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, October 31, 2011

Seafood in the American Diet

Image credit:
Katie Semon, NOAA
 Can you remember the last type of seafood you ate? There is a good chance your neighbors were eating the same kind! Despite estimates that 300-500 different species of fish and shellfish are sold annually in the U.S, an astounding ten species make up approximately 90% of what American consume on a year to year basis. To get more specific approximately 55% of the seafood Americans consumed in 2009 was limited  to only three species: shrimp, canned tuna, and salmon!
America's top 10 list has been fairly consistent over the past decade with the notable exception of tilapia, which has increased steadily since 2002 and scallops and flatfish (flounder and sole), which has moved in and out of the top ten during this time frame. Pangasius (aka Basa or Swai), a freshwater catfish primarily imported from the Mekong River delta in Vietnam, has also moved onto the list in the past two years. If you'd like to see how the top ten list has changed over the past several years visit:

In addition, the U.S. per capita consumption of seafood in 2010 was 15.8 pounds, slightly less than the previous two years. In comparison, the U.S per capita consumption of other popular food items are as follows:
  • Red meat: about 110 pounds each year
  • Poultry: approximately 75 pounds each year
  • Dairy products: over 600 pounds each year
  • Vegetables: over 400 pounds each year
  • Fruits: over 250 pounds
  • Flour and cereal: almost 200 pounds
Statistics show that Americans eat twice as much cheese and almost equal amount of apples, watermelon, and turkey as they do fish and shellfish annually.

How does your seafood consumption compare???

Food Consumption Reference: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 Statistical Abstract, Health & Nutrition: Food Consumption and Nutrition.

Seafood Supply and Commercial Fisheries Reference: National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gear Profile: Turtle Excluder Devices

One of the major threats to sea turtles is the incidental capture, injury, and/or death associated with interactions with fishing gear. In the 1970s, scientists noted a reduction in sea turtle populations and, following the enactment of the Endangered Species Act, some species of sea turtles were listed as endangered. Subsequently, over many years, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to determine causes for these reductions. In the 1980s, they determined that shrimp trawls contributed to sea turtle mortality. Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) in shrimp trawl nets were developed and tested throughout the 1980s and ‘90s in efforts to provide safe methods for turtles to escape almost as soon as they were caught in the net.

Technologically, a TED is a grid in the neck of a shrimp trawl net, which has an opening in the bottom or top mesh to allow a turtle caught in the net to escape. When turtles and other large animals are caught at the mouth of a trawl, they bump into the grid bars and slide through the opening in the mesh. Shrimp and other small animals pass through the bars of the grid into the tailbag or cod end of the trawl net. NOAA Fisheries has been able to show that TEDs are effective at excluding up to 97 percent of sea turtles with minimal loss of shrimp. Over the years, several designs of TEDs have been approved and used. Changes continue to be made, often due to input and support from the shrimping industry.


Current rules require that shrimp trawlers fishing in state and federal waters of the southeastern U.S. (South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters) use one of several NOAA approved TEDs. Since 1990, TEDs or some comparable apparatus/activity have also been required in foreign shrimp fleets that export wild caught shrimp to the U.S. Programs are now in place in approximately 15 countries. Also in 2002, NOAA Fisheries, at the request of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, proposed that all Gulf shrimp vessels be required to carry a permit to trawl in federal waters.

To learn more about the regulatory history of TEDs visit: http://www.lsu.edu/seagrantfish/management/TEDs&BRDs/teds_history.htm
Adapted from: http://www.lsu.edu/seagrantfish/management/TEDs&BRDs/teds.htm

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Lesson on Stone Crab Processing

As part of my "Are You Smarter than a Stone Crab?" program, I took my class down to Everglades City to visit Grimms Stone Crabs Inc, a locally owned fish house to learn about the commercial stone crab fishery and its importance in Collier County. We met with Justin Grimms who helps run the business along with his father Howie Grimms. As usual he did a fantastic job explaining what its like to work in the industry and how they operate on a day to day basis. Justin showed the class how they process stone crab claws once they are brought in by local fishermen.  
After weighing the uncooked (also known as "green") claws, they are placed in large baskets that can hold up to 375 pound of claws s and cooked at  212 degrees for eight minutes. Immediately after cooking, the claws are placed in a vat of cold water to bring the temperature down to about 64 degrees. This process prevents the meat from continuing to cook inside their shells. Next, the claws are topped with ice and placed in a cooler overnight where they will be individually weighed and graded by weight the next morning.
To give you an idea of how the claws are graded:
Medium: 6-7 claws per pound
Large: 4-5 claws per pound
Jumbo: 2-3 claws per pound
I think it was a first time experience for many of participants, and the fact that many of them bought claws from the Fish House's retail market, I'd say it was a positive one! Enjoy the pictures!
Justin Grimms welcomes my class

