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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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Involve Youth in Fishing??

In recent decades there has been an alarming trend of children becoming more disconnected from nature than in past generations. The ramifications of this situation can have long lasting effects on youth's physical, mental and even spiritual health. According to Dr. Berry Brazelton, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, "the tragedy we are facing in this generation is that there is no time for children to explore, to play, to go outside…. outdoor play lets children find themselves, find out what they're like as people, find what works, and what doesn't work."

Reconnecting Youth with Nature
Getting youth hooked on fishing provides an excellent learning experience and an easy way of getting them outside and interested in the natural world. Children are naturally curious and the more they are exposed to their surrounding environment the more they will want to probe, poke, investigate, and inquire about it. In addition to the fish they catch, they get the opportunity to see, first-hand, the abundant diversity of wildlife associated with our fresh and saltwater environments. Fishing can also serve as a direct spring board to getting kids excited about science, reading, social studies, art, and P.E.

Development of Life Skills and Knowledge
Fishing experiences provide opportunities for children to develop important life skills and knowledge. For instance, teaching a child how to tie a fishing knot or hit a target while casting can improve hand-eye coordination as well as build self-confidence and esteem. As any experienced angler will tell you, fishing also teaches the value of patience. Often, children get frustrated if they do not catch a fish immediately after throwing a line in the water, but given enough opportunity, their patience will improve. It is hard to miss the excitement on a child's face when he/she lands their first catch; an experience they are not likely to forget.

Critical Thinking Skills
Over time youth will also improve their ability to think critically as they learn to study the waters they're fishing, or decide upon the best lure or bait to use for the fish they target. These skills will not only enhance their future fishing experiences but will serve them well in school and throughout their lives.

Quality Time Together
In our modern, fast-paced society, it is sometime easy to forget the value of slowing down to relax and enjoy life. Quality time with family and friends is often overlooked as we rush to accomplish our next task. Consider the value of taking a child fishing and enjoying time spent together, or the benefit of children interacting with one another as they learn more about the sport. These experiences can long-lasting impacts.

Development of Stewardship-Minded Anglers
Fishing is and will continue to be an integral part of Florida's economy and heritage. However, it would be naive to think that fishing doesn't have its impacts. A vital component to any child's exposure to fishing must include the importance of conservation and stewardship such as:
·         Proper catch and release techniques
·         Waste disposal
·         Water quality
·         Habitat protection
Do not wait until they are adults for them to learn how fish are managed, why there are regulations, what factors contribute to water pollution, or how even individual actions can impact our natural resources. Not only are they more likely to stay involved in fishing, but they're also more likely to take an active role in protecting our fisheries and surrounding environment.
"Who will be around in 50 years that will be seriously concerned about environmental conservation? Having resilient ecosystems is a necessity for human health and we as a society need to protect our ecosystems in ways that are sustainable and durable"
-Dr. Howard Frumkin, Director, Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health

Keep these tips in mind when exposing children to fishing:

Have patience:
The younger the child, the more likely they are to get distracted easily. Don't get frustrated if they do not want to stay in one spot or lose interest quickly if the fish aren't biting.
Don't break the piggy bank:
Fishing gear can get incredibly expensive, but there's no need to purchase top-of-the-line equipment with all the accessories and gadgets. Make sure the gear is appropriate for the size and age of the child. Live or frozen bait will probably be your best bet starting out. If you are not sure what to purchase, check with a local tackle shop.
You don't need to take a child to far off exotic locations for a good fishing experience. A neighborhood lake or shoreline is more than sufficient to get them started.
Come prepared:
Consider the tolerances and needs of your child when fishing. Make sure you and they have sunscreen, hats, glasses, water/food and any other essential supplies that will keep you both safe and comfortable.
Learn together:
Fishing is a continuous learning experience. Take the time to learn about fishing and the environment with your child. It's a great way to spend time together and get more involved.
Ask for help:
Don't be afraid to ask locals about learning how to fish. We are fortunate to have several avid anglers, guides, fishing clubs, and tackle shops in our area. They will be more than happy to help you and your child. In addition there are numerous on-line resources available to learn about knots, fish identification, tackle, techniques and conservation.
Wherever you fish, take time for you and your child to explore the surrounding environment. Bring along a dip net to investigate other types of life living in the water.
Demonstrate responsible fishing practices in front of your child. For example, if you see trash or discarded fishing line, pick it up and use this as an opportunity to teach about stewardship.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wild vs. Farmed Shrimp: The choice is yours

