Lionfish in the Bay!

Photo by FWC Officer Michael Morrison at Laishley Pier in Punta Gorda on January 31st, 2017

Not good at all. Late last month, FWC officer Michael Morrison observed a lionfish swimming off the Laishley Pier in Punta Gorda. This is the third documented lionfish sighting inside Charlotte Harbor, and it’s also the most up harbor. Laishley Pier is actually on the Peace River. Compare this to no documented lionfish inside Tampa Bay. Mind you undocumented doesn’t mean not there, they could be there, just not reported.

What’s not good about this beautiful fish? Well, for starters, it doesn’t belong here. Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but unfortunately they are well established throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic to North Carolina, and the Caribbean.

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The Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival: Fishing for our Future

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. For one weekend in February, this tough and tiny village will open its doors to thousands of visitors to share the proud history and culture of one of Florida’s last true working waterfronts.

Settled by fishermen from North Carolina in the late 1800s, Cortez has never stopped fishing. Its people have withstood hurricanes, wars, recessions and storms of regulations. The village has had to adapt to shifting sands – but the perseverance and grit of the people have never wavered. Today it remains a true testament to the “real” Florida.

This region has supplied bountiful seafood to humans for thousands of years. Fishing here is good for a reason. Nestled among mangroves on Sarasota Bay, Cortez is positioned between two nationally accredited estuaries. Quick translation: the habitat here is pretty special. However, like so much of Florida, Cortez faces threats associated with an increasing human population and ever-encroaching development. But unlike so much of Florida, where similar places have simply been swallowed by the concrete, Cortez has been fighting back.

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A Salty Heritage: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay

The National Sea Grant Program is celebrating 50 years of Science Serving America’s Coasts (for a 30 second video, or even better, a 10 minute video). To commemorate Sea Grant’s cherished history of working with fishing communities, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant Agents Libby Carnahan (Pinellas) and Angela Collins (Manatee, Hillsborough, Sarasota) hosted “A Salty Heritage: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay.” The program, held at Weedon Island Preserve in December 2016, was open to the public and highlighted the bounty and diversity of fishing opportunities within the Tampa Bay region. Invited panelists included commercial and recreational representatives, and featured crabbers, seafood wholesalers, and fishermen. Each speaker told tales from their past, provided insight into their industries, and shared their visions for the future.

John Stevely, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant Agent emeritus, talks about the history local working waterfronts in Tampa Bay; notably the sponge industry in Tarpon Springs and mullet in Cortez. Other panelists included (from left to right) Dawn Ayelsworth, Bob Ayelsworth, Jason DeLaCruz, Larry Borden and Gus Muench.

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Stone Crabs

A stone crab after removal of it’s claw and showing a clean break. Stone crabs have a much better chance of survival if the diaphragm at the body/claw joint is intact. The diaphragm functions as a seal to close the wound and stop the bleeding. Photo: FWC

They’re feisty, fearsome predators, even cannibalistic; and they’re what’s for dinner. At least at my house! Let’s talk stone crab!

Two commercial species of stone crab coexist in the state of Florida, the Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) and the Gulf stone crab (Menippe adina). These two crabs are managed as a single fishery in the state. The Florida stone crab (our crab) occurs in the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico and extends from North Carolina throughout peninsular Florida and the Caribbean. The Gulf stone crab occurs principally in the northern and western Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida stone crab inhabits mixed seagrass-hard bottom habitat. Adult crabs dig burrows under the seagrasses or excavate holes in emerged rocks on the seafloor. The Gulf stone crab also occupies those habitats, but prefers muddier bottoms and oyster reefs. Both species feed primarily on mollusks, including scallops, clams, conchs, and oysters, which they crush with their powerful claws. Predators that feed on stone crabs include octopus and humans.

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Microplastics – What’s the big deal?

Plastics in toothpaste seen through a microscope. Source: Florida Sea Grant

We’re a month into 2017. Who made New Year’s resolutions? And, who is still keeping them? I typically don’t make resolutions, but this year I did. And, I’m still onboard. My resolution is to reduce my use of plastics. And not just plastic bags and bottles. I’m also ridding my life of the toothpaste with scrubbing bubbles (plastic) and my exfoliating soap (more plastic).

Our world is surrounded by plastic. Since the mid-twentieth century, plastic has been an integral part of our lives. However, plastic debris is a major concern due to its wide spread use and its persistence in the environment.

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Sea Grant 50th Anniversary Program: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay

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Photo credit: Hubbard’s Marina

Sea Grant is turning 50! Come and Celebrate 50 Years of Putting Science to Work for America’s Coastal Communities.

