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.

Search This Blog

Sunday, February 27, 2011

NOAA Begins National Survey of the Economic Contributions of Saltwater Angling

If you live along or visit the coast of Florida, you don't have to look too far to see fishermen fishing from the shore, bridges, kayaks, or boats. Saltwater recreational fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry in the state, but what kind of economic impact does it have nationwide? NOAA fisheries is trying to answer this question. I was forwarded this press release about a national survey they are doing to determine the economic contributions of recreational saltwater fishing. Who knows, you might get a call!!

February 22nd NOAA Press Release
NOAA is again surveying saltwater anglers across the nation to update and improve estimates of the overall economic contributions of saltwater recreational fishing to the U.S. economy.

“The money that millions of recreational anglers spend on fishing trips each year produces tens of thousands of jobs and billions in sales revenue,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “This year’s survey is a chance for saltwater anglers to help NOAA get an updated, accurate picture of how recreational fishing translates into economic vitality and jobs for Americans.”
NOAA and the saltwater angling community need timely economic data to help evaluate the economic importance of recreational fishing activities. The data give a more accurate look at the economic effects of fishing regulations and changes in the ecosystem caused by natural or manmade events. The information gathered in the survey will contribute to more informed decisions on a variety of recreational fishing issues.
"By surveying the recreational fishing community, we are following through on one of the recreational fishing community's top priorities identified at the 2010 sportfishing summit," said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "The survey will ensure that NOAA and the fishery management councils have the best data when considering management actions that affect anglers.”
Throughout 2011, NOAA will survey a random sampling of the more than 15 million saltwater anglers in each of the 23 coastal states and Puerto Rico for the 2011 National Marine Recreational Fishing Expenditure Survey. The survey will include a random sampling of people who fish from shore, from docks, from party or charter boats and from privately owned boats. Field interviews have begun and will continue throughout the year. Surveying began in January in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. It will begin in the remaining Atlantic states and Texas in March and April, and in Alaska, Oregon and Washington in May. This is NOAA’s second national survey focusing on how much saltwater anglers spend on their sport.
NOAA and its state partners will ask anglers how long their fishing trips last and how much they spend on bait, boat fuel, ice, charter fees and other expenses. Anglers will also be asked to participate in a follow-up survey that will ask them to estimate what they spend on durable goods such as boats and fishing tackle used for saltwater angling for the previous 12 months. Those who participate in both parts of the survey will help NOAA produce accurate economic information.
Economists from NOAA’s Fisheries Service throughout the country as well as regional and state partners are assisting with the 2011 survey. Once the economic data are collected, they will be analyzed and released as a NOAA report. The most recent economic study in 2009 showed that anglers’ expenditures generated $59 billion in sales and supported more than 385,000 jobs.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Helping Counties Deal with Public Issues and Manage Conflict

Recently, my colleagues and I were in Palmetto, Florida teaching a workshop on managing public issues and conflict to county and municipality employees. Although we have taught this workshop in the past to other UF Extension employees, this was the first time we have taught it to outside audiences. The 2-day workshop provided training on the basics of facilitation, meeting management, and group dynamics. It also addressed the differences between a content specialist and a facilitator and provided skills, tips and tools to:
  • Convene stakeholders and the public
  • Summarize and frame issues
  • Address feelings, values, interests and positions
  • Create a process that encourages full participation in decision making
  • Recognize and address difficult dynamics in a group meetings
The training consisted of a mixture of presentations, group brainstorms, and small and large group interactive exercises designed to give participants experience in using the tools provided. We had 15 attendees, many of them managers and/or planners who routinely interact with the public.

You might be wondering why UF Extension faculty (especially me, a marine science agent) are involved in such a training. Public issues, particularly ones dealing with natural resources can quickly become contentious when diverse values, interests and views related to the issues are expressed by different individuals and groups. When these issues involve benefits and costs that are little understood, it becomes important to define the interests of the public in those issues. UF Extension, particularly in southwest Florida, is expanding beyond its traditional content-provider role and providing more public issues education to help citizens and other stakeholders make better-informed policy choices in the face of controversial issues. If you would like to learn more feel free to give me a call!
"Steps to Here" Ice breaker to help participants get to know one another

Participants play "Lost in the Jungle" to learn about group dynamics

One of many small group activities; active listening skills

Reflection activity to think about the concepts and skills learned during the day

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gag and Goliath Grouper Updates from Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

In a recent post, I discussed the interim regulations for gag grouper in federal Gulf waters. I've also shared information on goliath grouper management in the past. Both of these species are found in Southwest Florida waters, and if you are a fisherman, you know that they have both caused their share of controversy in recent years.  The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, who is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Act, and is responsible for managing fisheries in the exclusive economic zone of the Gulf of Mexico recently held its February Council meeting Feb 7-10 in Gulfport, Mississippi. I wanted to share some of the hightlights relating to gag and goliath grouper that came out of the meeting.