I often get questions about the sustainability of shrimp and other seafood so I thought you'd like to see the content from a fact sheet that my colleague Dr. Lisa Krimsky, the Miami-Dade Sea Grant Extension Agent, and I recently created.....

"Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s shrimp-kabobs, shrimp Creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. "

With this quote, Bubba— the now ubiquitous Forrest Gump character and namesake of a seafood restaurant chain, illustrates America’s obsession with shrimp. Since 2001, shrimp has topped the Top 10 most popular seafood list. For more than a decade, Americans have consumed more shrimp than any other type of seafood and the amount of shrimp that Americans are consuming continues to rise. In fact, in 2009 Americans ate an average of 4.1 pounds of shrimp per person, nearly twice the per-capita consumption in 1990.

Shrimp are also Florida’s most valuable and popular seafood. Approximately 80% of the shrimp landed in the United States are warm-water shrimp from the Gulf and South Atlantic region. Three commercially important species of penaeid shrimp occur on both coasts of Florida: white, pink and brown shrimp. In 2010, white shrimp, Litopenaeus setiferus ,dominated the catch in the Atlantic whereas pink shrimp, Panaeus duorarum, were the primary catch in the Gulf. Rock, royal reds, and North Florida hoppers are also harvested in Florida waters.

The size of Florida’s annual crop is primarily determined by weather and annual fluctuations in shrimp production are normal. However, competition from foreign imports and increased fuel and operating costs have contributed to declines in domestic landings over the past decade. The average annual harvest from Florida for 2000-2010 is more than 20 million pounds and worth an average of $40 million. Despite healthy and sustainable stocks, America’s love affair with this tasty crustacean is exceeding U.S. domestic supply. Prior to 1979, domestic shrimp landings accounted for more than half of the U.S. supply of shrimp. Consumer demands for shrimp now exceed domestic supply and imported shrimp are continually becoming a growing contributor to U.S. shrimp supply.

America's appetite for shrimp is now so large that only about 10% of the shrimp eaten in the U.S. comes from U.S. waters. The remaining 90% are imported from other countries and the majority of these shrimp are grown in aquaculture. The U.S. imports shrimp from 125 countries globally. Six countries dominate the market (Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, Vietnam, China and Mexico) however more than 30% of imported shrimp comes from Thailand. In 2009, the U.S. imported 1.2 billion pounds of fresh and frozen shrimp valued at $3.75 billion dollars. This drastic influx of low-priced imported shrimp product has become significant competition for the wild domestic fisheries.

Where does the U.S. import its shrimp from? Source: NMFS
A Troubled Past
Shrimp fisheries
Wild shrimp are often caught with shrimp trawls. Trawling gear includes a funnel-shaped net held open by heavy doors when deployed. A tickle chain in front of the net scrapes the seabed and scares shrimp up and into the net. Depending on the type of trawl and the weight of the chain, bottom trawls may damage essential bottom habitat by scraping and ploughing the seafloor, resulting in varying degrees of habitat loss and degradation.
By design, trawling gear is highly non-selective and is responsible for excessive levels of bycatch of non-targeted species. Bycatch may include juveniles and undersized fish, sea turtles and other biologically important species. Research from the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic shrimp trawl fisheries indicate that up to 84% of commercial catch may consist of bycatch.

