Monthly Archives: May 2009

Don’t Use Plastic Bags When You Shop

One person using one cloth bag over a lifetime will reduce the need for more than 22,000 plastic bags. In 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. The rest of the bags are everywhere – floating in the air, caught in trees, clogging storm drains, and eaten by or entangling wildlife. They’ve even been found floating north of the Arctic Circle. Plastic bags account for an estimated 10 percent of the debris washed up on the U.S. coastline. Plastic bags are made from oil and do photodegrade, but that causes them to breakdown into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers.

They have been banned in several countries, including Bangladesh, China and Rwanda. It’s estimated that China will save 37 million barrels of oil each year by banning free plastic bags. On March 27, 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to ban their use. Learn more by visiting

Source: CHNEP Harbor Happenings Spring 2009. Volume 13, Issue 1.

Red Snapper Season on Hold until June 1

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) remind anglers that the recreational harvest season for red snapper in Gulf of Mexico waters has changed. The open season now takes place from June 1 through Sept. 30.

Previously, the recreational red snapper harvest season opened on April 15 in Gulf state waters, and the season in Gulf federal waters opened on April 21. Now, the recreational harvest season for red snapper in all Gulf waters off Florida does not open until June 1.

Researchers consider red snapper to be overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Gulf. A shorter fishing season will reduce the harvest of Gulf red snapper and help rebuild the fishery’s population.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Florida Fisheries-Independent Monitoring Comes To Sarasota Bay

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has been successful in providing funding to bring the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s (FWRI) Fisheries-Independent Monitoring (FIM) Program to Sarasota Bay. The FIM program is a statewide, long-term program designed to monitor the relative abundance of Florida’s fisheries resources. This program, developed, conducted and managed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), has three primary goals: 1) address the critical need for effective assessment techniques for an array of species and sizes of fishes and selected invertebrates, 2) providing timely information for use in management plans, and 3) monitoring trends in the relative abundance of fishes and selected invertebrates in a variety of estuarine and marine systems throughout Florida.

The FIM program has been in existence since the late 1980’s. Over the years, program personnel have developed standardized sampling techniques to collect fish and selected invertebrates in many of the state’s estuaries, tidal rivers and coastal areas. Because the FIM database is long-term, is based on a standardized sampling with a variety of gears and techniques, and covers a broad geographic area, researchers at FWRI and elsewhere find it useful for a variety of scientific and management purposes.

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Spotlight on Sea Grant Research

Sponsoring practical research that spurs economic growth while protecting our marine resources is a core mission of Florida Sea Grant (the folks I work for). I mention just three of these projects below. I will highlight other research projects in future newsletters.

  • Scientists from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and the University of Florida are collaborating to develop methods to grow the Sunray Venus Clam, a native Florida species that will diversify the state’s clam aquaculture industry.
  • Marine sponge cell lines are being developed by scientists from Harbor Branch for the commercial production of marine bio-products to augment those derived from wild harvest, to treat human health-related ailments such as melanoma.
  • Harbor Branch scientists also are developing methods to produce an anti-tumor compound they have discovered in marine sponges for possible commercial development.

Circle Hooks

As you know, the new rules of state and federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico require all commercial fishers and recreational anglers on all vessels fishing for any Gulf reef fish species to possess and use circle hooks, dehooking devices and venting tools. Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks must be used for all persons aboard a vessel harvesting reef fish in the Gulf when using natural baits. Natural baits include any bait derived from a living organism, either dead or alive. Artificial baits which include a small amount of embedded fish or shrimp are not considered natural baits.

However, common sense should be used in abiding by these rules. Venting is the option of last resort. Do not vent fish if it is able to return to the bottom on its own. Additionally, if a hook is too far embedded in the throat or gut of the fish, it is much better to cut the line from the hook rather than try to remove the hook with a dehooking device. The non-stainless steel hooks will disintegrate in a relatively short period of time and should cause the fish less harm.

