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, January 31, 2011

Reminder: Gulf of Mexico Grouper Closure Starts Feb 1

Just a friendly reminder to everyone that starting February 1, the recreational harvest of shallow water groupers (gag, red, black, yellowfin, yellowmouth, scamp, rock hind, and red hind) in state and federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico is prohibeted until March 31. Many of these species spawn during this time of the year, and the closure is an effort to help protect spawning aggregations. More specifically, the closure is  intended to help rebuild Gulf gag grouper populations, which have been designated as overfished and experiencing overfishing by fishery managers. To see a press release from FWC on the closure, click here.
Because it is illegal to harvest grouper during this time period, it is important that anglers utilize proper handling and release practices to ensure any grouper they do catch, survive once released. To learn more about proper catch and release handling practices visit: http://catchandrelease.org/

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who put suds on the beach?

Have you ever gone to the beach and noticed what looks like sudsy bubbles along the shoreline? While it might look like someone attempted to play a practical joke, what you are seeing is a natural phenomena-sea foam!
Sea foam is created when particulate matter along the seafloor is churned up by incoming wave action and carried ashore. As waves break, air is trapped on the surface and forms bubbles. These bubbles become “agitated” through friction and mixing with the extracted organic material (i.e. proteins, lipids, carbohydrates etc) from the seafloor to form the white, foamy substance we see along the shoreline. In some instances inorganic material also attaches to the surface of the bubbles, and when the foam collapses in on itself, a thin film of gray-colored mud is left behind where ever the foam was deposited along the beach.
Several factors affect the kind and amount of foam present on the beach. Different kinds of particulate matter may be present depending on the time of year, which can affect the make-up of the foam. In warmer months, the source of the organic material might come from different types of phytoplankton, where in winter months the source might be macroalgae such as red drift algae. Intensity of wave action is also an important factor. With normal wave activity only small amounts of foam may be visible along the shoreline if at all. During large storms, however, foam can accumulate in piles several feet thick ,especially when the wind pushes it up against obstacles such as beach escarpments or debris.
Sea foam is usually not thought to be harmful, although there have been cases where birds have become sick by coming in contact with it due to the type harmful algal bloom-producing phytoplankton that made up the foam. There is the possibility of sea foam carrying pollutants, as been shown on freshwater surface foams, but generally, it is not considered to be a problem along beaches. On a positive note, it is thought that sea foam does act as an important source of recycled nutrients for nearby coastal waters.
Enjoy the beach!!

sea foam along a beach in Southwest Florida

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interesting Article: First Study of Dispersants in Gulf Spill Suggests a Prolonged Deepwater Fate

photo credit: NOAA
I've gotten lots of questions regarding the use of dispersants on the Gulf oil spill, and was forwarded this interesting article about a new study on the subject. The story was published in Science Daily.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2011) — To combat last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nearly 800,000 gallons of chemical dispersant were injected directly into the oil and gas flow coming out of the wellhead nearly one mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, as scientists begin to assess how well the strategy worked at breaking up oil droplets, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) chemist Elizabeth B. Kujawinski and her colleagues report that a major component of the dispersant itself was contained within an oil-gas-laden plume in the deep ocean and had still not degraded some three months after it was applied.
While the results suggest the dispersant did mingle with the oil and gas flowing from the mile-deep wellhead, they also raise questions about what impact the deep-water residue of oil and dispersant -- which some say has its own toxic effects -- might have had on environment and marine life in the Gulf.

"This study gives our colleagues the first environmental data on the fate of dispersants in the spill," said Kujawinski, who led a team that also included scientists from UC Santa Barbara. "These data will form the basis of toxicity studies and modeling studies that can assess the efficacy and impact of the dispersants.
"We don't know if the dispersant broke up the oil," she added. "We found that it didn't go away, and that was somewhat surprising."

The study, which appears online Jan. 26 in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Environmental Science &Technology, is the first peer-reviewed research to be published on the dispersant applied to the Gulf spill and the first data in general on deep application of a dispersant, according to ACS and Kujawinski. Some previous studies had indicated that dispersants applied to surface oil spills can help prevent surface slicks from endangering marshes and coastlines.

