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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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hurricane Season is Around the Corner: Boaters-are you prepared?

Don't let this
happen to your boat!!
Tomorrow marks the beginning of what experts from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center predict to be an above-average hurricane season for 2011.
  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)
 Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. 
Although it has been several years since a major storm has hit Florida's coast, Floridians should not take for granted this lull and be prepared if a storm does hit. In general, now is the time, if you don't already have one, to put together a plan for you and your family. To learn more about preparing a hurricane plan visit: ready.gov
Boaters, in particular, need to make sure they know how to secure their boat in case a hurricane approaches. Not doing so can result in the loss of your property, potential injury or death, and even unnecessary environmental destruction. The key to protecting your boat from hurricanes or any threatening severe weather is planning, preparation and timely action.

  • Prior to the hurricane season, develop a detailed plan of action to secure your vessel in the marina, if permitted, to remove your boat from the threatened area, or to take your boat to a previously identified hurricane refuge. Specifically identify and assemble needed equipment and supplies.
  • Hurricane moorings should be located in advance. Permission should be obtained from appropriate persons. For keel boats, make certain there is enough water at low tide.
  • A practice run should be made to check accessibility, depth of water, bridges, location of aids and/or obstructions to navigation and locations to secure lines or drop anchors. According to a Florida statute beginning in 1993, drawbridges will not open for boats during evacuation procedures.
  • Before a hurricane threatens, plan how you will remove valuable equipment from the boat. Determine how long it will take so you will have an accurate estimate of the time and work involved. After you have made anchoring or mooring provisions, remove all movable equipment such as canvas, sails, dinghies, radios, cushions, biminis and roller furling sails. Lash down everything you cannot remove, such as tillers, wheels, booms, etc. Seal all openings (use duct tape) to make the boat as watertight as possible. Make sure the electrical system is off unless you plan to leave the boat in the water. If the boat is not to remain in the water, remove the battery to eliminate the risk of fire or other damage.
  • Arrange for a reliable person to learn and carry out your hurricane plan if you are out of town during a hurricane or severe storm. Check your lease or rental agreement with the marina or storage area. Know your responsibilities and liabilities as well as those of the marina or storage area.
  • Consolidate all documents including insurance policies, a recent photograph or video tape of your vessel, boat registration, equipment inventory, lease agreement with the marina or storage area, and telephone numbers of appropriate authorities, such as the harbor master, Coast Guard, insurance agent, National Weather Service, etc.
  • Keep the documents in your possession in a locked water-proof box. They may be needed when you return to check on your boat after the hurricane.
  • Maintain an inventory list of both the items removed and those left on board. Items of value should be marked so that they can be readily identified.

 To learn more about preparing your boat for hurricane season visit:

Friday, May 27, 2011

FMSEA/FWC Educator Aquatic Sepcies Collection Workshop

Yesterday I hosted an Aquatic Species Educators Collection Permit Workshop for marine educators at the Cedar Point Environmental Park in Englewood. What a beautiful property!! I highly recommend you check it out if you get a chance. Fourteen formal and informal educators from around Southwest Florida attended the training. Following the workshop we did some seining and dip netting in nearby Lemon Bay. It was my first time there, and I was not disappointed. We caught an amazing diversity of species including spotted sea trout, sheepshead, snook, southern puffer, pipefish, spot, northern sennet (a first for me), Atlantic needlefish, pinfish, pigfish, mojarra, siverside spp., bay anhcovy, blue crab, pink shrimp, horseshoe crab, lightning whelk, tunicates, mud crab, and hermit crab. It was a great reminder how productive seagrass communities are. I think the participants had a great time. I know I did!!
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/volunteers of educational organizations. 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 interested educators for the next one. You can also go to the FMSEA website (www.fmsea.org) to see a list of upcoming workshops in other areas. Enjoy the pictures!!

