Monthly Archives: October 2011

Common Coral Species Associated with Southwest Florida Hardbottom Communities

A red grouper swimming over a hardbottom community off the coast of Naples, Florida

A red grouper swimming over a hardbottom community off the coast of Naples, Florida

Although present, the diversity of stony and soft corals found off Southwest Florida’s coast is severely limited compared to what is found on Florida’s east coast. Seasonal temperature fluctuations and high turbidity rates characteristic of Gulf waters provide a less than hospitable environment for most corals. Yet, several hardy species do inhabit the region.

Much of the shallow continental shelf off Southwest Florida consists of unconsolidated sand and shell rubble substrates overlying a limestone baserock. Isolated tracks of natural hardbottom ledges and rock outcroppings as well as artificial reefs are interspersed throughout the region providing suitable substrate for coral colonization.

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Give a Stone Crab a Proper Break!

stone crab

Recreational stone crab trappers are allowed five traps per person. Some hardy scuba divers go toe to toe (maybe that should be hand to claw) to pluck these prizes from their holes. Besides following the seasonal, size, and bag limits, one of the most important things a fisherman can do to help conserve this resource is learning how to correctly remove the claw(s) from his/her catch.

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Announcing the 2012 Student Scholarships from the Aylesworth Foundation for the Advancement of Marine Science

Florida Sea Grant is now accepting applications for the Aylesworth Scholarship. Undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in marine science are encouraged to apply. The scholarship is based on financial need. To learn more, and to apply, visit The deadline to apply is Nov. 18, 2011.

Study Finds Artificial Reefs Are An Economic Boon

A new Florida Sea Grant study of artificial reef use in six Southwest Florida counties shows the structures lure a lot more than fish. The reefs, which provide habitat for popular sport fish and other marine life, pulled more than $253 million into the region during one year, the study found. Though it costs nothing more than a saltwater fishing license to use the submerged structures as a fishing spot, anglers spend money on food, lodging, fuel, tackle and other necessities.

The UF and Florida Sea Grant study, TP-178 Economic Impacts of Artificial Reefs for Six Southwest Florida Counties, looked at money generated by artificial reefs in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties in 2009. Researchers found that $136 million came from residents, while $117 million was spent by visitors.

Besides asking residents about their reef-related spending, the UF researchers also asked boaters who use reefs and those who do not their opinions about spending public money to build and maintain the structures, which are typically underwater piles of large, hollow concrete blocks where fish can hide.

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SBEP Launches Economic Value Study of the Bay

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has launched the first-ever comprehensive economic value study of Sarasota Bay spanning Sarasota and Manatee counties. The first phase of the study will be completed by Paul Hindsley, Ph.D., the coordinator of Eckerd College’s Coastal Management Program in St. Petersburg. The study began this summer, and it will focus on the direct and indirect use values of coastal recreation and coastal residential real estate. Click here to learn more.

2011 Great Goliath Grouper Count Results

The results of the second annual Great Goliath Grouper Count are in.  Problems were encountered, but we consider the project a success.  Weather and poor visibility reduced the total number of sites surveyed this year (from 59 to 47) and also forced the survey period to extend 22 days. However, we were able to start sampling additional areas to the north and on the east coast.

The 47 sites surveyed ranged in depths of 12 to 125 ft.  Habitats surveyed included wrecks, rubble (pilings, culverts and boulders) and “other” (tower and natural bottom ledges).

Although fewer sites were surveyed, more goliath grouper were spotted (352 versus 312 in 2010). It must be emphasized that the increase in goliath grouper seen cannot be interpreted as a significant increase in goliath grouper abundance – the data are way too limited to say that. Also, some of the new sites contributed to the increase seen – remember this is a work in progress. We are trying to develop a long-term perspective that can be used in conjunction with other scientific studies.

At least one goliath grouper was seen on 96% (45/47) of the sites surveyed. Obviously we have been very successful in

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Scallopalooza A Great Success!

The “Scallopalooza-Repay the Bay” event organized by Sarasota Bay in collaboration with the Sarasota Yacht Club, in August was a resounding success. Close to 200 people showed up to support scallop restoration efforts in Sarasota Bay. There was also great interest in numerous live and silent auction items collected by the Yacht Club and members of Sarasota Bay Watch. The event surpassed the goal of raising $10,000 to kick-off scallop restoration efforts in Sarasota Bay.

Group of Scallopers

You don’t have to find a lot of scallops to enjoy a day on the bay. Photo courtesy Sarasota Bay Watch.

Don’t Forget – New Extended Scallop Season Closed Sept. 25, 2011

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Amberjack Tagging Study: University of Florida Researchers Need Your Help

Artist: Diane Peebles

Researchers with the UF Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program are currently tagging amberjacks to examine the seasonal pattern and rates of movement of this fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This project is being done in collaboration with recreational guides, and recreational and commercial fishers.

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2011 Southwest Florida Scallop Searches: The Results Are In!

Scallop searcher finds what he is looking for!

During August and September 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 ( 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, overharvest 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.

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