Shrimp aquaculture  

Image: www.fishfarming.com
Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms, and like land-based agriculture, it is bound to have some effects on the environment. Aquaculture is responsible for augmenting the global demand for shrimp and may have positive potential by reducing the pressure on wild populations and limiting environmental damage as a result of trawling. However, adverse effects associated with aquaculture may include habitat destruction, effluent discharge, and chemical contamination. Aquaculture first became profitable for shrimp in the 1970s and commercial production has since grown into a global enterprise. Unfortunately, growing market demand from the 1980s - 1990s led to an explosion of small-scale farms; many of which were started with little to no foresight or planning. Improper siting of ponds resulted in considerable environmental damage and the clear-cutting of ecologically important mangroves. In Thailand and Asia, large shrimp operators avoided mangroves since degradation of the coastal zone makes aquaculture more difficult and abandoning ponds becomes extremely costly. Instead, 40% of the small-scale operations are responsible for the loss of mangroves and a disproportionate amount of the environmental degradation .
Globally, shrimp farming is responsible for less than 10% of the loss of mangroves, yet the industry has borne the brunt of the criticism. This is because in certain regions the impact to mangroves has been much greater; Thailand for example cleared 64% of it’s mangroves for shrimp farms.
Intensive shrimp farms, those with high stocking densities, are responsible for discharging effluents (pollutants) from fertilizers, feces, and excess artificial feed. These effluents can contribute to a high organic load which may pollute and eutrophy surrounding coastal waters. Chemicals used in shrimp culture are minimal, though the use of antibiotics is of concern because of the emergence of resistant bacteria.
Lastly, in some countries (Ecuador for example) post-larvae used to stock grow-out ponds are harvest from the wild as opposed to being grown in hatchery facilities. While the impacts of these practices is not documented, removal of wild larvae may have adverse effects on the recruitment of wild shrimp populations in those areas.

A Turtle Excluder Devise:
 Image-Lousiana Sea Grant
You’ve come a long way, baby
Shrimp Fisheries: Florida The regional councils that manage both of Florida’s commercial fishing industries, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, have established fishery management plans for shrimp designed to reduce bycatch, minimize gear conflicts, and manage over-harvesting. In Florida, Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) are required for penaeid (white, brown, and pink) shrimp trawls in the federal waters of the Gulf and South Atlantic regions.
Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) have been required on trawl nets since 1988. A TED is a grid of bars fitted into the net of a shrimp trawl that allows small animals to pass through the bars and larger animals to eject through an opening at either end of the bars. The use of TEDs eliminates the incidental catch of marine turtles and larger marine animals while retaining smaller catch species.
In conjunction with TEDS, shrimp trawls are outfitted with Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs). BRDs allow for the release of finfish and other non-targeted species , while the targeted shrimp species is maintained and directed toward the cod end of the net. Certified BRDs reduce the bycatch of finfish by at least 30% by weight (in the Gulf of Mexico) or demonstrate a 40% reduction in the number of fish (in the South Atlantic).
Management Councils are also limiting the impact of shrimp trawls on bottom habitat by identifying essential areas and prohibiting trawling in these areas. For example, the rock shrimp fishery has been prohibited by the South Atlantic Council to trawl in areas off the coast of Florida to protect the deep water coral Oculina.
Shrimp Aquaculture
In the late 1990s, growing awareness of increased ecological problems resulted in pressure and criticism from consumer countries and NGOs. Governments started to implement stronger regulations and global organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recognized the need for developing and implementing best management practices for aquaculture industries. FAO developed the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Article 9 of the Code is devoted to aquaculture development. A further example is the development of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, "an international non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture." As a result, recent advances have made significant reductions in the environmental impacts of shrimp farms. In the industry, there is a shift in using semi-closed or closed-culture systems during the grow-out phase. These systems have minimal water exchange with the natural environment and will reduce the amount of pollutants entering the system. Large-scale farmers are continuing to site ponds away from mangrove habitats whereas small farms are joining cooperatives and pooling resources, thereby sharing knowledge and resources whilst reducing impacts.
Shrimp farmers are moving away from intensive systems and overstocking. They are learning ways to fight diseases and are using improved feeds that make their productions more efficient and less damaging.