Checking out a juvenile spotted sea trout

A small needlefish

Lightning Whelk

Holding a blue crab

This was the largest snook I've caught in a seine net

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions about Catch Shares

Image credit:
Captain Tom Marvel
In the past several months, a lot of attention has been placed on the topic of  using individual fishing quotas (IFQs), or catch shares to rebuild or nation's fisheries. Like many other management decisions, catch shares have not gone without their "share" of controversy. You don't have to look too far in the newspapers,  trade journals, or online forums to see that many fishermen are not fans of this management approach. As with other controversial issues, there may not always clear-cut solutions, but, its important to refer to reliable, science-based information before making any decisions. I want to share with you an excellent resource from Louisiana Sea Grant that helps answer some frequently asked questions about catch shares. The following information can be found on their website at: http://www.lsu.edu/seagrantfish/faqs/catchshares.htm

What is catch share management?
Catch share management is an umbrella term which encompasses several programs including limited access privilege programs (LAPPs), individual fishing quotas (IFQs), and territorial use rights fisheries (TURFs). This type of management permits each catch share holder to harvest a percentage of the total allowable catch for a fishery.

Can catch share management function without limited entry?
Since a catch share is required for harvesting, catch share management does limit entry. However, most catch share programs allow transferability of catch shares through sales and/or leases, providing the opportunity for both entry into and exit from an industry.

What is driving the push for catch share management?
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSRA) mandates that annual catch limits be set to end overfishing for the following: all stocks subject to overfishing, by 2010; all other stocks, by 2011. In the National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2008 Status of U.S. Fisheries, 41 species are noted as being subject to overfishing. In the Gulf of Mexico, this included red snapper, greater amberjack, gag, gray triggerfish, and pink shrimp. Building upon fishery management plans that were implemented under previous administrations, the current administration is encouraging the use of catch share management in an effort to reach the mandates of the MSRA.

Is catch share management new? If not, where has catch share management already been used?
Some confusion exists over whether or not this is a new type of management. However, various forms of catch share management have been in place in the U.S. since 1990. As of 2009, 13 programs under the classification of catch share management are in place in U.S. commercial fisheries, and an additional four programs are to be implemented in 2010. Related programs have been used since the 1980s in other countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, and Canada.

Why are alternative management plans being sought?
In addition to addressing overfishing per the MSRA, Fishery Management Councils may have additional objectives that will improve a fishery. For instance, a Council might be faced with eliminating the “race to fish” or derby style fishing that can occur when only a total allowable catch (TAC) exists for a certain stock. In that situation, many fishermen harvest with the thought process of “Whatever I don’t catch, someone else will” until the TAC is reached. Such a harvesting strategy can result in increased bycatch, flooding the market with the product at a very specific time of the year, and willingness to harvest in dangerous conditions. By providing fishermen with a guaranteed portion of the TAC through use of catch shares, many of these consequences may be avoided, as observed in fisheries that have already adopted catch share management. As well, economic research has shown that fisheries with catch share management tend to be more profitable than when they were managed under other programs.

What is the difference between a total allowable catch (TAC) and a catch share? Or, what sets a TAC, and what sets a catch share?
Another source of confusion arises when differentiating between a TAC and a catch share. A TAC relies on biological stock data to determine the allowable catch or harvest, usually on an annual level. A catch share simply represents the proportion of a TAC that each catch share holder is permitted to harvest. For example, if a TAC for a species is set at 100 tons and an individual has a 2 percent catch share, that individual would be allowed to harvest two tons of that species.

Is catch share management designed to reduce a TAC?
No, catch share management pertains to the allocation of an existing TAC, which is based on existing stock assessment data. Generally speaking, catch share management should eventually lead to an increase in a TAC. As a fish stock improves, the TAC would increase, resulting in each catch share representing a greater portion of the total. This represents one of the novel aspects of catch share management, with regards to providing an incentive for a fish industry to not exceed its TAC. As a result, fishers directly benefit by adhering to fishery management and being good stewards of the resource. Referring to the example in the previous question, if the TAC increased from 100 tons to 200 tons, the individual with a 2 percent catch share would then be allowed to harvest four tons of that species. However, if a fish stock worsens, the TAC would decrease to reflect this, and so the amount available to harvest with a catch share would also decrease.