Kujawinski and her colleagues found one of the dispersant's key components, called DOSS (dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate), was present in May and June -- in parts-per-million concentrations--in the plume from the spill more than 3,000 feet deep. The plume carried its mixture of oil, natural gas and dispersant in a southwest direction, and DOSS was detected there at lower (parts-per-billion) concentrations in September.

Using a new, highly sensitive chromatographic technique that she and WHOI colleague Melissa C. Kido Soule developed, Kujawinski reports those concentrations of DOSS indicate that little or no biodegradation of the dispersant substance had occurred. The deep-water levels suggested any decrease in the compound could be attributed to normal, predictable dilution. They found further evidence that the substance did not mix with the 1.4 million gallons of dispersant applied at the ocean surface and appeared to have become trapped in deepwater plumes of oil and natural gas reported previously by other WHOI scientists and members of this research team. The team also found a striking relationship between DOSS levels and levels of methane, which further supports their assertion that DOSS became trapped in the subsurface.

Though the study was not aimed at assessing the possible toxicity of the lingering mixture -- Kujawinski said she would "be hard pressed to say it was toxic" -- it nevertheless warrants toxicity studies into possible effects on corals and deep-water fish such as tuna, she said. The EPA and others have already begun or are planning such research, she added.

David Valentine of UC Santa Barbara and a co-investigator in the study, said, "This work provides a first glimpse at the fate and reactivity of chemical dispersants applied in the deep ocean. By knowing how the dispersant was distributed in the deep ocean, we can begin to assess the subsurface biological exposure, and ultimately what effects the dispersant might have had."

"The results indicate that an important component of the chemical dispersant injected into the oil in the deep ocean remained there, and resisted rapid biodegradation," said Valentine, whose team collected the samples for Kujawinski's laboratory analysis. "This knowledge will ultimately help us to understand the efficacy of the dispersant application, as well as the biological effects."

Kujawinski and Valentine were joined in the study by Soule and Krista Longnecker of WHOI, Angela K. Boysen a summer student at WHOI, and Molly C. Redmond of UC Santa Barbara. The work was funded by WHOI and the National Science Foundation. The instrumentation was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

In Kujawinski's technique, the target molecule was extracted from Gulf water samples with a cartridge that isolates the DOSS molecule. She and her colleagues then observed the molecule through a mass spectrometer, ultimately calculating its concentration levels in the oil and gas plume. This method is 1,000 times more sensitive than that used by the EPA and could be used to monitor this molecule for longer time periods over longer distances from the wellhead, she said.

"With this method, we were able to tell how much [dispersant] was there and where it went," Kujawinski said. She and her colleagues detected DOSS up to around 200 miles from the wellhead two to three months after the deep-water injection took place, indicating the mixture was not biodegrading rapidly.

"Over 290,000 kg, or 640,000 pounds, of DOSS was injected into the deep ocean from April to July," she said. "That's a staggering amount, especially when you consider that this compound comprises only 10% of the total dispersant that was added."

Kujawinski cautioned that "we can't be alarmist" about the possible implications of the lingering dispersant. Concentrations considered "toxic" are at least 1,000 times greater than those observed by Kujawinski and her colleagues, she said. But because relatively little is known about the potential effects of this type of dispersant/hydrocarbon combination in the deep ocean, she added, "We need toxicity studies."

"The decision to use chemical dispersants at the sea floor was a classic choice between bad and worse," Valentine said. "And while we have provided needed insight into the fate and transport of the dispersant we still don't know just how serious the threat is; the deep ocean is a sensitive ecosystem unaccustomed to chemical irruptions like this, and there is a lot we don't understand about this cold, dark world."
"The good news is that the dispersant stayed in the deep ocean after it was first applied," Kujawinski says. "The bad news is that it stayed in the deep ocean and did not degrade."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Foamy Streaks on the Water...Langmuir Circulation

Chances are, if you spend a lot of time on the water, at one point or another you've probably noticed "foamy streaks" along the water's surface. I have to admit, I never knew the cause of this, but thanks to the following article written by my colleague Betty Staugler, the Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent for Charlotte County, I do now... Langmuir Circulation!!
"foamy streaks" seen at the water's surface
Have you ever wondered what those foamy streaks of scum on the Harbor are? Have you ever wondered why the bubbles seem to align themselves in streaks and not just cover the surface on windy days?