Consumer Choices
Stronger regulations and recent advances in technology and have made wild and farm-raised shrimp
good choices for informed consumers. Not only is shrimp a beloved seafood choice for Americans, but shrimp is low in calories and saturated fat, and a good source of protein, calcium, iron, selenium and vitamin B12.
Consumers who purchase local Florida shrimp can be assured that they are supporting local industries and that the stocks are healthy, sustainable and well-managed. Delicious Florida shrimp can be found fresh or frozen year round. Imported farmed shrimp offers a cheaper alternative for families and many farms are now being certified as sustainable by third-party regulators.
Whatever you decide, the important thing is that the choice is yours. Since 2005, the USDA has enforced the mandatory labeling of seafood. By law, all retailers must ensure that seafood commodities are properly labeled with the country of origin and the method of production (wild-caught or farm-raised). If you’re uncertain, ask your fish monger. Informed consumers now have the tools necessary to choose whether they purchase wild or farmed-raised and whether they want local or imported seafood.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

 National Marine Fisheries Service Fish Watch

 South Atlantic Fishery Marine Council

Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

 Boyd, C. and Clay, J. 1998. Shrimp Aquaculture and the Environment.
Scientific American, 59-65.

 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

About recreational shellfish harvesting in Southwest Florida

In many northern coastal states it is common for individuals to harvest shellfish such as clams and oysters for their own personal consumption. Although not as prevalent, recreational shellfish harvesting is legal in Southwest Florida, but there are specific guidelines about where and when harvesting is allowed and how many can be taken. Shellfish regulations are established and enforced to protect human health and also to preserve the living marine resources and ecosystem within which they exist.

Shellfish harvesting areas (SHAs) are established, monitored, and managed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Division of Aquaculture. Because shellfish such as oysters and clams are filter feeders and can harbor potential contaminants that pose health risks to humans, several water quality standards must be met before FDACS can designate an area for harvesting. Within a SHA, there are several water classifications. The public is only allowed to harvest shellfish from approved or conditionally approved waters. 

Before visiting a SHA, it is always recommended to check with FDACS before harvesting to ensure the area is indeed open. Heavy rains, red tides, and other events that can potentially introduce elevated levels of contaminants can result in temporary closures. To find the status of a SHA visit www.floridaaquaculture.com, click on "Shellfish Harvesting," and then "Daily Status." The open/closed status of SHAs in Southwest Florida is also available from the FDACS shellfish field office in Punta Gorda by calling (941) 833-2552. 

 Recreational Shellfish Regulations
In order to legally harvest shellfish, a valid saltwater fishing license is required. In addition to knowing where legal harvesting of shellfish is allowed, recreational harvesters must also be aware of size and bag limits and seasonal closures associated with shellfish.

  • Minimum size limit: 3 inches
  • Bag limit: 2 bags per person or vessel, whichever is less, per day (1 bag = 60 lbs., or two 5- gallon buckets, whole in shell).
  • All oyster harvesting is prohibited during July, August and September with the exception of Dixie, Levy, and Wakulla Counties where harvest is prohibited during June, July and August. All harvest is also prohibited when allowable harvesting areas are closed.
  • Minimum size limit:1-inch thick across the hinge.
  • Bag limit: one 5-gallon bucket per person or two per vessel, whichever is less, per day. There is no set closed season, but all harvest is prohibited when allowable harvesting areas are closed.
NOTE: The harvesting of bay scallops south of the Pasco/Hernando County line is Illegal!
For more information on recreational shellfish regulations visit: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations/

Conditionally Approved Shellfish Harvesting Areas in Southwest Florida 
(Collier-Charlotte Counties)

Ten Thousands Islands SHA in Collier County. Click on the map for a larger view.

Pine Island Sound SHA in Lee County. Click on the map for a larger view.

Gasparilla Sound SHA in Lee/Charlotte County. Click on the map for a larger view.

Commercial Clam Leases
Within the Ten Thousand and Pine Island Sound SHAs, aquaculture lease areas are established for the production of hard clams. Leased from the State of Florida, the corners and perimeters of these areas are marked with PVC pipes and signage. Cultured shellfish are protected by law; harvesting is prohibited except by the leaseholder. Anchoring within these areas is also restricted.

