Monthly Archives: September 2010

Great Goliath Grouper Count Results

The last issue of this newsletter reported that the first Great Goliath Grouper Count was conducted in early June. Now I would like to fill you in on the results.

In a nutshell, we feel this project proved to be a great success. Weather conditions, in general, were excellent and the data collected by citizen volunteers was consistent with information obtained by professional marine biologists. Most of the sites were surveyed during a four-day period. This would have been impossible to accomplish without the meaningful contribution of many volunteers.

Survey sitesA total of 52 participants surveyed 59 sites in water depths ranging from 13 to 125 ft. The survey area included Gulf waters along approximately 200 miles of the southwest Florida coast. Goliath grouper were present on 86% of the sites – we were targeting ship wrecks and high relief artificial reefs that were known to attract goliath grouper. All sites surveyed south of Sarasota County had at least one goliath grouper on site. On average, these more southerly sites also had a higher density, even on low relief material in relatively shallow water. This information tends to support other research pointing to the importance of the Ten- Thousand Island region within Everglades National Park as an important nursery habitat and source of recruitment.

A total of 312 goliath grouper were counted, an average of 5.3 fish per site. The information tended to agree with other work that has shown that more goliath grouper are found on high relief structure such as shipwrecks and concrete pilings and culvert.

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Cortez Village Folk Art Festival, November 20, 2010

FISH Preserve

November 20, 2010 – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119 St. W., Bradenton, FL 34215

Wow, the folks in the historic fishing village of Cortez are planning an awesome family oriented, fun-filled activity. The purpose is to acquaint people with The Cortez Florida Maritime Museum, the FISH Preserve and the folk art heritage of Cortez. Check out these activities:

  • Live Music
  • Over twenty arts and crafts venders will be on hand (great idea for holiday gifts).
  • Several great food vendors will be serving up their wares. Ice cream eating contest.
  • The restored Pillsbury Boatworks will be open with a demonstration of boat building.
  • Free family and group photographs in the Museum’s Secret Garden.
  • An extensive showing of the Banks Family Marine Collection will be on display in the Museum Auditorium.

This is an incredible opportunity to learn more about Cortez Village and its heritage, The Florida Maritime Museum and the FISH Preserve (95 acres of environmentally sensitive lands purchased by the community). The Festival is co-sponsored by: The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH), the Manatee Clerk of Circuit Courts, and Cortez Village Historical Society

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Lionfish News Flash–Keeps Getting Worse

Last month, electronic subscribers to the Marine Scene got a news flash that local Sea Grant Extension Advisory Committee members had found a juvenile lionfish in 40 ft of water about 8 miles west of Bradenton. At the time this was the first report of lionfish this far north in the Gulf of Mexico. Now there are reports of lionfish even farther north, one on an artificial reef off Escambia County in the Florida Panhandle, and one off Mobile, Ala. In addition, there is now a reported sighting of lionfish in 1,000 feet of water in the Bahamas. This is believed to be much deeper than they are found in their native habitat.

Lionfish at 1000 ftLionfish have now become relatively common in the Florida Keys. A recent lionfish “roundup” produced 554 specimens. These fish are effective predators and we don’t know what the impact will be on native reef fishes. Florida Sea Grant will be involved in efforts to develop a plan to help cope with this problem. However, at this point it is difficult to imagine how lionfish populations can be truly controlled.

Researchers Studying Large Sharks in Southwest Florida

University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University, Lee County, West Coast Inland Navigation District and Florida Sea Grant has initiated a study of bull and great hammerhead sharks in Southwest Florida waters. The study has multiple research objectives including:

  • Understand the important role sharks play in the environment as top predators
  • Determine residency and travel patterns of large coastal sharks, particularly bull and hammerhead sharks
  • Study the presence and concentrations of trace metals and other toxins present in sharks
  • Determine critical shark habitat for protection
  • Raise public awareness of the importance of sharks for marine ecosystems
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Southwest Florida Scallop Searches

Scallop searcherDuring August approximately 500 volunteers participated in four scallop searches in southwest Florida:  Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. The Tampa Bay Watch program (www.tampabaywatch.org) began this project well over a decade ago as a way to track a hoped-for recovery in bay scallop populations. Once abundant in southwest Florida, bay scallop populations essentially disappeared from the region in the late 1960s and early 1970s. No one knows for sure why this happened, but degraded water quality and loss of seagrasses are the prime suspects. Improvements in water quality, increases in seagrass acreage, and efforts to stock scallops led to hopes that bay scallops would return.

Finally, beginning about five years ago, we began to see positive signs with the Tampa Bay scallop search producing record numbers of scallops. In light of this success, Sarasota Bay Watch (www.sarasotabaywatch.org) began a scallop search in Sarasota Bay three years ago. This was followed by Florida Sea Grant-sponsored searches in Charlotte Harbor beginning last year (Charlotte Co. Sea Grant,staugler@ufl.edu) and Pine Island Sound this year (Lee Co. Sea Grant, hazell@ufl.edu). Only through long-term widespread searches will we be able to determine if bay scallops have returned.

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