Some of the benefits of catch share management, as with other types of management, are directly associated with a cost or drawback. Therefore, we address both benefits and drawbacks together.
One benefit of these programs is the rebuilding of fish stocks. This includes not only the targeted species but also bycatch species, as fishing tends to be more selective and efficient. However, a greater incentive for highgrading occurs when harvesters are no longer in the “race to fish.” Also, initial allocation has been based on historical catches in many instances. Anticipation of catch share management can prompt fishermen to increase harvest levels, so they would receive a higher proportion of the initial allocation. These increased harvest levels only exacerbate existing stock conditions.
As mentioned, fishing tends to be more selective and efficient under catch share programs, and this potentially can result in increased revenues per boat and increased boat yields. Some of the increase in boat yields may be attributed to a decrease in the number of vessels operating in an industry. Nonetheless, excess fleet capacity is reduced, contributing to a more efficient industry.
With catch share programs, seasonal restrictions are often reduced or removed, and this contributes to more stable and full-time employment (FTE). However, while FTE may increase as fishermen are able to harvest with longer seasons, industries often observe job losses in the part-time sector. In addition, with a longer harvesting season, the cost of enforcement may increase in response. Finally, the reduction or removal in seasonal restrictions combined with the assurance of the ability to fish with catch shares allows fishermen flexibility in when to harvest, so the need to fish in unsafe conditions is minimized.
A final drawback to catch share management arises from confusion over catch shares as a property right. The draft NOAA Catch Share Policy sheds light on why catch shares are not truly a property right. “The granting of catch share privileges to an entity is not made in perpetuity. The MSA defines a LAP as a permit, issued for a period of not more than 10 years, which will be renewed if not revoked, limited, or modified.”

How are catch shares allocated?
Catch shares are often initially allocated based on historic catch levels, referred to as a “granting” of a share. An annual participation fee, such as a license fee, is typically still required. Another allocation method is auctioning the shares. Some programs have combined the two approaches.

Why do some programs allow trading of catch shares?
Trading of catch shares, either through sales or leases, allows for entry/exit in the industry and the potential for a more efficient outcome than the initial allocation provided. Trading in these programs is optional, so the decision to remain in an industry rests with the catch share holder. As catch share management evolved, concerns over consolidation of shares arose, and newer programs are usually designed with restrictions on the total percentage of shares that one entity can hold.

Will catch share management be required for the recreational industry?
Currently, catch share programs in the U.S. have only been implemented in the commercial industry. NOAA recognizes that catch share management is not a one-size-fits-all tool, but the eight Fishery Management Councils are encouraged to consider catch share management as an option. Catch share management is not being federally required for either the commercial or recreational sector.

Where can additional information on catch share management be found?
On NOAA’s Web site, information on current and proposed catch share programs is available. Also on the site, NOAA has posted a draft policy on catch share programs in December 2009, and individuals are able to comment on the policy through early April 2010.
Follow this link: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/domes_fish/catchshare/index.htm
These FAQs also appear in the Louisiana Sea Grant Forum -                                                http://sg-server.lsu.edu/forums/showthread.php?tid=8&pid=21#pid21. Registered forum members can leave questions and comments concerning topics.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Recording of "Florida's Snapper Fisheries" Webinar

Did you know 15 species of snapper inhabit the coastal and marine waters of Florida? Did you know that approximately 90% of commercial snapper landings in the state come primarily from three species? Want to learn more?
Today I delivered the fourth session of my colleague and I's
Florida Seafood Safety and Sustainability Brown Bag Webinar Series. The presentation, "Florida's Snapper Fisheries," discussed snapper ecology and life history, provided an overview of how the fishery is managed, and shared tips and resources on being a more informed consumer about Florida snapper products. To access the recording, click on the hyperlink 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

We want to know what you think!
To help us improve future webinars, we would greatly appreciate your input by completing a short online evaluation about the presentation.

To listen to recordings of past webinar sessions, visit:
Don't forget to sign up for our future sessions (see the schedule below) If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu

Afterschool Marine Science Program: Rookery Bay Trawl

Yesterday we wrapped up the second field trip of afterschool marine science program with migrant students from Marco Island Charter School. We went out in Rookery Bay to do a trawl. The students seemed to have a blast as they got to see and hold several cool marine critters. The tide was ripping, which hindered the trawling a bit, but we still managed to bring in a decent hall. The catch of the day was a cow-nosed ray. It was a first for most of the students. Besides that, the catch was dominated by invertebrates. The students didn't seem to mind as they got to examine several sea stars, brittle stars, tunicates, comb jellies, moon jellies, crabs, and a sea hare up close. Although we didn't get many other fish, we did get a hogchoker, which I haven't seen in awhile. We also caught several spot, and I was so happy that my students remembered what it was from last week's field trip.  To see their expressions, and hear their comments made me realize how important these field-based hands-on learning experiences are no matter one's age or economic status. It was a profound reminder of why I'm in this field. Well, enough chatting, I thought I'd let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

My first ray caught in the trawl

I let the students feel the ray's skin, which they though was very cool!

comb jelly anyone?