A Word About Vibrio vulnificus...
Although clams and oysters are delicious and provide many nutritional benefits, there can also be potential risks associated with consuming them. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that can cause severe illness or death to at-risk people who eat raw shellfish. The bacteria is found naturally in warm coastal waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico, and bacteria levels can increase during summer months. Vibrio vulnificus is NOT a result of pollution, and can be found in waters approved for shellfish harvesting. The bacteria does NOT change the appearance, taste, or odor of shellfish.  To learn more about Vibrio vulnificus, and how to minimize risks associated with it visit: http://www.issc.org/client_resources/Education/English_Vv_Risk.pdf

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Forget sharks.....I'd be worried about your toilet!!

Perhaps no other creature on Earth invokes as much fascination, bewilderment and fear at the same time as the shark. Unfortunately the notion that all sharks are "man-eating machines" is unfounded, and in many cases has resulted in the unwarranted deaths of countless species. While it is thought there are over 400 different species of sharks worldwide, only about 30 have been reported to attack humans. In the Gulf of Mexico only four or five out of 30 or so species are even considered a potential risk to humans. With this being said all shark species, whether large or small, are formidable predators and should be treated with respect when encountered.
So what exactly are the chances of being attacked by a shark? Fortunately there is just the resource to help answer this question and many more relating to shark attacks-The International Shark Attack File (ISFA).  The ISFA is a compilation of all known shark attacks worldwide  that is administered by the the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History. The site provides you with a variety of interesting resources that I think you will enjoy!

As mentioned by the ISFA...
"The chances of being attacked by a shark are very small compared to other animal attacks, natural disasters, and ocean-side dangers. Many more people drown in the ocean every year than are bitten by sharks. The few attacks that occur every year are an excellent indication that sharks do not feed on humans and that most attacks are simply due to mistaken identity...Worldwide there is an average of 50-70 shark attacks every year. The number of attacks has been increasing over the decades as a result of increased human populations and the use of the oceans for recreational activity. As long as humans continue to enter the sharks' environment, there will be shark attacks."

To give you a better idea of the relative risk of being attacked by a shark compared to other risk, the ISFA staff has compiled some fascinating statistics on the topic, which might surprise you. I've provided the screen shots of  some of the statistics they have. To see the complete list visit:

click on the screen shot to link you to the web page 

click on the screen shot to link you to the web page

click on the screen shot to link you to the web page

I want to point out that in 1996 there were 13 shark attacks and deaths in the United States. In the same year, there were 43,687 reported injuries associated with TOILETS!!!!!!!!! It makes you wonder why all the fuss about sharks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fresh Grouper at the Docks!

Today I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time when I made a field visit to a local fish house in Naples. Two local commercial grouper fishermen had just arrived at the dock to unload their catches. Because of rough weather offshore, they were forced to cut their trips short and return to port. While their catches were smaller than normal, they still had around 1000 pounds each of mostly red grouper (there was also some red snapper mixed in the batch). Both of these fishermen participate in the Gulf of Mexico's red snapper & grouper/tilefish Individual Fishing Quota System (aka catch shares). Catch shares is a general term used in several fisheries management strategies that dedicate a secure share of fish to individual fishermen, cooperatives or fishing communities for their exclusive use.  After speaking with the fishermen they said they enough shares left for another one or two full trips (roughly 5,000-6,000 pounds  for each trip). While most of the grouper brought to this fish house usually stays in the local area or perhaps various operations on Florida's east coast, a large portion of today's catch was destined for Canada. (I was told by the fish house manager that since there aren't as many people in Naples in summertime the local demand for grouper isn't as much). I made this short video to show you the process of how the grouper is unloaded and handled before being shipped off to its next destination.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Common Coral Species Associated with Southwest Florida's Hardbottom Communities

A red grouper over natural hardbottom

Much of the shallow continental shelf off Southwest Florida consists of unconsolidated sand and shell rubble substrates overlying a limestone baserock. Isolated tracks of natural hardbottom ledges and rock outcroppings as well as artificial reefs are interspersed throughout the region providing suitable substrate for coral colonization. Unlike many of the corals found in the Florida Keys, corals that are associated with Southwest Florida's hardbottom communities, do not construct living reefs. They typically form isolated colonies.