Those streaks or scum lines are due to a rather complex water movement phenomenon called Langmuir Circulation.
Langmuir Circulation was discovered back in 1938 by scientist Irving Langmuir during a cross-Atlantic voyage. Langmuir noticed the sargassum (floating seaweed) forming linear patterns on the waters surface during his journey. Upon returning home, Langmuir conducted experiments in Lake George, New York, in order to explain the sargassum formations. What Langmuir discovered was that as wind blows across the surface of the water, convection cells begin to take shape as the shearing forces of the wind push the surface water. The surface water is pushed in a perpendicular fashion to create a circulation pattern below the water. These cells begin to rotate as “tubes” of water for the length of the bay waters just below the surface and pointed in the direction of the wind. The tubes rotate in opposite directions to the concurrent tube next to it.
In simplest terms, when wind pushes a unit of water from point A to point B, more water rushes to fill point A. This causes an upwelling to occur. At point B, where there is more water than before, a downwelling occurs. This upwelling and downwelling effect, which happen over and over again, creates the spiraling tubes mentioned above.
While we can only see the surface, the evidence of this phenomena occurring lies in the two concurrent, counter-circulating tubes that clear the surface on the upwelling and concentrate floating bubbles on the down-welling. Because the two adjoining cells or tubes are rotating in opposite directions, what we see is the accumulation of bubbles, foam, and debris on the waters surface.
Next time you’re out on the water and you see the telltale scum line, look around for another. The distance between the two scum line streaks is equal to two tubes. If you position your boat on top of a scum line, the water beneath you will be moving down and downwind. As your boat drifts between two scum lines, the water beneath you will be moving up and downwind.
Langmuir Circulation can be observed on any body of water including oceans, seas, lakes, estuaries, and rivers. This phenomenon can form very quickly and last from several minutes to several hours.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recording of "Why Local Seafood?" Webinar

Today my colleagues and I held our first webinar of our 2011 Florida Seafood Safety and Sustainability Brown Bag Webinar Series. Our session, entitled "Why Local Seafood?" addressed general trends in U.S. seafood consumption, some of the environmental, social and economic benefits of choosing Florida seafood products, and resources to help consumers locate local seafood products.  To access the webinar recording, click below.

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

To make sure your computer is compatible with Elluminate Live, go to: http://www.elluminate.com/support/index.jsp and work through steps 1 and 2.

If you have connection problems, please contact Ron Thomas with UF/IFAS distance education at

To help us improve future webinars, we would greatly appreciate your input by completing a short  online evaluation about the presentation.

Don't forget to sign up for our future sessions (see the schedule below) If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Natural Resource Leadership Institute Session at Ft. Myers Beach

On Thursday and Friday, I had the privilege of being a guest instructor for the Florida Natural Resource Leadership Institute session in Ft. Myers. To give you some background, the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) is an eight month-long leadership training program offered through the University of Florida Extension Service that helps the people, industries, and agencies of Florida collaborate in achieving the often conflicting goals of protecting the environment and fostering economic development. NRLI helps rising leaders develop skills to build consensus around contentious environmental issues and move beyond conflict to find solutions. Through eight three-day sessions and a practicum exercise, NRLI Fellows gain knowledge of Florida natural resource issues, leadership skills, professional networking opportunities, and personal and social growth.
The issue addressed in Ft. Myers was balancing coastal resource use and protection-specifically, the establishment of non-internal combustion motor zones (or NICMZ) in submerged aquatic preserves throughout the coastal waters of Lee County.
On Thursday fellows (NRLI participants) were first given an overview by Dr. Bob Swett of Florida Sea Grant and Justin McBride of Lee County Natural Resources Division of how the decision to establish NICMZ was established. Later in the afternoon, the focus shifted to skills training. My colleague Betty Staugler, the Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension Agent, and I lead an exercise on group dynamics. Fellows also learned about proper agenda design from my colleague Joy Hazell, the Lee County Sea Grant Extension Agent (see pictures below).
Friday started off with a chilly, but wonderful boat tour (thank you Fish-Tale Marina for the use of the boat) of Estero Bay to view some of the designated NICMZ. The tide was extremely low, which made it very easy to see boat prop scar damage on exposed grass flats. Later, we also pulled a seine net to show fellows the diversity of marine life associated with seagrass communities. Unfortunately because of the cold we didn't get a lot of diversity in the net. However, we still were able to show the group some unique catches such as a batfish and sea hares.
After a wonderful lunch, fellows listened to a stakeholder panel about process to establish the NICMZ. I felt it was a great learning experience for all as we heard several different perspectives relating to the issue. If I learned anything from the panel, it's how important it is to include user groups in the process when deciding on policies that will ultimately affect these groups. Enjoy the pictures.
Dr. Bob Swett of Florida Sea Grant discusses
the Regional Waterway Management System  and how it is used to guide management decisions