What: A Salty Heritage: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay

When: Saturday, December 3, 2016

Where: Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive, St. Petersburg, FL 33702

About: Tampa Bay has a rich heritage as a fishing community. To celebrate Sea Grant’s 50th Anniversary, we are holding a Marine Science Open Classroom (10 am – 12 pm) that will be fun for the whole family! Then we’ll have cake and refreshments in the lobby (12 – 1 pm), and will proudly finish the day by hosting some of the saltiest fishermen in the bay for an open panel discussion (1 – 3 pm) with the audience! Invited panelists range from crabbers, spearfishers, wholesalers, and recreational and commercial anglers. Each speaker will tell tales from the past, provide insights into their profession, and give us a glimpse of what they see as they look to the future. A question and answer session will follow the panel discussion.

We hope that you will join us for part (or all) of the day to learn about the resources Tampa Bay provides to our community.

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Salty Topics: Exploring Oil Spill Impacts in the Gulf of Mexico

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In April of 2010, a gas release on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused an explosion that caused devastation in the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days to make this oil spill the worst one in recent history. Because of this oil spill, the coastlines of states like Texas, Louisiana, and Florida have portions that were polluted by the oil spill in 2010, and there are still sightings of oil washing up on these state’s shores today. Nearly 8,000 marine animals, such as turtles and birds, were reportedly dead within six-months of the oil spill.

Even though the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred over six years ago, scientists and researchers are still discovering the oil spill’s effects on the Gulf of Mexico. Come join us and Dr. Monica Wilson as she discusses recent research findings and explores the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s impacts on habitats, aquatic wildlife, and human health.

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Staying legal with Florida fishing license rules

Fishing license rules can be confusing, especially if you’re new to Florida or don’t know where to get good information. We have fishing license requirements for fresh water and salt water. We also have fishing regulations that apply to state waters and federal waters, and they are not always consistent. Knowing how and when they apply to you is important for ensuring a good fishing trip doesn’t go sour when law enforcement arrives. Licensing and regulatory information about fishing in Florida can be found at MyFWC.com.

If you are going fishing in Florida, you can assume you need a fishing license, unless you meet one of the state’s exemptions, are fishing from a pier that has a valid “pier license” (most of them don’t), or are fishing on a licensed charter boat.

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Salty Topics: A Blue-Green Summer in South Florida

Weedon Aerial 2003

This past summer, Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and St. Lucie Estuary became sheathed in toxic algal blooms. Do you know why these toxic algal events occurred? This month’s Salty Topics speaker series welcomes you to learn about the context of these events in a discussion presented by Dr. Karl Havens.

During early summer 2016, a bloom of the toxin-producing blue-green alga Microcystis began for form on the surface of Lake Okeechobee. By July, it covered nearly 45% of the surface of the lake with a fluorescent green surface scum. The bloom was fueled by high levels of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in the lake water that come from agricultural runoff, and by warmer than average water temperature and good underwater light conditions that were favorable for rapid growth. At the same time that this bloom was happening in the lake, the US Army Corps of Engineers was releasing large quantities of water from the lake in order to lower water levels in preparation for hurricane season. They are required to do this by a federally-authorized ‘lake regulation schedule.’ The flood control releases carried nutrients and toxic algae downstream to the St. Lucie Estuary, where massive blooms also developed and included another toxic species called Anabaena. As of late August, the blooms persisted and the ecological, human health and economic impacts have yet to be determined. A perfect storm created this event, and to fully understand it one must have some context about the regional flood control system and about sources of nutrients – topics to be discussed as part of this talk.

Karl Havens is a Professor at the University of Florida and Director of Florida Sea Grant, which is a NOAA-funded program that is a partnership between the Department of Congress, the State University System of Florida and Florida coastal communities. The mission of the program is to support research, education and outreach to preserve coastal resources and economies. Dr. Havens has been studying lakes for over 30 years and has published over 160 journal articles, three books and numerous book chapters dealing with harmful algae and other topics related to human impacts on lake ecosystems.

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Salty Topics: Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Project

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Do you know that Tampa Bay’s coastal ecosystems soak up and store carbon in a process called Coastal Blue Carbon? If not, come join us and Dr. David Tomasko for our Salty Topics speaker series!

Coastal Blue Carbon is a new term for carbon captured by living coastal and marine organisms and stored in coastal ecosystems. Mangroves, sea grass beds and salt marshes take up atmospheric carbon and store it in their systems throughout their life cycle. Also, these plants trap fine muddy sediments in their roots structures building thousands of years. Tampa Bay is a unique ecosystem as it is one of the few places in the U.S. to have three critical coastal habitats – mangroves, salt marsh, and seagrasses. Dr. David Tomasko, Principal Associate ESA, will share the results of the Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Project that was jointly funded by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America’s Estuaries.

The presentation will include:
• Carbon storage and sequestration rates for Tampa Bay habitats
• Impacts of land use change, including sea-level rise and management actions, on carbon in the estuary
• How blue carbon ecosystem services can inform management decisions and provide additional incentives to support conservation and restoration and adaptive management

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