These corals and other associated biota including macroalgae, tunicates,  sponges, hydroids, and bryozoans contribute to the productivity of Southwest Florida's unique hardbottom communities. They help provide structure, protection, and food  sources for a variety of fish assemblages and invertebrates including recreational and commercially important species such as red grouper (Epinephelus morio ), gag grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis ),  and Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria ).
Examples of hard coral species typically found on natural and artificial hardbottom communities in Southwest Florida include Knobby Star Coral (Solenastrea hyades), Starlet corals (Siderastrea spp), Robust Ivory Tree Coral (Oculina robusta), Tube Coral (Cladocora arbuscula) and Hidden Cup Coral (Phylangia americana).
Knobby Star Coral is one of the most common hard corals found on nearshore natural hardbottoms in Southwest Florida. Their colonies have lobated heads with irregular bulges on the surface, and range from a few inches up to two feet in length. Colors range from yellow-brown to cream to tan. The polyps can often be seen feeding during the day.
Starlet Coral colonies form irregular rounded domes and mounds and vary in color from golden-brown and brown to gray. Colonies can range from a few inches to several feet.

Robust Ivory Tree Coral colonies are less common than the star and starlet corals. Coral colonies form large busy, tree-like structures with a thick base. Colonies can reach close to three feet in length and tend to be yellowish brown.

Tube Coral colonies form small densely branching clumps with fine ridges running their length. Colonies are usually only several inches and range from tan to golden brown to dark brown in color.

Hidden Cup Coral colonies form small encrusting groups of polyps less than an inch wide.They are found on the undersides of ledges or encrusted onto the surface of outcroppings and typically yellowish to reddish brown in color.

Examples of soft corals found in Southwest Florida include the Colorful Sea Whip  (Leptogorgia virgulata) and the Regal Sea Fan (Leptogorgia hebes). Unlike the hard corals, they exhibit a variety of vibrant colors.

Colorful Sea Whips form long straight, stiff, moderately-branched stalks. They can range from yellow to orange to lavender or purple. Their highly visible polyps are translucent white.

Colonies of Regal Sea Fans are characterized by being flat and thickly branched, and are generally aligned a single plain. Like the Colorful Sea Whip, they display a variety of colors ranging from red and orange to reddish purple and purple.

Dupont, J.M. 2009. Ledges and Artificial Reefs on the Inner Central West Florida Shelf
Dissertation , University of South Florida
Humann, P. 1993. Reef Coral Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas, Including Marine Plants.
Jaap WC.1984. The ecology of the South Florida coral reefs: a community profile.
Minerals Management Service MMS 84–0038. 138 ppEcological Dynamics of Livebottom

Although present, the diversity of stony and soft corals found off Southwest Florida' coast is severely limited compared to what is found on Florida's east coast. Seasonal temperature fluctuations and high turbidity rates characteristic of Gulf waters provide a less than hospitable environment for most corals. Yet, several hardy species do inhabit the region.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Study finds artificial reefs are economic boon, enjoy widespread public support

Florida has the largest complement of permitted artificial reefs in the U.S. In addition to enhancing habitat qualities, artificial reefs can improve commercial and recreational fishing and diving opportunities, provide socio-economic benefits to local communities, minimize user conflicts, and facilitate reef research.
 A recent study by the University of Florida and Florida Sea Grant describes the economic benefits of artifical reefs in six coastal counties in SW Florida.