What does a sea star feel like?

Sea stars made up the largest portion of our catch.

The kids really enjoyed watching the sea star's tube feet move.

Her smile says it all!

Showing the group the remains of  a couple moon jellies.

A very small sea hare

The students enjoyed watching the sea hare move in my hand

A student taking a picture of one of the spot we caught

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sawfish in Peril Workshop at the Florida Museum of Natural History

Today I had the privilege of spending the day at the Florida Museum of Natural History for an educator workshop on sawfish. The workshop was put on by the Museum's Florida Program for Shark Research (FPSR), and they did a fantastic job!! Of course, any program where George Burgess speaks has to be good!

 Just a little background, sawfish are a type of elasmobranch, which include sharks, rays and skates. They are characterized by a long, flattened, toothed "saw" or rostrum, a flattened head and trunk, and a shark-like appearance and manner of swimming.  Habitat destruction and overfishing have caused global sawfish populations to plummet in past decades. The IUCN lists all seven species critically endangered. The smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) is one of two species that can be found in Florida waters, and it too has seen rapid declines in the past. In fact it is the first marine fish species to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act. Its current range is primarily limited to the coastal waters off southwest Florida. It is illegal to catch, harm, or harass a sawfish. However, both commercial and recreational fishermen still catch sawfish while fishing for other species. The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team have developed guidelines for fishermen that explain how to safely handle and release any sawfish they catch. For example...What is the safest way to release a captured sawfish?

Sawfish Safe Release Guidelines
If hooked:
Keep the sawfish in the water at all times
•If it can be done safely, untangle the line if it is wrapped around the saw and remove as much of the line as possible.
•Cut the line as close to the hook as possible.
•Do not handle the animal or attempt to remove any hooks on the saw unless you have a long-handled dehooker.
If tangled in a net:
•Make every effort to free the animal from the net with minimal additional stress or injury.
•Keep sawfish, especially the gills, in the water as much as possible.
•Try to remove all the netting and release the animal quickly.

Be sure to look for the program's educational signage at boat ramps, marinas, and other water access points in the region.

Of equal importance is reporting any encounters you have with sawfish, whether you catch one yourself, or just see one. Remember, they are endangered species, and any information you can provide is invaluable to recovery efforts. As quoted by the museum, "sawfish sighting reports are a very important tool for the monitoring of the population. They assist in the evaluation of the species abundance and habitat range, helping us not only to estimate the population size but also to identify their habitat preferences. As a result, the sawfish sighting reports are vital for the success of the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan." 

The National Sawfish Encounter Database (NSED) is housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History and keeps track of sawfish encounters around the country. Anyone who encounters a sawfish can fill out their sawfish reporting form or contact George H. Burgess or John Waters at (352) 392-2360.

For more details on reporting sawfish encounters visit:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group: Recommendations for Resource Recovery

Recreational fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Gulf of Mexico, and like many other user groups, recreational fishermen are concerned about the long-term health and recovery of the Gulf of Mexico's precious natural resources following last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I was recently forwarded an email with a very interesting report that highlights recommendations made by a coalition of  recreational sport fishing groups on Gulf resource recovery efforts. I've included an excerpt from the report's introduction, but recommend you check out the entire document at the link below.

"The Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group (GSRFRG) was formed in January 2011 to compile ideas and recommendations directly from the sportfishing community in the Gulf of Mexico region regarding responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This report from the Response Group reflects input gathered directly from saltwater recreational angling interests in the region as well as from experts including academics and state and federal officials associated with recreational fisheries management in the region. (A list of participants is in the Appendix.) The GSRFRG’s report outlines the consensus priorities for investments participants believe should be made to restore the quantity and quality of recreational fishing opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico that existed before the spill. Mindful of goals that have been set by Gulf State governors, members of Congress and the president to go even further with ecosystem restoration (to baselines that existed long before the spill) the Response Group offers ways to manage and improve Gulf marine resources that transcend near-term restoration to offer longer-term systemic improvements.  Through the support of The Walton Family Foundation, the GSRFRG was facilitated by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP). This report was drafted based primarily on stakeholder meetings in the Gulf region but also from input gathered outside of these meetings. Between the regional meetings and the additional input (e.g., contributions from individual anglers, recreational fishing organizations, sportfishing business representatives, academic experts, and state and federal resource managers) multiple perspectives were captured...."
To view the entire report, go to:
Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group: Recommendations for Resource Recovery