Source: Gulf Council February Update Press Release (2/12/2011)
Gag Grouper
The Council asked staff to prepare an interim rule for consideration during the April Council meeting that sets the 2011 recreational season for gag from September 16 through November 15. This request was made after the Council reviewed the results of a re-run of the 2009 gag update assessment. The re-run adjusted the size distribution of undersized released fish in the recreational fishery and used newly available observer
data to estimate discards in the commercial fishery. The result was a slight improvement in the total allowable catch for 2011, from 1.01 to 1.28 million pounds. That means 781,000 pounds (61%) for the recreational sector and 499,000 pounds (39%) for the commercial sector. The 781,000 pound recreational allocation allows enough catch for a two-month fall season, provided Florida adopts a consistent closed season by June 1. Without Florida consistency, it is projected the entire recreational allocation will be caught in state waters, leaving no allocation available for federal waters. The September 16 through November 15 recreational season is contingent upon Florida consistency.
For the commercial sector, a major unknown factor is the levels of dead discards due to the small amount of gag individual fishing quota (IFQ) available, and whether commercial fishermen can successfully avoid catching gag while fishing for red grouper. Because the grouper IFQ system has only been in place for one year, the commercial sector has not established a track record to demonstrate how successfully fishermen can avoid catching fish for which they do not have IFQ shares. As a result, the Council set the 2011 commercial quota at a precautionary level of 430,000 pounds. This includes the 100,000 pounds previously released via interim rule at the beginning of the year.
The Council also continued work on Draft Reef Fish Amendment 32 to establish a rebuilding plan for gag, which has been declared by NOAA Fisheries to be overfished and undergoing overfishing. Amendment 32 will be implemented in 2012 and should allow for an increase in the 2012 total allowable catch of gag, provided that the 2011 catches from recreational and commercial fishing do not exceed the levels needed to
rebuild. To help assure that the rebuilding plan stays on track, the Council directed staff to include alternatives for recreational quota closure authority for the NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator, and overage adjustments if a sector exceeds its allocation. This is similar to the quota closure authority and overage adjustments of the greater amberjack fishery, which is also under a rebuilding plan. The Council also streamlined the amendment by removing several alternatives that were intended to address bycatch, and by moving a section on data collection and monitoring programs out of Amendment 32 and into a more appropriate amendment. In addition, alternatives to increase the recreational bag limit of red grouper will be added to the amendment. Public hearings on Amendment 32 will be scheduled around the Gulf coast this spring or summer.

Goliath Grouper
The Council received a summary of a new stock assessment on goliath grouper. The assessment showed that the goliath grouper stock has clearly improved since the moratorium was implemented in 1990. However, questions still remain about the stock. For example, there is a lack of information about the basic biology of the goliath grouper, such as how long they can live. Estimates range anywhere from 37 years to 80 years.
Another unknown is whether goliath grouper change sex like gag and some other grouper species. Also, the assessment, which was conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, focused on the south Florida portion of the stock. While that area is the center of abundance, goliath grouper are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean, and information about the status of the stock in areas not covered by the assessment is lacking. Because of the biological uncertainties and the limited geographic scope of the assessment, the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee was unable to set a level of acceptable  biological catch. Instead, they recommended that the moratorium be continued through 2015, and that during this period, a coordinated scientific sampling plan be produced to address the data needs. The Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission will review the assessment during its February meeting and may consider some sort of limited harvest of Goliath in state waters.

To view the entire Gulf Council Update visit:

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Polka-dot Batfish-What a Cool Looking Fish!!

The Polka-dot batfish
(Ogcocephalus radiatus)
is the "unofficial" mascot of
 Rookery  Bay NERR
If you have ever been to the Rookery Bay Reserve Environmental Learning Center, the first thing you probably notice as you walk through the door is the giant larger-than-life model of a Polka-dot batfish staring back at you. I can honestly say, without a doubt it is the most unique fish I've witnessed since working as the local Sea Grant Agent. I've come across them several times when doing trawls within the Reserve or diving the region's artificial reefs. I thought I'd share a little background information and some pictures about this fascinating fish!