Justin Mcbride with the Lee County Natural Resource Division discusses
dredging priority areas within the County's waters

Joy Hazell, Lee County Sea Grant Agent chats with NRLI fellows on the importance
of proper agenda design for public meetings dealing with contentious issues.

NRLI fellows participate in "Lost In The Jungle" an activity that addresses group dynamics and behaviors

I discuss with fellows the concepts of task and maintenance functions- 2
important components of successful group interactions

Betty Staugler, Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension Agent talks with
the NRLI fellows about the "Groan Zone", which is a normal part of group meetings.

Beautiful Estero Bay on a sunny chilly morning

Heather Stafford, Aquatic Preserve Manager with Florida's Department of Environmental Protection
shows fellows a map of where the designated NICMZ are in Estero Bay.

Joy, Betty, and I sporting our lovely waders as we prepare to pull as seine net through the chlly water!

Seining in Estero Bay (we're on the north side of Lovers Key State Park)

Fellows hear from a stakeholder panel about their involvement in the process to establish NICMZ in Lee County
From left to right (Bob Leonard-fishermen, Heather Stafford-FLDEP, Steve Butell-Lee County Government, Al Durret-owner Fish-Tale Marina, and Rob Modyss-fishing guide)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Marine Fisheries Regulations Workshop a Success!

 Today my colleagues and I held our 2nd marine fisheries regulations workshop, which I felt was a major success. The workshop was intended for park rangers, resource managers, and educators who commonly interact with saltwater anglers in the region. The goals of the workshop were to:
1) Improve the audience's knowledge and understanding of current marine fisheries regulations and increase their ability to communicate with anglers about these rules, and
2) Increase the local network of agency staff capable of identifying and reporting marine fisheries violations.

I co-taught the workshop with Joy Hazell, the Sea Grant Extension Agent in Lee County and Lt. Mitts Mravic of FWC law enforcement. We had approximately 50 participants representing local, county, state and federal agencies in addition to not-for-profit organizations, and private industry. Workshop topics included:
  • Updates to state fishing regulations
  • Goliath grouper science and management
  • Federal gag grouper regulation changes
  • FWC law enforcement updates and discussion
  • Sustainable fishing practices
  • Gulf of Mexico seafood safety
  • Tarpon genetics recapture study
 I should note that some of the topics presented didn't directly deal with fisheries regulations, but we decided to include them (ie. oil spill update and sustainable fishing practices) based on feedback we received from a 6-month follow up survey sent out to last year's participants.
Recipients received resource folders and will be provided with all of the presentations so they can share the information with others. Participants were also given pre/post tests to assess their short-term knowledge gain on the topics presented as well as evaluations to assess the overall quality of the workshop. I'm proud to say that post scores on average increased by 35.6%! If you would like a copy of the presentations as well, don't hesitate to contact me. Enjoy the rest of the pictures!

Emily Muehlstein with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council discusses
with the group her role as the Council's new outreach coordinator
I provide participants with information on the new federal gag grouper regulations
Lt. Mitts Mravic discusses gill net cases he and other officers have been involved with in recent months

Sea Grant Agent John Stevely was kind enough to help us show participants how to dehook a fish

Workshop participants try their hand and using a dehooking tool.