Friday, May 13, 2011

Afterschool Marine Science Progam: Field Trip to Tigertail Beach

Yesterday was the first of two field trips I'm doing for my  afterschool marine science program with migrant students. We explored the lagoon at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island, which is always a hit with any group I've taken there. This time was no exception. Their level of enthusiasm and excitement among these students was amazing! Granted they were hesitant to get wet at first (especially in the lagoon where the water tends to be murky), but towards the end, it was hard to get them out of the water. Since we've been learning about estuaries, I thought a visit to Tigertail would be a great chance for them to see first hand what we've been discussing. The tide was low, and the fiddler crabs were out on the exposed mudflats by the thousands. The students had an absolute field day following them around! Next, we did a little seining, which is always one of my favorite activities. This was a first for most of the students. I had the kids try to identify what they caught in the net using some make-shift field guides I created. They did an excellent job. Their catch included bay anchovies, silversides, pinfish, mojarras, spot, pipefish, spider crab, shrimp, comb jellies, and a code goby. Our original plan was to also seine along the beach so we could compare and contrast diversity between the different communities, but the kids seemed so interested in the lagoon, we stayed in there and did some exploring. They found several horseshoe crabs, crown conchs, and lightning whelks in addition to a blue crab, and plenty of worm egg cases. Although we didn't have a lot of time, we did finally make it to the beach so the kids could say they had officially stepped foot in the Gulf of Mexico!! Enjoy the pictures.

A little pre-seining instruction so everyone knows what to do

Hauling in the day's first catch. It was VERY hazy outside!

A closer view of a fiddler crab

Can you name that fish?

close-up examination of a comb jelly

Trying to ID fish

Checking out the seagrass

There were no shortages of fiddler crabs at the lagoon

One of many small horseshoe crabs found

A view of Tigertail Lagoon from the beach

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NOAA, FDA continue to re-test Gulf seafood and post results online

I was just sent this press release from NOAA regarding Gulf seafood safety that I thought you'd find interesting.

Dear NOAA Fisheries Stakeholders:
NOAA continues to re-test seafood from the Gulf of Mexico to demonstrate to American and worldwide consumers, that it is safe to eat. NOAA announced today that it will continue this retesting into the summer and that sampling in the last closed area is underway. "Gulf seafood is consistently passing FDA's safety tests by a wide margin," said Eric Schwaab, NOAA's Administrator in charge of NOAA's Fisheries Service. "We are continuing to test, and we are making the data available to the public so they can make fully informed purchasing decisions."
The nearly 500 samples in the two rounds of post-opening testing are comprised of more that 4,300 fish and shrimp, since a sample consists of multiple individuals. They are a representative sample of the commercially and recreationally important fish in the Gulf, and cover the 87,481 square miles of the Gulf that have been reopened to fishing. The specific locations, dates of sampling, species type, and test results are available publicly for each of the samples (scroll down the page). Read full announcement here.

Laurel Bryant
NOAA Fisheries - External Affairs Director

Friday, May 6, 2011

International Circle Hook Symposium Day 2

My expectations continue to be exceeded at the International Circle Hook Symposium in Coral Gables, FL. Yesterday I heard several excellent presentations relating to the use of circle hooks in recreational fisheries as well as circle hook and human dimension issues. Of interesting note was a presentation by Dr. Dan Schill from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He was the only speaker to address circle hooks in freshwater fisheries. His research looked at the effectiveness of passively and actively using circle hooks in trout fishing. If you aren't familiar with circle hooks, the typical method is to let the fish "do the work" meaning, you don't set the hook when the fish strikes like when fishing a j-hook. Once the fish takes the bait, you are suppose to simply reel in the fish. He and his colleagues found that setting the hook (with a circle hook) actually yielded similar if not better catch rates than doing it the recommended way. In addition the circle hook continued to hook fish in the corner of the mouth like a circle hooks is suppose to do. Now granted this is one study that only looked at fishing for one particular group of fish, but its very interesting to think that there may  be other effective means of fishing with circle hooks than what is currently recommended. I'm interested to see if more research on this topic comes out in the future, particularly with marine fish. I would suspect the fish type, its feeding behavior, and fishing style would all influence the outcome!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

