Salty Topics: A Thorny Matter: Invasion of the Indo-Pacific Lionfish in the Western Atlantic

lionfishInvasive Indo-Pacific Lionfish were introduced by aquarium hobbyists to waters off the southeast coast of Florida in the 1980s.  Over the past ten years, these beautiful, ornate fish have rapidly spread across the entire tropical western Atlantic, from North Carolina to Venezuela, throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.  The population sizes in the invaded range commonly exceed those from their native habitats by several orders of magnitude.  With a seemingly insatiable appetite for our native fishes, and a lack of local predators and disease to keep them in check, Lionfish can have detrimental effects on the invaded marine ecosystem.  In this talk, we will review the history of the invasion, discuss the biology and ecology that has allowed them to be so successful, highlight some damaging impacts they can have, and finish with what scientists are doing to combat the problem.

On Thursday, March 3rd, UF/IFAS Extension, Florida Sea Grant at Weedon Island Preserve welcomes Dr. Chris Stallings, University of South Florida College of Marine Science, to present “Salty Topics: A Thorny Matter: Invasion of the Indo-Pacific Lionfish in the Western Atlantic”. The educational program is intended for adult and high school age audiences.

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2016 Annual Cortez Fishing Festival Celebrates Community’s Commercial Fishing Heritage

A fishing boat docks along the working waterfront of Cortez

A fishing boat docks along the working waterfront of Cortez village.

If you love seafood and want to savor a taste of Florida’s history, then you don’t want to miss the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival (February 13 & 14, 2016).

Cortez village represents one of the last working waterfronts on Florida’s Gulf coast that is dedicated to commercial fishing. Each year, tough and ingenious Cortezians join together to celebrate and share the history and proud heritage of their community at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. This two-day event allows festival-goers to enjoy live music, clog dancing, boat rides, marine life exhibits, nautical arts & crafts, beautiful waterfront vistas – and of course, plenty of delicious local seafood! Trust me, you do not want to miss out on the mullet hot dog. This year’s Festival marks its 34th anniversary.

Cortez has been a center of commercial fishing since the Spanish colonial era, and prior to that, Native Americans depended upon the region for its abundant marine life. This little village has withstood the test of time, surviving hurricanes, red tides and storms of regulations, habitat degradation and economic upheavals. The annual festival showcases how the pioneering spirit of fishermen past continues today in the industrious locals who carry on the community’s legacy.

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2016 Mangrove Symposium offered in Charlotte County

DSC_2445The University of Florida/IFAS Extension Charlotte County and Florida Sea Grant are pleased to announce their upcoming program, a 2016 Mangrove Symposium, which will be held on February 23rd, 2016 at the Charlotte County Eastport Environmental Campus, 25550 Harborview Road, Port Charlotte, FL  33980 from 8:30am – 3:30pm.  Symposium speakers will discuss the role and value of mangroves; rules and laws that govern mangrove trimming; and mangrove pruning techniques.  The cost to attend is $20 with lunch included.  4.25 ISA and 4 FNGLA CEUs are being offered for professional mangrove trimmers who attend the symposium.  For more information including our full agenda and instructions for registering, please see our Symposium flyer here.

What YOU need to know about Sea Level Rise

Southwest Florida is experiencing sea level rise. However, if we inform ourselves with the science and plan collectively as a community, we will be more resilient to any potential impacts. After a careful review of scientific research and associated literature, the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, an ad-hoc group of local scientific experts, has drafted a “Recommended Projection of Sea Level Rise in the Tampa Bay Region“.  Come learn about the report, ask questions, and discuss next steps for our region at 7pm November 5th Salty Topics at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702.‪

Beach ErosionThe recommendation provides guidance on what sea level rise projections should be incorporated into local planning efforts. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) has voted unanimously to accept the  Recommendation for distribution to local governments. The TBRPC One Bay Resilient Communities Working Group will continue to facilitate the discussion of adaptation planning with planners, emergency managers and government leaders to identify practical and incremental solutions to address sea level rise.

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2015 Great Bay Scallop Search – Volunteers Needed

A Scallop Searcher finds what she's looking for

A Scallop Searcher finds what she’s looking for

Great Bay Scallop Search

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

8:30 am – 2 pm

(Orientation beginning at 9am)


Register to Participate

Join the University of Florida/Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension program, by participating in the 2015 Great Bay Scallop Search, a resource-monitoring program where volunteers snorkel, looking for scallops in select areas within Gasparilla Sound and lower Lemon Bay.  The purpose of this program is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population.   Reservations are required to participate in the event. Space is limited so reserve your spot today.  This event is designed to be a fun family event.

