Monthly Archives: July 2010

Florida Sea Grant’s Response to the Oil “Spill”

Many of my colleagues in the Florida Sea Grant College Program have been diligently working on using available resources to develop and deliver information that will help us deal with and minimize the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. It is a daunting challenge, our university budget pales by comparison with the vast sums of money we hear about in the media. However, I want you to know that the dedicated professionals associated with Florida Sea Grant are doing what they can, and it is a lot.

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Invasive Lionfish in Gulf of Mexico

Researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission collected two juvenile lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico. They were caught in two separate net tows 99 and 160 miles off the southwest coast of Florida, north of the Dry Tortugas and west of Cape Romano. Lionfish are nonnative, venomous fish that are rapidly colonizing the entire Caribbean region. Looks like they are now headed our way. The ecological impacts of this invasion are uncertain at this point. Past editions of the Marine Scene have noted research that indicates they may become voracious predators on native reef fish.

Oil Look‐Alikes

There have been many inquiries regarding whether dark blobs on the beach came from the oil spill. However, not all the sheen on the water, dark spots or blobs on the beach, and foamy or frothy material floating in the water are cause by oil. Mother Nature produces these oil look-a-likes all the time.

Go to and check out “Oil Sheen Look-A- Likes”.

Sea Life Oil Lookalikes

From left: A black tunicate, colonial tunicate, and skate egg cases can often be mistaken for tar balls (right) on Florida shores. Sources: Bryan Fluech (Florida Sea Grant), Andrew Diller (Florida Sea Grant), NOAA

The Killer Sponge–Fact can be Stranger than Fiction

The killer sponge made the Top 10 list of new species for 2010 (thousands of new species are described each year). The fact that sedentary sponges can be a carnivore may come as quite a surprise to many. Often I am asked

Sponge--microscope view

The mystery of the killer sponge began when scientists began collecting deep-water sponges that lacked the characteristic sponge filter-feeding system. How could these sponges survive? The answer came when biologists discovered a related sponge in a relatively shallow submarine cave and finally had the chance to observe the sponge in action.the question of whether sponges are classified as a plant or animal. Actually they fooled biologists for many years. The “typical” sponge feeds by filtering microscopic food particles from the surrounding water.
In life, the sponge projects a set of filaments into the water. These filaments are covered with tiny spicules (see illustration) which, in essence, act like Velcro that traps passing organisms. Once a meal has been secured cells grow and mobilize to cover and digest it. In most sponges the spicules are actually the small building blocks of the sponge’s “skeleton.”

To check out the other Top 10 new species for 2010 to

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The Great Goliath Grouper Count

In early June an ambitious group of scientists, citizen volunteers, charter boat Captains, and county government staff undertook a survey of goliath grouper abundance on over 50 artificial structures along Florida’s southwest coast (Pinellas south through Collier County). The Great Goliath Grouper Count is a Florida Sea Grant Extension Program pilot project conducted in collaboration with research scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The goal was to provide a regional snapshot of goliath grouper size distribution and abundance at spots where they are known to congregate throughout the region. We are hopeful this approach may provide a cost-effective strategy for scientists to evaluate trends in goliath grouper abundance.

Goliath GrouperThis was a pilot project to determine if a sufficient number of trained volunteers could collect valid data in such a comprehensive manner. The true value of the effort will only be realized if it can be expanded and conducted in future years. Information is still coming in and being analyzed by fisheries scientists – stay tuned for updates in future Marine Scene editions. So far the results look promising and, although not certain, we hope to repeat the project next year. Over 60 scientists and volunteers participated and counted hundreds of goliath groupers. It would be completely impossible for a small team of research scientists to accomplish such a task.

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Resident Fishing License Is Now Free

The shoreline fishing license for Florida residents to catch saltwater fish from shore or a structure affixed to the shore cost $9 last year, but this year, it’s free as of July 1. The Florida Legislature repealed the shoreline license fee during the past session. However, legislators retained the license requirement to prevent a more costly federal registration fee from taking effect in Florida.

Resident anglers who obtain the shoreline license over the phone or Internet still will have to pay a convenience fee — $2.31 for Internet sales at or $3.33 for phone sales at 888-347-4356. Remember you need a regular saltwater fishing license to fish from a boat. More information is available at

August is Scallop Search Month–Volunteers Needed

Past editions of the Marine Scene have reported on the results of citizen volunteer surveys of bay scallop populations in southwest Florida. Results in recent years have been promising with evidence mounting that bay scallops are making a significant recovery. Bay scallops essentially disappeared from local waters in the early 1970s. Note: no bay scallop harvesting is allowed in southwest Florida and no scallops will be taken during the surveys. If you want to know where and when you can harvest scallops go to

There are now four opportunities to participate. My experience has been that people really enjoy these events and your contribution is greatly appreciated by scientists and resource managers. Heck, you will probably get a free lunch and cool T-Shirt thanks to the folks sponsoring these events.

Charlotte County Great Bay and Sound Scallop Search — August, 14. Contact: Marine Extension agent, Betty Staugler,

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