Monthly Archives: July 2012

University of Florida Online Master of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Original posting from The Shellcracker, Florida Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, July 2012

Starting in the Fall of 2012, a new online Master of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences will be offered by the UF Program of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. This program is designed for working professionals in fisheries, aquatic sciences, fish health, aquaculture, environmental sciences, and other natural resource fields who are interested in advancing their careers by earning a graduate degree. The ability to take this degree program entirely online means that students do not have to sacrifice their commitments to career and family in order to earn an advanced degree. Students entering this program will come from a variety of backgrounds, including state and federal fisheries agencies and NGOs, as well as journalism, public education and relations, resource interpretation, environmental law and other non-science disciplines. Requirements for the degree are met by completing a schedule of online courses and writing a technical paper in an appropriate topical area approved by the student’s Supervisory Committee; a research thesis is not required for the MFAS.

For more information, please visit our website at:, or contact Dr. Debra Murie, Online MFAS Coordinator at or (352)-273-3601.

An Amazing Story: Red King Crab Introduced to Barents Sea

50 years later, crab supports a lucrative fishery, but little is known of its ecological impacts

red king crab

Introduced to the Barents Sea in 1960s, the red king crab is now the region’s most lucrative fishery. Photo courtesy Mikhail Pereladov, VNIRO Institute

I have watched innumerable episodes of the TV show “The Deadliest Catch”, the story of Alaskan crab fishermen who risk their lives to bring this delicious prized catch to our tables. However, I had no idea that a large fishery had developed in the Barents Sea based on an introduced species.

In order to increase the “productivity” of the Barents Sea, the Soviet Union decided to introduce these crabs thousands of miles from their native home in the Pacific. In the early 1960s thousands of adult crabs and more than a million crab larvae were released in their prospective new home. At first, the effort seemed like a failure. But by the 1970s egg bearing crabs were found and the population expanded rapidly.

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What are Fish Descending Devices?

Florida Sea Grant begins project to increase survival of deep water released fish.

Grouper with distended stomack. This is not the swim bladder. This in this conditiion will probably not be able to swim back to the bottom.
Correct position to vent fish. Go to for more info. Currently, 7/2012, this is the only method allowed in the Gulf.
Weighted utility crate. Fish placed in crate, crate flipped over the side and then lowered till fish swims free.
Utility crate can be filled with more than one fish. Shown here are four small red group ready to be lowered.
Callaway git-r-down. Developed in Alaska, heavy gear that requires down rigger.
RokLees Fish Descender. Developed in California. Fish is lowered and then released by a sharp tug on the line.
SeaQualizer. Developed here in Florida. Device can be set to release fish at predetermined depths.
Modified dungenese crab trap.Works like the inverted utility crate. Anglers are constantly coming up with new devices. We have shown just a few examples here.

Experienced deep sea anglers are all too familiar with the problems of releasing fish (either undersized or out of season) caught in deep water. Fish retrieved from such depths (generally deeper than 60 – 80 ft.) experience problems caused by the rapid change in pressure. Gas in their swim bladders (used to control their buoyancy) expands and ruptures the bladder, releasing gas into the fish’s body cavity.

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The Mohawk Has Landed

Mohawk being sunk for artificial reef

Photo credit: John Park

In the previous issue of the Marine Scene we ran a story about the USCGC Mohawk being deployed as a new artificial reef off of Lee County.  Well, read below, it has now been deployed!

On a beautiful Monday, July 2, the World War II warship USCGC Mohawk was deployed to its final resting place 90 feet under water. She is now located roughly 28 nautical miles off of Sanibel Island on Florida’s southwest coast and is the first Veterans Memorial Reef dedicated to all U.S. veterans. The official name of the reef is the U.S.S. Mohawk CGC Veterans Memorial Reef.

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Could Hatcheries Cost Fish Ability to Survive in Wild?

A new study indicates that the impact of a hatchery environment on steelhead trout may cost fish the natural ability to survive in the wild. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, surprised researchers by the pure speed at which hatchery fish seem to evolve.

“We’ve known for some time that hatchery-born fish are less successful at survival and reproduction in the wild, — said Michael Blouin, a professor of zoology at Oregon State University.  “However, until now, it wasn’t clear why. What this study shows is that intense evolutionary pressures in the hatchery rapidly select for fish that excel there, at the expense of their reproductive success in the wild.”

The study was the result of a 19-year analysis of steelhead trout in Oregon’s Hood River. The challenge now is to see if this story is similar in other fish species, identify the genetic traits that evolve, and work to slow that rate of domestication.

Source:  Bay Soundings

Scallop Searches Scheduled for August – Spots are Filling Up Fast

In past Marine Scene editions we have noted that there is encouraging evidence that bay scallops in southwest Florida may be recovering almost 40 years after their disappearance in the early 1970s. Citizens can play an important role in helping scientist document whether this trend will continue and determine the extent of recovery. To do this we need long-term data from several areas throughout southwest Florida. You can help by volunteering a fun-filled day to assist with the four scallop searches listed below.

Scallop season news: This year the scallop season extends from July 1 to September 24 (remember taking scallops is only allowed north of the Pasco-Hernando county line).  Tip: If a scallop is less than 2 inches in size, don’t take it – you won’t get much meat for your effort and it is a waste of the resource. Remember scallop harvest is limited to 2 gallons of whole scallops, so you probably won’t have too much of a problem getting your limit. I am getting reports that folks are finding scallops despite the impact of Tropical Storm Debra. You can find a bunch of good info on scallop harvesting at our Florida Sea Grant website. Info on the 2012 FFWC scallop abundance surveys can be found here.

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Operation Drag & Snag: Part II

In recent years, there has been more awareness regarding the impact derelict traps have on marine life, the environment and public safety. To facilitate derelict trap removal, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has implemented policies which allow for volunteer based cleanups during rotational gear closures and during the open season. During a closure cleanups typically focus on traps left in the water because they have the potential to become derelict during the open season. During the open season those traps which are visible at low tides, creating visual pollution are targeted. What is typically not addressed through the cleanups are those traps which no longer have a buoy and are not visible from the water surface. These traps are generally lost when boats snag the buoy, resulting in navigation hazards and ghost traps that may continue to fish for several years. In May 2012, I acquired side scan sonar through local boating improvement grant funding in order to identify and remove submerged-unbuoyed traps based on a successful pilot project completed in 2011. Because current rules prohibit removal “tampering” of a legal trap, I reached out to the commercial fishers in Charlotte and Desoto counties requesting authorization (via signed consent) to recover their legal trap when found unbuoyed using the side scan during the open season. To date 35% of the fishermen have responded. In July 2012, using the side scan with targets identified and a homemade dragline, a small crew of volunteers helped me recover 29 submerged traps. 41% of the traps recovered were in fishable condition. Bycatch included 32 blue crabs. Three traps recovered were legal and have been returned to their owners as a result of the signed consent letters. Derelict traps and trap debris collected were disposed of at the Charlotte County Landfill where the trap material is recycled.

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