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Salty Topics: Seahorses- searching for small, cryptic fish in a vast ocean world

seahorse.rlingSeahorses and pipefish (syngnathid fishes) inhabit shallow coastlines around the world, congregating in some of the most “at-risk” marine habitats on the planet – seagrasses, mangroves, and coral reefs.  Even in places where syngnathids are locally abundant their distribution is patchy, with highly variable group sizes on both small and large scales.

Join Dr. Heather Masonjones, of University of Tampa, at Salty Topics, Thursday April 2nd. Refreshments served at 6:30pm followed by the Salty Topics lecture at 7:00 p.m. at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Register online at

The small body size, cryptic nature, and sparse distribution of seahorse and pipefish make studying their habitat use, ecology and natural mating systems difficult. The work demands creative innovations to track individuals, monitor populations, and develop predictive habitat models for effective conservation.  Our current understanding of the habitat use and population ecology of the dwarf seahorse in Tampa Bay will be discussed, linking key aspects of changing coastal environments to their demographic variability over time.  In addition, new work with a larger species of seahorse in the Bahamas will also be presented, to help illustrate how different environmental contexts can shape both the evolution of and risks to species on a broader geographic scale.

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Are You Smarter than a Stone Crab Tour: April 9th, 2015

Dostone crab flyer you love to eat stone crab claws? Would you like to learn more about the stone crab industry? Join the Florida Sea Grant Agent in Collier County for another “Are you Smarter than a Stone Crab?” Tour on April 9th, 2015.  We will visit Kirk Fish Company in Goodland, Fl. Note the tour will start at the Marco Island Library. To register visit:


Historic Fishing Village of Cortez Has a Dream

Large-Scale Habitat Restoration Begins

Join the fun, be a “Grouper Groupie”  Feb 14-15, at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival and witness a village dream becoming a reality.

Using the proceeds from the festival and partnering with a number organizations, the village has begun the serious task of restoring 100 acres of Sarasota Bay shoreline.

You will have a blast! Music, dancing, delicious seafood, and much, much more in the historic fishing village of Cortez. Spend a day strolling through or a piece of what old time Florida looked like.

While having fun, you will learn more about where your seafood comes from.

And, you will be participating in an important cause. The festival’s mission is endorsed by fame ocean-explorer Jean-Michelle Cousteau.

“Your FISH Preserve is very impressive” wrote Jean-Michel Cousteau, founder of the Oceans Future Society. “Its economic value cannot be judged in terms of dollars alone. I have seen from many places around the world, communities like the fishing village of Cortez, suffering from the demise of the natural resources base on which they depend. Your project is an important reminder of the vital connections between nature and humanity.”

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2015 Southwest Florida Fisheries Regulations & Management Workshop

Do you know . . . fisheries regulations workshop

  • What fishing regulations have changed since last year?
  • The latest on goliath grouper research?
  • How to identify local marine fish?

Florida Sea Grant Extension in Lee and Collier Counties  & Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement are pleased to announce their 6th annual

Southwest Florida Marine Fisheries Regulations and Management Workshop

 January 20, 2015 from  9:00 AM—12:30 PM.

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Salty Topics: Simple Submersibles as Tools in Ocean Exploration

RIOVThe Salty Topics marine research speaker series is in its 4th year at Weedon Island Preserve in northeast St. Petersburg, Florida. Join us on Thursday, December 4th, as Erica Moulton takes us deep into the world of ocean submersibles. Registration and refreshments will open at 6:30 and the talk will begin at 7pm at the Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Register online. For questions, contact Florida Sea Grant Agent Libby Carnahan at

When exploring the world’s oceans, it is best to have the right tool for the job!  Today, thanks to technological advances, scientists are obtaining more information than ever before about our ocean’s biology, geology, and chemical and physical processes. Erica will touch on the similarities and unique differences of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and submarines. The presentation on ROVs will also examine how scientists, explorers and citizen scientists are using them to contribute to what we know about our ocean planet.  We will also have a short hands on opportunity to demonstrate how all ROVs function.

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