Sea Grant Agent Joy Hazell educates the class on goliath grouper management issues
Workshop participants on average increased their post test scores by 35.6%

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Overview of the Collier County Recreational Boating Characterization Study

 Do you boat in Collier County? Do you remember receiving a survey from Florida Sea Grant in 2008/2009 asking about your boating destinations, activity prefernces, etc? The information you provided was for a study characterizing the boating activities of recrerational boaters in the County's coastal waters. Below is an overview of the study and its importance.
Why was this study conducted?
Collier County faces the difficult yet critical challenge of sustaining economic viability while maintaining the integrity of its coastal environmental resources. Waterway access improvements and recreational boating needs figure prominently within this multifaceted challenge. To meet the challenge, the County recognizes the need for pertinent and accurate information concerning on-water activities that is obtained using the best technology and scientific methods. To accomplish this undertaking, the Florida Sea Grant CollegeProgram in conjunction with the Florida Fish and WildlifeConservation Commission, Collier County's Coastal Zone Management Department, and the University of Florida CollierCounty Cooperative Extension Program conducted a recreational boating characterization study from 2008 through 2009.
The goals of the study were to:
1)Determine the preferences, activities, and needs of boaters who use Collier County’s access facilities (including residential docks) and waterways, and
2) quantify and map their use of public access facilities and waterways over the course of a year.
 How was the study implemented?
The input of boaters was important and, therefore, a map-based mail survey was conducted. Vessel, vehicle, and boat trailer registration numbers were collected at area marinas and boat ramps over the course of a year and used to obtain boaters’ names and mailing addresses from the State’s Vessel Title Registration System (VTRS). The names and mailing addresses of Collier County boaters who lived on the waterfront were obtained from County tax records and compared to the VTRS. To adequately capture seasonal variations in boating patterns and activities, three waves of the map-based questionnaire were mailed to boaters: the first in the summer of 2008, the second in the fall/winter of 2008-09, and the third in spring 2009. A random sample of 7,700 boaters received the map-based questionnaire and 2,057 of them completed and returned it. On the map, survey recipients marked the origins of their two most recent recreational boating trips in Collier County, drew their associated travel routes, and identified boating destinations and primary activities they engaged in along these routes. They also marked areas of perceived congestion and where they would like additional access to waterways. In addition, descriptive data about their trips, including preferences for selecting trip departure sites, destinations, and travel routes, favorite
activities, vessel types, and the timing, duration, and frequency of trips was collected and linked to the mapped data.
 What kind of information was generated from the study?
1. Characteristics of boaters who use Collier County waterways for recreation
2. A profile of the types of recreational vessels that are used on Collier County waterways
3. A description of the types of recreational activities that occur on Collier County waterways
4. A description of waterway access facility amenities preferred by boaters
5. A summary of principal waterway-related problems and needs as perceived by boaters
6. Spatial data formatted within a GIS that can be used to map: (i.e. service areas for Collier County boating facilities, departure or launch sites, water-based boating destinations and associated activities, trip routes that define where boaters travel on the water, areas of perceived waterway congestion, areas where  additional waterway access is desired

 Why is this study important?
As demand for the use of Florida’s waterways increases, so does the need for enhanced public access, public safety, and environmental protection. There is, however, little information available to resource managers and planners that describes the preferences and use patterns of the boating community. Information obtained from this study can enhance resource management and planning applications, and contribute to educational products that can improve boating experiences and encourage resource stewardship.
Potential applications include:
  • Categorization and spatial representation of boater departure sites, routes, and destinations to address community concerns regarding waterway access, maintenance, signage, and facility sitings
  • Comparison of boating information with other spatial (GIS) data layers (for example, environmental features, development patterns) to help guide resource and public safety management
To view the entire 133 page study, click here.


Monday, January 3, 2011

New Florida Saltwater Fishing Regulations Available

The 2011 Florida saltwater fishing regulations are now available just in time for the new year. As you may or may not know, the state's fishing regulations are updated twice a year-January and July. Regulations may change in between these times, of course, and it is the responsibility of each and every angler to be familiar with and follow the changes.
The fishing regulations can be found at most tackle shops and online at: http://www.myfwc.com/RULESANDREGS/SaltwaterRules_index.htm

If you are not familiar with how to find recent regulation changes, just look for the sections highlighted in yellow. For instance, recent changes for this latest edition include:
  • Snook fishery statewide is closed until Sept 2011
  • The regional 10-day blue crab harvest closures will occur every other year instead of annually. For south Florida the closures will occur during odd years so our next closure will be July 10-19, 2011
  • Snook and Spiny Lobster permits have increased in price; Snook permits are now $10 (five-year permit is $50) and Spiny lobster is $5 (five-year permit is $25)

Note the highlighted sections denote recent changes in the regulations.