International Circle Hook Symposium Day 1

I'm writing from Coral Gables, FL where I am attending the first International Circle Hook Symposium. Yes, there is actually a conference dedicated just to the circle hook! So you are probably asking why?
Well, I thought the organizers of the conference said it best....
The goal of the symposium is to produce an updated, science-based assessment of the management and conservation utility of circle hooks in commercial and recreational fisheries around the globe. Note that the symposium is not a venue for advocating widespread use of circle hooks. Rather, our objective is to provide a forum for individuals, organizations and agencies to share relevant research results and perspectives and to subject their findings to peer-review through publication in an internationally-recognized scientific journal.
This exchange of information in an interactive forum is an essential step for developing much-needed uniformity in circle hook terminology, research approaches, and data analyses as well as for fostering greater collaboration among the international scientific, management and conservation communities. Relevant themes as they relate to circle hooks include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Historical and regional perspectives
  • Empirical field studies
  • Ecological and population impact assessments
  • Fishery management evaluations
  • Socioeconomic research and analyses
Over 150 attendees from 20 countries are attending the Symposium. I'm here representing Florida Sea Grant. We are one of the conference sponsors, and I also have a poster abstract that got accepted. Our Keynote speaker was Dr. Steven Cooke of Carleton University in Canada. He is one of the most recognized researchers associated with catch and release research. He gave a very interesting presentation on scientific and stakeholder perspectives of using circle hooks in recreational fisheries. While circle hooks in general have been shown to be an important conservation tool especially when it comes to reducing incidents of gut hooking in both fresh and saltwater fish species, they are not considered to be a panacea for reducing mortality in released fish. Several factors ranging from hook style and size to target species an angler behavior can all influence the effectiveness of circle hooks.
The rest of the afternoon we heard several presentations relating to research on circle hooks in  commercial longline fisheries from different parts of the world. Granted some of it was too technical for my brain to process, but nonetheless it was interesting.

Check out this 27/0 Circle Hook! It was one of the largest circle hooks ever designed. It was used for a National Geographic project on sharks.

Here's me standing next to my poster on Florida Sea Grant's outreach efforts on educationg recreational fishermen on circle hooks.

Afterschool Marine Science Program: Fish Ecology and Fisheries

Yesterday I wrapped up my third week of my afterschool marine science program with migrant students at Marco Island Charter School. Although we had a smaller class than normal, it was a great class. We covered my favorite topic, fish! I brought in several fresh and preserved specimens to discuss "cold reading" fish based on their physical features (i.e. mouth position/shape, fin shape, color, body shape etc). I find it to be a great way to discuss how fish interact with their environment and other species. The kids had the opportunity to analyze some fish of their own, and I was impressed how well the did. I also opened up a ladyfish and a juvenile bull shark so they could check out the internal anatomy of fishes as well. I have to thank Captain Jesse Karen of Mad Snookin Charters for keeping some fish for me as well as Pat O'Donnell, a fisheries biologist at Rookery Bay for providing the shark and preserved specimens. Following this exercise we played a game called Casting for Conservation where students tried to catch fish cutouts using magnets. Once they "caught" a fish, they'd have to identify it, measure it, and then look up the fishing regulations to see if it was a legal fish to keep. Its a great exercise to teach about fish identification and fisheries management. Finally we wrapped up the day with some sampling of shrimp as a way to emphasize the importance of seafood to our diets, culture, and economy! Next week we start our field trips!! Enjoy the pictures!

A close up examination of a preserved scorpionfish

Determining what type of swimmer a fish is based on the shape of its body and caudal fin

Casting for the "Big One"

Redfish seemed to be the catch of the day

An important part of being an ethical angler is measuring your fish to ensure its legal to keep

Once students measured their fish, they had to look up the fishing regulations to see if it was legal or not to possess

Trying to find out if the black drum he cuaght was legal (it was!)

What better way to end the day than by having some shrimp cocktail!