Taken from the Rookery Bay Field Guide:
This sluggish, triangular-shaped fish, which can reach up to 15 inches  relies on camouflage and slow, stealthy movements to sneak up on food. Batfish have pectoral fins underneath that help it to “walk” across the bottom. The batfish uses its esca (lure) to attract small prey towards its mouth. The esca juts out just below the rostrum (the point on the fish’s head) and wiggles or twitches to catch the attention of a small fish, crab or shrimp. Once within range, the batfish’s lips shoot forward and down to slurp up the unsuspecting meal. Several batfish species can be found in sub-tropical waters around the world, and this species is commonly caught while trawling in Rookery Bay.
To learn more about the life history and ecology of the Polka-dot batfish visit:

The colors of batfish can vary considerably depending on the
type of substrate it is sitting on. I spotted this about 5 miles off of Naples
in approximately 30 feet of water.

A good profile shot showing how the batfish uses its pelvic fins for support
Photo courtesy of Renee Wilson, Rookery Bay

I came upon this batfish near an artificial reef site
off Marco Island

A batfish caught during a seining trip. Photo courtesy of Chris
Humphrey of Barron Collier H.S.

Another profile shot. Photo courtesy of Chris
Humphrey of Barron Collier H.S.

A great view of the fish's ventral (belly) side. Photo courtesy of Chris
Humphrey of Barron Collier H.S.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Webinar Recording: "Florida's Grouper Fisheries"

Did you know that Florida fishermen harvest over 80% of the nation's grouper supply? Want to learn more?Today my colleagues and I held our 2nd Florida Seafood Safety and Sustainability Brown Bag Webinar session. The presentation, "Florida's Grouper Fishery," discussed  grouper ecology, provided an overview of  how the fishery is managed, and shared tips and resources on being a more informed consumer about Florida grouper products. To view the webinar click on the link 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 view past webinar presentations from the Florida Seafood Safety and Sustainability Brow Bag Webinar Series visit: http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/environment/sea_grant_seafood.shtml

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

We want to hear what you think!
To help us improve future webinars, we would greatly appreciate your input by completing a short online evaluation about the presentation. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7GPFFRT

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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Presentation on Climate Change Impacts on Florida's Coasts and Oceans

This morning I gave a presentation on climate change to a group of adults who are apart of the Hodges University's Frances Pew Hayes Center for Lifelong Learning
My presentation was adapted from the Florida Ocean and Coastal Council's Report entitled, "The Effects of Climate Change on Florida's Ocean & Coastal Resources."
The report was created  "to provide a foundation for future discussions of the effects of global climate change on Florida’s ocean and coastal resources, and to inform Floridians about the current state of scientific knowledge regarding climate change and how it is likely to affect Florida. It provides important information for legislators, policymakers, governmental agencies, and members of the public who are working to address, or who are interested in, issues related to climate change in Florida"

I have found it to be well-vetted, trustworthy resource that addresses Florida climate change issues in a well-balanced and easy to read manner for lay audiences. I refer to it often when  asked about Florida and climate change. If you would like to learn more you can access the entire report by visiting:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Collier Sea Grant Extension at the 3rd Street Farmers Market in Naples

For the past several Saturdays I've been setting up shop at the 3rd Street Farmers Market in Naples. The Collier County Extension office has a booth there, and all of agents and I rotate to work the booth each Saturday from December through May. We've had a booth there for at least the past three years, and it has a been a successful outreach project. We are able to share resources and provide advice to both residents and visitors who visit the market on a wide variety of subjects. In addition to an agent, there is also a Master Gardener present to answer plant and gardening questions.
When I'm at the market, I bring lots of fishing and seafood-related resources and answer questions on a variety of topics such as the use of circle hooks and dehooking tools, local fisheries and wildlife, mercury in fish and the pros and cons of farm raised vs. wild caught seafood. By far, the number one question I get is about fishing licenses and regulations. I find that many of the shoppers, both resident and visitor, are unfamiliar with who is required to have a fishing license, and what the latest changes to the fishing regulations are.
Besides answering questions, I also use the farmers market as an outlet to promote my upcoming outreach programs. Lately, I've been talking up my Seafood Seminar and Sampling Tour that takes place March 10th. For details, click here.