Justin explaining how claws are processed once they brought in by the fishermen
A student asking Justin how claws are graded
Justin shows the group a batch of uncooked or green claws
A very useful crusher to help break up claws for customers

Examining a claw up close
Justin showing the group how claws can continue to move even after being removed
A batch of freshly cooked claws put on ice
Owner Howie Grimms taking the temperature of a recently cooked batch of claws

Two batches of claws sitting in the fish house's cooler
Participants buying claws from the Grimm's retail store

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2nd Annual 4-H Mock Marine Ecology Event

Last night, my Sea Grant Extension colleagues Joy Hazell, Betty Staugler, and I hosted our 2nd annual 4-H Mock Marine Ecology Event (MEE) for 4-H students in Collier, Lee, and Charlotte Counties. We put on the event to help them prepare and review for the State 4-H MEE that is held in Orlando in December. The MEE is a competitive event that provides 4-H youth with an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the marine and aquatic worlds. Students test their skills at identifying an assortment of marine and coastal plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates in timed sessions. They also have a scavenger hunt section where they match a series of clues to a set of specimens.  I've been involved with this program for several years now in one way or another, and am always amazed with the knowledge that these students have about or marine world. They list of specimens they have to learn in quite impressive, and as a marine educator, its refreshing to see youth take such an interest to the subject. Enjoy the pictures! If you would like to learn more about the 4-H Marine Ecology Event visit:

Sea Grant Agent Betty Staugler shows a 4-Her a batfish

students match the lettered specimen (in this case coquina clams) to the corresponding number on their answer sheet

4-Hers hard at work

Collier County 4-H Agent Tish Roland helps a young 4-Her read her specimen list.

Looks like confidence to me!

A 4-Her checks out a basket sponge

Can you name that invasive fish species?? (If you said lionfish, you are correct!)

Identifying fish

Sea Grant Agent Joy Hazell shows a student a rather large mullet

At the end of the night we go over the answers with the students.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Red Tide and Seafood Safety

In the past several weeks there has been a developing red tide bloom (caused by the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis) off the coastlines of Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee Counties.  Fish kills have been reported in association with the bloom offshore and along the shoreline particularly in Charlotte and Lee Counties. While K. brevis has not been detected in water quality samples taken from Collier County waters, these events tend to generate a flurry of concerns about the safety of eating seafood harvested from affected waters.
Fortunately finfish caught in or near affected areas are safe to eat, if they are caught live and filleted. Eating fish that are dead or dying is strongly discouraged as the exact cause of death or illness cannot be known for sure. Crabs and shrimp are also okay to eat because the toxins produced by K. brevis are not absorbed into the edible tissues of these animals (so all you stone crab fans out there can continue enjoying your meals).
However, it is not safe to eat bivalves (clams, mussels or oysters) from areas with red tide. These type of organisms are filter feeders and can filter the toxins given off by K. brevis into the their tissues. These toxins in turn, can pose a health risk to consumers. The State of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACs) close shellfish beds in red tide areas quickly and will not reopen them until the shellfish are safe to eat. To check the status of regional shellfish beds visit: http://shellfish.floridaaquaculture.com/seas/seas_statusmap.htm

Another resource concerned citizens can use is the Florida Wildlife Research Institute Red Tide Status Line.  Callers can call (866) 300-9399 (toll-free inside Florida only); or (727) 552-2448 (outside Florida) to hear a recording detailing red tide conditions throughout the state. FWRI updates the recording each Friday by 5 p.m. after sampling efforts for the week have been completed and analyzed. To learn more visit: http://myfwc.com/research/redtide/events/status/statewide/

Sunday, October 16, 2011

National Wildlife Refuge Week Kids Fishing Clinic

I'm proud to say that my colleagues and I had another successful kids fishing clinic in celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week. This is the fourth year we have offered the clinic,which is held at Port of the Islands Marina. We invited approximately 50 migrant students from Immokalee and E. Naples to participate in this wonderful event. I can't think of a better example of true collaboration among various community organizations to provide a wonderful fishing opportunity for local underserved youth.
First off, a big thanks goes to Fish Florida for donating fishing poles for the kids to take home with them. If you aren't familiar with this great organization, I highly recommend you visit their website at http://www.fishfloridatag.org/ to learn more about how they support youth fishing opportunities in Florida.
The students rotated through five skills stations (casting, knot tying, know your tackle, fishing regulations, and the good angler) managed by members of the Marco Island Sport Fishing Club, staff from 10,000 and Panther National Wildlife Refuges, and FWC law enforcement. As always, they did a first-class job educating the young anglers.
After the stations the students fished along the marina's sea wall. Collier County Parks and Recreation donated live shrimp, which worked well. The kids caught several fish including mangrove snappers and mojarras. In fact, several kids took home fish! We also had an alligator show up, and on more than one occasion it stole the kid's shrimp, but I don't think the students minded.
Following the fishing, the students were split into two large groups. While one group ate lunch (donated by Port of the Islands Marina) the other half went on manatee tours donated by Double R's Fishing and Eco-Tours and Manatee Sightseeing Eco-Tours. Then the groups switched. I can't thank my volunteers and partners enough for their time and commitment. This program would not be possible without their support. I know we had a great time, and I think its a safe bet to say the kids did too!!
dehooking practice

Know your regulations
learning how to cast

Its all about being a "good angler"

knot tying

Learning how to identify fish
Hands on practice

Learning about our local National Wildlife Refuges
Fishing Time!

