out. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them and have learned a lot myself!

Summer Edition
The articles in this issue provide a place to start and cover a variety of topics including a basic introduction to oil spills, clean-up and response methods, seafood safety, human stress, and environmental impacts.

Fall Edition:
The oil spill is “over” and the clean-up is winding down.  The economic and environmental impacts however, will likely last much longer.  The Fall issue of Panhandle Outdoors takes another look at the immediate response to the spill and its impacts, and then turns an eye to the future and continued recovery

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stone Crab Season is Around the Corner!

In 5 days seafood lovers will be able to get fresh stone crab claws as the season officially opens October 15th. This of course, doesn't mean the stone crab fishermen haven't been busy. For the past several weeks, they have been making last minute repairs to their vessels and old traps, contstructing new traps, and taking inventory of their their gear and supplies. Stone crabs are one of Florida's most valuable commercial fisheries in the state. In 2009 2.6 million claws were landed with an estimated value of $17 million.
Collier County, in particular, is recognized as one of the leading commercial harvesters in Florida second only to Monroe County. In 2009 approximately 639,646 pounds of claws were landed in the county with an estimated dockside value of $4.2 million.
The commercial stone crab fishery is managed by a seven month open season (October 15-May 15), minimum claw size requirement (2 3/4 inches), trap specifications, and a passive trap limitation program. Female crabs with eggs are also prohibited from being harvested.
The fact that only the claws are taken and the crab is not killed helps ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery. Fishing pressure, however, remains high and this is reflected by a general decreasing trend in catch-per-trap over time. For example between the 1962-63 and 2001-02 seasons the number of traps used in the fishery increased 100 fold from 15,000 traps to 1.6 million traps (In 2002 the state legislature implemented a trap limitation program to reduce the number of trap entering the fishery). Estimates for stone crab population distribution, abundance, and recruitment patterns, however, have remained steady for the past 20 to 30 years.

Stone crabs are harvested primarily using baited traps. Commonly used bait included pig's feet, mullet, and/or fish carcasses. Traps are typically constructed of wood or plastic, but wire traps are also allowed. Plastic traps are required to have a degradable wood panel to minimize bycatch if the trap is lost or abandoned. Traps are deployed in long lines of up to 100 traps where each individual trap is buoyed. A single operation may have thousands of traps in the water at a time though. Trap buoys (and vessels) are marked with the letter "X" and a permit number specific to each harvester and every trap must have a valid permit tag attached to it. Fishermen may only work their traps during daylight hours and traps are retrieved approximately every 10 to 12 days using a mechanical winch. It is important to remember that it is a third degree felony for tampering with someone else’s traps (or their content), lines, or buoys. In addition to criminal penalties, violators can be fined $5,000 and lose their saltwater fishing privileges.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just Because Its Small Doesn't Mean Its Bait!!

Recently I helped an FWC officer identify some juvenile permit he confiscated from anglers who were using them as bait (To be exact, he confiscated over 50 of the fish!). Permit, of course, is a popular sport fish that is regulated by both a slot size and bag limit.

Catching bait is a common practice among many anglers. In fact, you normally don't have to look too far to find someone throwing a cast net from shore or a boat to catch their bait. We're fortunate in Florida to have a wide variety of species that can be used as baitfish, but it’s important to remember that just because a fish is small, it doesn't mean its legal bait! Not all juvenile sportfish look exactly like their adult form and can be confused with commonly used baitfish.
Unfortunately, on more than one occasion I've seen anglers keep everything they land in their net despite having juvenile sport fish among the catch. I see this happen most often with juvenile permit and pompano which can be found along our beaches and juvenile lane snappers that can be found in many locations. Even if it is unintentional, anglers can face fines (possibly per fish) and potentially jail time if caught in possession of these regulated fish. Of course from a conservation perspective, it would not make sense to keep and use these fish either as we want them to mature and reach legal size.
As a responsible angler it is important to not only be aware of and follow the fishing regulations, but to also be aware of what juveniles sport fish look like so that they don't accidentally end up as bait. Below are some examples of juvenile sportfish you might encounter if you catch bait either along the beach or estuaries. To view the current saltwater fishing regulations visit:

mangrove snapper


Spotted sea trout


Lane snapper


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Aquatic Species Educator Collection Permit Workshop, Gainesville!

seining is a great way to collect specimens!
This week I'm up in Gainesville for our annual Florida Sea Grant Extension meeting. It an opportunity for my colleagues and I to recap what we've done this past year and begin planning for the next. Last night my colleagues Dr. Maia Mcguire and Chris Verlinde who are also Sea Grant Extension Agents, and I hosted an Aquatic Species Educators Collection Permit Workshop for local school teachers as well as some of our other Sea Grant Agents who don't have the permit yet. We certified 11 educators at the workshop, who should get their collecting permits in the next 4 to 6 weeks!
The aquatic species collection permit is offered through FWC  and the Florida Marine Science Educators Association and is an excellent opportunity to Florida educators to collect and possess aquatic species for their classrooms or programs.

The workshop is available to certified Florida teachers and/or employees of educational centers. Certificate holders are eligible to collect specified aquatic species for educational purposes that would be restricted under fishing license guidelines. This Educator Certification is valid for 3 years.
During the training workshop, participants discuss collecting alternatives, benefits, collection and transport techniques, methods to minimize environmental impact, restrictions imposed by the Collecting Certificate, available resources, and related activities. Its also a great opportunity to meet and network with other educators!!!

 If you have questions about future workshops, give me a call. At the moment, I do not have any scheduled, but am keeping a list of interestered educators for the next one.