Captain Kirk's Stone Crabs of Naples
is a regular patron at the 3rd St.
Farmers Market.
The popularity of farmers markets continue to rise, and they are a great way to buy fresh, locally produced/harvested products and support area businesses. The 3rd Street Market, like many markets has several vendors selling  seafood. Below are some tips to help ensure you purchase fresh products, and that you protect yourself from possible contamination.
  • FRESH SEAFOOD SHOULD NOT BE FISHY: Use your senses. If the products you want to buy have overpowering strong "fishy" odors, they probably aren't as fresh as they should be. Choose something else!
  • KEEP YOUR SEAFOOD COLD: If you plan to shop around for awhile at the market, purchase your seafood last so that it remains cold especially during warmer periods. If this can't be avoided, bring a cooler or ask the vendor for bags of ice to ensure your seafood stays cool. Spoilage can rapidly occur if seafood is not properly cooled. Once your seafood makes it home, be sure to store it in the coldest part of the fridge to help maintain freshness.
  • KEEP YOUR SEAFOOD CLEAN: Wash your seafood under cold running water and pat dry with a clean paper towel before cooking to help wash away any excess bacteria that might have accumulated from the time of purchase. Also, keep your seafood away from other raw or cooked products (and vice versa) to help avoid possible cross-contamination.
  • KEEP YOUR SEAFOOD MOVING: Seafood experts recommend eating most freshly-purchased seafood within 36 hours of purchase unless you plan to freeze it. Shellfish such as clams or oysters can be kept of several days if properly refrigerated. These recommendations help ensure maximum freshness!!!
To read more about recommended safe seafood handling practices for consumers click here!

See you next week at the market!!!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Use and Benefit of Dehooking Tools

These days, because of regulations, it's almost a guarantee that if you catch fish, you will most likely have to release some of them because of a closed season, size limit, or bag limit restriction. Although catch and release fishing has proven to be a valuable conservation tool, simply releasing a fish back in the water does not guarantee its survival. Anglers must consider how their actions will affect the health and well-being of their catch if they cannot keep it. Where a fish is hooked, how it is handled before and during hook removal, and how long it is kept out of the water all play significant roles in its post-release survival.

A dehooking tool is a simple device that anglers of all ages can use to greatly increase the chances that their released fish survive. The use of a dehooking tool to remove embedded hooks can help alleviate some of the stresses and physical damage associated with catching and handling a fish. In addition, they help protect anglers from sharp hooks, spines, and teeth.
There are several types, styles and manufacturers of dehooking tools available on the market. Although costs vary, an angler can expect to pay on average between $8 and $20. Some tools have been more extensively field tested by researchers and industry than others and meet National Marine Fisheries Service’s minimal design standards.
Many anglers use pliers to remove hooks from fish, but long-shafted dehooking tools that can grab the fishing line, slide down it, and remove the hook quickly and safely are recommended because they require minimal to no handling of the fish. Furthermore, with long-shafted dehooking tools, a fish can generally be dehooked without removing it from the water, thus minimizing air exposure and further stress to the fish.
Some dehooking tools are specifically designed to remove deeply swallowed hooks in addition to external lip or foul hooks. Instructions for removing deeply swallowed hooks may differ slightly from tools that only remove external hooks. Consult with the manufacturer and/or salesperson for instructions. If you gut hook a fish and do not have a dehooking tool that can properly remove deeply swallowed hooks or are not comfortable using one, cut the leader as close to the hook as possible. The hook will eventually rust out and/or the fish will be able to expel it.
Using a dehooking tool is a relatively simple process even for novice anglers, but may require some practice to ensure it is done correctly. If you are not comfortable with using a dehooking tool, you can practice on a fish model or corrugated cardboard box before using it on a real fish. Always dehook a fish over water and never in the boat or on land as this can increase the likelihood of injury when the fish falls. In either situation, the less time the fish is kept out of the water, the less stress it will endure.
As a reminder, anglers targeting reef fish in state and federal waters of the Gulf and Atlantic are now required to use dehooking tools. To find out more about these regulations, and learn more about proper fish handling practices visit http://catchandrelease.org/

To see a video of me using a dehooking tool visit:

Monday, February 7, 2011

An expert opinion of when the Gulf of Mexico will return to pre-spill harvest status following the BP Deepwater Horizon MC 252 oil spill

A question that has and will be on the minds of many Gulf of Mexico residents is when will the Gulf completely recover from last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Of course, there's not a simple answer to this question as there are many ecological, economic, and social factors that contribute to the outcome.
I was recently sent an interesting report entitled, "An expert opinion of when the Gulf of Mexico will return to pre-spill harvest status following the BP Deepwater Horizon MC 252 oil spill" which attempts to provide an initial repsonse to this omnious question. It is written by Dr. John W. Tunnel, Jr of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Of particular interest to me are the findings relating to the impact of the spill on the Gulf's fisheries.
 Its important to note that even in the report it mentions,   "As Dr. Wes Tunnell has noted in this opinion, establishing a recovery date or time is more difficult than determining the impact from the spill itself. In fact, establishing an exact recovery time is essentially impossible." To view the entire report click here.