Nice snapper. It was a keeper!
A striped mojarra for dinner!

Our "little" visitor
Time for a manatee tour

Enjoying some lunch after a hard day of fishing
The gang!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Give a Stone Crab a Proper Break!

Arrows point to muscle tissue hanging from a
stone crab claw that was improperly removed.
Image credit: FWC
October means the start of stone crab season, which means many recreational fishermen will try their luck at catching their own crabs. Besides following the seasonal, size, and bag limits, one of the most important things a fisherman can do to help conserve this resource is learning how to correctly remove the claw(s) from his/her catch.

Stone crabs, like other crabs, naturally lose claws from time to time, and the survival rate is close to 100%. In the fishery, however, survival depends greatly on fishermen correctly removing the claws. If the joint linking the body to the claw is left intact, a stone crab has a good chance of surviving and regenerating its claw. After a claw is removed, a thin layer of tissue called the diaphragm instantly acts as a seal to close the wound and stops any bleeding. Claws should never be twisted off as this can result in muscle being torn from the crab’s body. Instead a claw should be removed with a quick, downward snap at the body/claw joint to ensure the diaphragm can work correctly.  

Despite what many people think, it is legal to remove both claws of a stone crab if they both meet the minimum size requirement of 2 and ¾ inches.  Removing both claws, however, will reduce the likelihood of the crab being able to defend itself, and will increase the amount of time it takes to obtain food. The more a crab eats, the more energy it will have to re-grow new claws. A healthy adult crab can regenerate a lost claw in about a year, but it takes up to three years for it to approximately reach its original size. Often the largest crabs won’t even fully regenerate their claws because of their relatively old age. For a full listing of the recreational stone crab regulations visit: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations/stone-crabs/. Happy crabbing!

The arrow is pointing to a new claw bud forming.
Image credit: FWC

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Amberjack Tagging Study

University of Florida Researchers Need Your Help!
Researchers with the UF Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program are currently tagging amberjacks to examine the seasonal pattern and rates of movement of this fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This project is being done in collaboration with recreational guides, and recreational and commercial fishers.
To date there have been some interesting results. Although some amberjack move great distances, most tend not to move much. An interesting observation has been that amberjack caught in deeper water (greater than 150 ft), appear to have the ability to “self vent”.  They have a strong thick swim bladder that is reinforced by a strong rib cage. When rapidly brought to the surface and the swim bladder bursts, only a small hole is produced that releases gas out the gill openings and mouth (sort of like a blow out valve).   Under similar conditions, reef fish with thinner, weaker swim bladders tend to rupture like an over inflated balloon and flood the body cavity with case.  This bloating can prevent the fish from being able to swim back to the bottom.

Fish are tagged with a yellow external anchor tag.  If you catch a tagged amberjack, please take note of:

1.      Tag number (a four digit number)

2.      Date and location of capture (GPS latitude and longitude coordinate would be great)

3.      Measure the fish fork length to the nearest mm or 1/8th inch

 For information on submitting this information got to:  http://fishweb.ifas.ufl.edu/amberjack/

Monday, October 3, 2011

Commercial Fishing Gear Profile: The Bandit Rig

Image credit: Capt. Tom Marvel
A common type of gear used by commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic include electric or hydraulic reels known as bandit rigs. Bandit rigs are commonly used to target reef species such as grouper, snapper, triggerfish and/or amberjack. The gear gets its name from the resemblance to slot machines (aka one-armed bandits) found in casinos. Vessels typically have two to four bandit reels on board. A typical bandit reel is attached to the gunwale of the boat and consists of a fiberglass reel that holds about 1,000 feet of cable; an L-bar or spreader, which keeps the leader from tangling with the main line; a pulley to feed the cable from the reel through the L-bar; a fiberglass arm; and an electronic or hydraulic reel motor. Fishermen typically use circle hooks baited with live or cut bait, and one line can have several hooks on it. Depending on the species being targeted, fishermen can either allow their lines to sit and soak for a short time period before reeling them up or bring up their catch up every time a bite is felt. Bandit gear is fairly selective, and because it is constantly tended to, there is little bycatch associated with this fishing method. The gear also has little to no impact on sensitive bottom habitats.

South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Grouper and snapper (on deck) brought up using bandit gear
Image credit: Capt. Tom Marvel
Two red grouper caught on one line of a bandit rig
Image credit: Capt Tom Marvel