If you are using any part of “Natural Bait” to harvest reef fish in the Gulf, you must use it conjunction with a circle hook. You do not have to use circle hooks if you are not using natural baits to harvest reef fish, or if you are fishing from land. J hooks on artificial lures are legal to harvest reef fish. If you do accidentally catch a reef fish on a J hook with natural bait, then you must return the fish to the water as quickly as possible. A violation may be determined at an officer’s discretion if the officer can not quickly and easily determine that the gear was legal for the harvested species. The intent of these new rules is to help conserve fishery resources by minimizing mortality associated with releasing fish that are not going to be harvested due to regulations or for other reasons. Fishers and anglers are being asked to be responsible to acquire and use the required gear (when appropriate) when fishing for reef fish species from a vessel in the Gulf, regardless of the depth of water that you’re in. FWC Law Enforcement Officers will be taking an educational approach toward enforcement before and after the implementation of the new rules. For more information visit

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Ice That Burns Could Be a Green Fossil Fuel

Natural gas locked up in water crystals could be a source of enormous amounts of energy – and if a new technology delivers what scientists are claiming, then it could even be emission-free too.

To the naked eye, clathrate hydrate looks like regular ice. However, while it is made up partly of water, the water molecules are organized into “cages”, which trap individual molecules of methane inside them.

Compared to other fossil fuels, methane – also known as natural gas – released less carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated. Nevertheless, burning it still releases carbon dioxide and thus drives climate change.

However, according to research presented this week at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, a new method of extracting the methane could effectively make it a carbon-neutral fossil fuel.

Due to their physical structure, clathrate hydrate cages “prefer” to have carbon dioxide at their cores, so if carbon dioxide is pumped into the hydrate, it spontaneously takes the methane’s place. As a result, it should be possible to simultaneously extract methane and store carbon dioxide.

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Economic Impact of Florida Clam Industry: 2007 Results

From small beginning in the early 1990s, cultured hard clams have grown to be the most economically important component of the diverse mix of food items produced by the Florida aquaculture industry. The culture process and subsequent sales put into motion a significant source of economic activity within the communities where the industry resides. And, aside from the revenue generated by the sale and distribution of market ready clams, an assortment of other associated business have arisen in support of that industry. For example, hatcheries produce seed, seamstresses make bags for planting, wholesalers process market-ready clams, etc. Thus, the process of getting the clams to the final destination….a consumer’s plate….is represented by a myriad of businesses, each contributing to the local economy through sales, wages paid, supplies purchased, taxes rendered and jobs created.

The survey findings indicate that, during 2007, approximately 185 million cultured hard clams were purchased by wholesaler dealers from growers in Florida, producing grower revenues of $19 million. The growing and marketing of these clams to wholesale dealers, restaurants, food service buyers, retail seafood shops, and direct to consumers created a total economic impact of nearly $49.5 million during 2007. The total impact includes $30.1 million in value added revenue, $25.1 million in labor income, $3.7 million in property income (rents, royalties, interest, dividends, and corporate profits), $1.3 million in indirect business taxes, and 563 jobs (full and part-time). These economic impacts are associated with cultured hard clam sales inside and outside the state of Florida as a whole.

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Weeki Wachee Springs Gets a Makeover

The mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs was once an iconic symbol of Florida’s crystal clear springs. Unfortunately, by the turn of the new millennium, excess nutrients and algae growth had reduced the springs to a shadow of their former beauty.

Hopefully, a recently completed restoration will bring the springs back to their former glory. Recently, workers removed 6,130 cubic yards of nutrient laden sediments. Also, blue green algae (Lungbya sp) and other invasive plants were removed and native species were replanted to help improve water quality.

Results to date are impressive. Further evaluation of the results may assist in planning the restoration of other Florida spring systems.

Florida Boating Accident Prompts Safety Reminders

The recent tragic accident out of Tampa Bay in which three football players were lost should remind Gulf fishers of critical safety procedures. The Boat U.S. Foundation offers these tips:

File a float plan and make sure you adhere to it. By filing a float plan with a reliable family member or friend, they will be your first life-line to safety by letting the authorities know when you are overdue, where you had planned to go and what time you were supposed to return.

Have a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF radio and ensure it’s connected to your GPS receiver. With the U.S. Coast Guard’s modern coastal “Rescue 21” system now operational in many parts of the country, including the Gulf Coast, anyone aboard a boat can simply press the mayday button on the radio that automatically gives rescuers precise location information. DSC VHF radios are also now available in hand-held models.

Consider the purchase or rent of an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). These satellite beacons are used for passages 20 miles or more from shore, beyond VHF radio range, and can be automatically activated to summon help. The foundation rents these lifesaving beacons to anglers, racers and other coastal passage makers who have a temporary need for this safety device. To date, the rental beacons have saved 62 lives.

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