In summary, if potential impact scenarios stated above have not significantly impact 2010 shrimp populations and their life cycles, it is believed that shrimp catches for the brown, white, and pink shrimp in the northern Gulf of Mexico will likely continue along the same harvest trends in recent years by 2011, and even more likely by 2012. Loss of Mississippi Delta nursery habitat could cause a percentage reduction in shrimp population size until marshes recover.

In summary, because blue crab populations do not appear to have been significantly impacted by the DWH oil spill, and because they are a highly reproductive species with widespread distribution throughout the region, it is believed that their population levels will likely continue along the same harvest trends in recent years in 2011. As noted above, some local populations may be reduced by larval impacts from the oil (or oil and dispersants) or by reduction in nursery ground coastal marshes. As indicated with shrimp, this loss of nursery habitat could cause a percentage reduction in crab population size until the marshes recover.

In summary, it is believed that oysters in most areas of the northern Gulf will likely continue along the same harvest trends in recent years in 2011. In areas where oysters died as a result of freshwater diversion and flooding, oyster reefs should be recolonized by young oysters in 2011 (assuming there are no large scale flooding events in 2011), but they will not likely be of harvestable size until late 2012 or 2013. In areas where oyster reefs were heavily oiled, oyster reefs may not recover for 6-8, or even 10 years.

In summary, commercial finfish are not believed to have been significantly impacted by the DWH oil spill, except with the possibility of those in the floating fish egg stage. If the fish eggs were negatively affected for certain species, then short-term, and possible long-term consequences, are likely for those species. If recruitment classes were normal in 2010, then, the fishery will likely continue along the same harvest trends in recent years during 2011.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tips to Avoiding Fake Grouper

Grouper is one of Florida's most valuable commercial fisheries. In 2009 over 6.7 million pounds were landed in the state with an estimated dockside value of close to $18 million. Because of its economic value, popularity among consumers, and limited supply, however, grouper has also been the target of species substitution and mislabeling by some wholesalers, restaurants, and retailers in recent years. Often the substituted product is a lesser-valued fish imported from other countries. Species substitution and mislabeling is illegal! While the perpetrators who sell the product might generate economic gains in the short-run, the fraudulent act can have long-term negative consequences for the industry as well as consumers.

As seafood consumer, it is important to "know your seafood". There are several things you can do to ensure you are getting grouper you paid for and expect.

Deal with merchants that you trust.
Get to know your fish mongers and talk with them about what kind of grouper they have and where it is harvested. Any respectable business should be able to answer these questions. If still in doubt, ask to see the fish before purchasing it.

Know the appearance and texture of  grouper
When you see this logo
with the seafood you
order, it ensures, by
law, it was harvested in
Florida waters.
While individual species have unique identifiable characteristics, grouper is commonly described as a lean, white-flesh fish with a taste and texture, which is popular and distinct from most common white-flesh fish. Grouper fillets are usually thick with a firm texture. When you order grouper fried, it makes it harder to distinguish it from other species so take this into consideration. Also consider the size of the grouper you get.  Because of U.S. regulations, domestic grouper has to be a minimum size to harvest. If you order grouper and the whole fillet fits on your plate, its probably a strong indicator that its either not grouper or perhaps a grouper imported from another country.

Is the price right?
Buyers should be wary of grouper prices that are suspiciously low. Because the supply of domestic grouper is limited, the price is generally around $11 to $13 per pound wholesale fillet value, and the retail value -- the price paid by consumers -- will be even higher. Prices that are considerably lower likely mean that the fish is not grouper, but instead is a substitute species of lesser value, such as basa or Asian swai.

Report Fraudulent Acts
If you suspect the grouper you are purchasing isn't really grouper, report it! Remember, species substitution and mislabeling is against the law! To learn more about species substitution and how to report possible violations visit:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 Naples Seafood Seminar and Sampling Tour- March 10th

I'm happy to announce the 2011 Naples Seafood Seminar and Sampling Tour. If you love eating seafood and want to learn more about balancing health benefits and risks, sustainability issues, and being a more informed seafood consumer, this is the program for you!
click on the image to enlarge