Monthly Archives: May 2011

Striped Mullet Stock Assessment Underway

Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension
This article appeared in the May 2011 edition of Water LIFE magazine

two guys pulling a net

Pulling the net, last month, in the FWC-FWRI striped mullet stock assessment

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWC-FWRI) began a one year targeted sampling effort to assess the stock of striped mullet in Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay in February of this year. The last stock assessment for this species took place in 2005.

Striped mullet are distributed worldwide in most coastal waters and estuaries of tropical and subtropical seas. They were actually one of the first fish I saw two months ago while snorkeling in Hawaii. Tagging data show that some striped mullet move between Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Striped mullet reside in bays and tributaries but spawn offshore in depths up to 5,400 feet during November through early January. Striped mullet grow to about 6-7 inches fork length in one year and can reach 9–13 years of age. Females mature at 2–3 years old when about 11.5 inches. Florida mullet are considered vegetarians although they are known to eat cocopods and other small organisms. They are also the only fish to have a gizzard, much like a chicken, which is used to grind up and digest plant material.

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Good News: Sarasota Bay Seagrass Continues to Expand!

Sarasota Bay gained 51 acres of new seagrass between 2008 and 2010 according to Scallop in seagrassscientists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The effort to map seagrass acreage is managed by the District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management Program (SWIM). This group uses aerial photographs and field research to estimate the acreage of seagrass in five Gulf Coast estuaries including Sarasota Bay.

The increase over the past few years in Sarasota Bay is part of a longer term trend showing significant seagrass recovery. The current level of 12,692 acres is the highest level reported and is 25 percent above 1950. In 1998, the total acreage of seagrasses in Sarasota Bay was 8,650.

According to Mark Alderson, the Director of Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, the recent findings are encouraging. “The additional acreage since 2008 is modest, but the overall trend continues to indicate significant progress,” he said. “Sarasota Bay had a little more than 10,000 acres of seagrass in 1950. The increase in the total number of acreage is meaningful given the rapid growth of the region during the past 50 years.

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National Deep Water Fish Release Workshop

Recent closures of several Gulf reef fish fisheries (e.g., red snapper and grouper) have focused attention on the importance of successful release (survival) of fish caught in deeper water. These fish are particularly susceptible to mortality from barotrauma, the bloat and internal organ damage caused by pressure change. If discard mortality can be reduced, there is hope that the severity of closures and bag limits could be lessened, thereby reducing the economic impact on recreational angling and charter boat industries.

Scientists and fisheries managers at a recently convened (March 2011) National Deep Water Fish Release Workshop reported results from the West Coast that document that the survival of these fish can be significantly increased using a variety of methods that quickly return the fish to depth while minimizing injury. Research shows high survival rates for rockfish (commercially and recreationally important West Coast species) in depths up to 300 feet.

Participants concluded the best methods for ensuring survival entail using a recompression technique that safely returns the fish to depths, minimizing injury. Recompression is the preferred option. Venting fish can also be a useful method to return fish to depth. Evidence has shown that it can be helpful for some species, but the research for many other species is either lacking or inconclusive.

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Turner Maritime Challenge Program

New Youth Program in Cortez

sail boats

Restored traditional sail boats along the Cortez shoreline (FISH)

The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) working with the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez has received a grant from the Estate of Jay K. Turner to establish and operate a youth maritime program.

Jay Turner visualized a youth maritime program that would provide personal growth and self awareness to its participants by exposing them to conditions that would call upon and develop their inner strengths, self-reliance, and interdependence with those other participants in the program. As a result of his generous bequest the Turner Maritime Challenge Program has been established.
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Tracking 10,000 tarpon – Sooner than you think

Word is spreading of the need for anglers to take DNA samples from every tarpon they catch. If participation in the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study continues to grow among anglers from Florida and throughout the southeast, researchers will reach their goal of tracking more than 10,000 tarpon well ahead of schedule. Awareness of the study is on the rise, as evidenced by the more than 2,000 DNA samples anglers have submitted each of the past two years. This level of sampling, if sustained, can provide unprecedented information that could result in record-breaking numbers of recaptures (tarpon that were caught and previously sampled for DNA).
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Florida Seafood Safety and Sustainability

2011 Brown Bag Lunch Webinar Series

Photo: Bryan Fluech

This FREE webinar series will educate seafood lovers about the sustainability and safety associated with some of Florida’s most commercially valuable seafood products.  The series will help consumers make informed decisions about purchasing and eating Florida Seafood. You will also learn how seafood makes it from the ocean to your table and how it is managed.

Never participated in a webinar? Trust me, it is pretty easy. For more information and to sign up, contact Bryan Fluech, Collier County Sea Grant Extension Agent at

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Did Fishermen Discover the New World?

Atlantic Cod

Atlantic cod – Gadus morhua

This is amazing. Basque fishermen (folks from a region in northwest Spain and part of France) were harvesting cod from the grand banks off of Newfoundland and the U.S. centuries before Christopher Columbus claimed discovery of the new world in 1492. Their production of cod produced great wealth and was a source of mystery to other European countries who couldn’t figure out where they were fishing. When Jacques Cartier “discovered” the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in 1534, he also found a fleet of 1,000 Basque fishing boats. These fishermen were indeed intent on keeping their fishing grounds a secret! Sounds like some of my modern day fishing buddies.
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Protecting Florida’s Spiny Lobster Fishery

As commercial and recreational landings of Florida’s spiny lobsters continue to remain below historical levels, new findings about the lobster’s ecology are helping guide management strategies to benefit future populations and the fishing industry.

Caribbean spiny lobster

The Caribbean spiny lobster is one of Florida’s most valuable fisheries. (UF/IFAS)

Spiny lobsters are one of the largest commercial fisheries in Florida, and one of the most economically valuable in the Caribbean. In the five years leading up to 2001, commercial fishermen in Florida landed an average of nearly 7 million pounds of spiny lobsters each year, worth on average more than $28 million dockside.

And then, landings dropped off sharply. For the past 10 years, commercial landings have averaged just 4 million pounds each year, generating about $20 million dockside.

A virus contributes to the decline

Don Behringer, a marine ecologist at the University of Florida, has been studying the effects of the lethal PaV1 virus that has been killing juvenile lobsters and potentially hurting the commercial and recreational fisheries. Behringer, in fact, discovered the virus while sampling juvenile lobster populations in the Florida Keys in 1999.

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