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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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Great Goliath Grouper Count: 2012 Collier Results

Well the good news is that my colleagues and I were able to complete a third year of surveys for the Great Goliath Grouper Count (GGGC). The bad news is the weather wasn’t cooperative, and we weren’t able to survey as many sites as in the past two years. In addition, the number of grouper we counted was much lower than in past years, which could be in part to the poor visibility we had to deal with this year.

The GGGC  is a collaborative outreach project between Florida Sea Grant and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission  to provide a regional “snapshot “ of goliath grouper presence and minimum abundance on artificial reefs throughout  the region in a relatively short time frame (ideally one week). The concept came from the National Christmas Bird Count done through the Audubon Society.  Volunteers  collect fundamental fisheries information  that help researchers characterize the size structure of goliath grouper within the study area and compare  abundance and size distribution to habitat features, depth and region.  Besides Collier County, surveys are conducted from Lee through Pinellas Counties in Southwest Florida, and off Taylor and Bay Counties in the Big Bend and Panhandle region. Beginning in 2011, we also had survey teams off the east coast of Florida near Palm Beach County.  I am always quick to point out that this project is by no means a substitute for a formal stock assessment, as it is not comprehensive enough in scope, but it certainly can help provide managers and researchers with additional information they can use when assessing the health of the recovering goliath grouper population in Florida.

Highlights of this year’s GGGC in Collier County

·          Nine divers and two boats only surveyed  seven of the twelve designated Collier sites  due to rough weather conditions

·         Because of the weather the surveys were spread out over a week’s time period instead of the normal two day time frame.

·         The depths of the sites surveyed ranged from 30 to 80 feet

·         Four of the sites sampled were ship wrecks, two were radio towers, and one was a rubble pile

·         The number of goliath grouper present at each site ranged from one to twelve.

·         A minimum of 49 goliath grouper were counted at the seven sites (Avg 7).  As a comparison, last year we counted a minimum of 128 grouper on 10 sites (Avg 12.8).

·         Of the 49 grouper that were counted, one was estimated to be less than three feet, 28 were estimated to be between three and five feet, and 20 were estimated to be greater than five feet.

I will be sure to share the results from the rest of the project as soon as I get them.

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