Study finds artificial reefs are economic boon, enjoy widespread public support by Mickie Anderson This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , UF/IFAS News

A new Florida Sea Grant study of artificial reef use in six Southwest Florida counties shows the structures lure a lot more than fish.
The reefs, which provide habitat for popular sport fish and other marine life, pulled more than $253 million into the region during one year, the study found. Though it costs nothing more than a saltwater fishing license to use the submerged structures as a fishing spot, anglers spend money on food, lodging, fuel, tackle and other necessities.
The UF and Florida Sea Grant study, TP-178 Economic Impacts of Artificial Reefs for Six Southwest Florida Counties, looked at money generated by artificial reefs in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties in 2009. Researchers found that $136 million came from residents, while $117 million was spent by visitors.
Bob Swett, the UF associate professor and Florida Sea Grant extension specialist who led the study, said he was struck most by the contrast between the income generated and the small amount counties invest in the reefs — ranging from $20,000 to $60,000 a year for each county, with some years requiring little to no spending. The reefs also enjoy private support, such as local marine contractors who donate materials and in-kind labor.
“That shows me that there’s a lot of bang for the buck in terms of what they get out of the artificial reef programs,” said Swett, also a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Chris Neal, who works for the Scuba Quest dive shop chain’s Sarasota location, said his company frequently takes groups of divers out to artificial reefs because the man-made structures allow divers to see such a wide variety of fish and wildlife.
“You can see all kinds of fish – flounder, hogfish, snapper and grouper,” he said.
Besides asking residents about their reef-related spending, the UF researchers also asked boaters who use reefs and those who do not their opinions about spending public money to build and maintain the structures, which are typically underwater piles of large, hollow concrete blocks where fish can hide.

Fish swim around an artificial reefWhile users were more likely to support such spending (county responses ranged from 83 percent to 95 percent, in favor), Swett said he was also impressed by non-reef users’ enthusiasm. Their support for spending public money on reefs ranged from 61 percent to 71 percent.
Artificial reefs are used for a number of activities, among them: enhancing recreational and charter fishing and diving, boosting reef fish populations and aiding scientific research.
For more than three decades, Florida Sea Grant has contributed to the evolution of the state’s reef-building community through research, scientific conferences and outreach activities. Many of its coastal county-based extension faculty are involved in some activity related to artificial reefs.
Florida’s artificial reef program, created in 1982, includes more than 2,500 documented artificial reefs in the state’s coastal waters. About one-third of them were the subject of the recent economic study.
Other survey highlights: on average, more than 5,600 southwest Florida residents use artificial reefs every day; for-hire fishing enterprises, including fishing guides, charter boats and party boats, accounted for nearly $90 million in spending, and artificial reefs support more than 2,500 full- and part-time jobs.
The researchers used a combination of mail, telephone and e-mail to collect survey responses.
The study was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the West Coast Inland Navigation District and the participating counties. Besides Swett, the research team included Chuck Adams, a marine economics professor; Sherry Larkin, associate professor in resource economics, extension scientist Alan Hodges and postdoctoral associate Thomas J. Stevens.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Greetings from the 6th World Recreational Fishing Conference: Berlin Germany

Greetings from Germany! I'm here attending the 6th World Recreational Fishing Conference (WRFC), which is being held at Humboldt University in Berlin. The theme of this year's conference is "Toward Resiliant Recreational Fisheries; it is meant to emphasize the need for a more interdisciplanary and adaptive approach to recreational fisheries science, management, and developmentApproximately 290 delegates from 33 countries are attending, participants include fisheries scientists and managers, biologists, human dimension specialists, economists, outdoor recreation researchers, policy makers, NGO representatives and avid anglers. The aim of the conference is to increase dialogue and knowledge about the diversity, dynamics and future prospects of recreational fisheries, and provides a platform for exchange of and discussion on cutting-edge management-orientated recreational fisheries science. I will be giving a presentation later in the week on my work in developing educational workshop.

It is truly fascinating to meet and chat with other fisheries professionals from around the world. I attended several excellent presenations today. Many of the sessions revolved around the biology, management, economics, and ethics associated with catch and release fishing. Did you know that in some European countries catching and releasing fish for sport is considered animal cruelty and in some cases is against the law? This is considerably different than countries like the U.S. and Australia where catch and release fishing is an important management strategy.