Recreation

Catch and Release – Not quite perfect

This snook will probably survive after being released, but some don’t. In fact, we kill more of these fish with catch-and-release than we take home to eat.. Photo: Capt. John Merriwether

Catch and Release is an important conservation tool. Catch and release fishing helps to sustain native fish populations by allowing more fish to remain and reproduce in the ecosystem. This practice provides an opportunity for more people to enjoy fishing and to successfully catch fish.

But, catch and release fishing is not perfect. Some fish still die. Including some that swim away after being released. Caught and released fish can die for many reasons including: hook injury, handling practices, air exposure, and barotrauma (swim bladder trauma in deep water fish). Released fish sometimes die immediately, but in other cases mortality due to angling stress may take days.

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2017 Earth Day Mail Art Competition

UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County invites you to celebrate Earth Day by getting in touch with your artistic side! Pick up your colored pencil, paintbrush, or scissors and get creative! The 2017 Earth Day Mail Art Competition is currently accepting submissions of original, handmade artwork from all ages in 3 categories- Love Tampa Bay, To Earth With Love, and Plastic Aware. Residents of Tampa Bay counties may submit one distinct creative piece per category. Age groups are broken down into youth (<12 years old), teens (13-18 years), and adult (18+). There will be 3 prizes awarded in each category.  For full contest rules and prize details click here.

MAIL ART CATEGORIES

#LoveTampaBay – Show us why you love Tampa Bay’s waters and wildlife
#ToEarthWithLove – Show us how you give back to the earth, whether it is through recycling, composting, conserving water, educating, etc.
#PlasticAware – Show us how plastics are impacting the environment and/or communities (people)

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Stay safe and legal when harvesting shellfish

Red tide, Karenia brevis

It has been a bad year for red tide throughout southwest Florida. The bloom we’ve been experiencing started last year around September and has persisted since. Blooms lasting this long are not unheard of and actually scientists have recently made some correlations between severity and duration of red tide blooms and the position of the loop current. That’s interesting stuff, but what I really want to talk about is why you shouldn’t harvest shellfish for consumption during a red tide bloom. Seems like a no brainer I know, but sadly its been happening a lot during this particular bloom.

Red tide is an example of a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), which results from higher than normal growth of a tiny single-celled dinoflagellate algae. Worldwide there are several algal species that can cause red, yellow, brown, and even green tide events. The species typically responsible for red tide blooms off Florida’s Gulf coast and other parts of the Gulf of Mexico is Karenia brevis. K. brevis naturally occurs in Gulf waters, but when conditions are favorable it can reproduce very quickly through cell division (every 48-120 hrs.) creating what we refer to as a bloom.

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Lionfish in the Bay!

Photo by FWC Officer Michael Morrison at Laishley Pier in Punta Gorda on January 31st, 2017

This is so not good! Late last month, FWC officer Michael Morrison observed a lionfish swimming off the Laishley Pier in Punta Gorda. This is the third documented lionfish sighting inside Charlotte Harbor, and it’s also the most up harbor. Laishley Pier is actually on the Peace River.

What’s not good about this beautiful fish? Well, for starters, it doesn’t belong here. Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but unfortunately they are well established throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic to North Carolina, and the Caribbean.

The lionfish established here comprise two species, Pterois volitans, the red lionfish and P. miles, the devil firefish. The lions share, 93 percent of those established, are red lionfish. Genetic studies indicate that lionfish in the Atlantic are likely all descendants of a few individuals, which is consistent with the widely held belief that lionfish were introduced into the Atlantic as a result of accidental or deliberate release of aquarium pets. Isolated lionfish sightings were first documented in southeast Florida in the 1980s, and by the early 2000s they were established in that area. They then expanded to the Bermuda (2004), the Bahamas (2005), the Turks and Caicos (2008), the Cayman Islands and the Florida Keys (2009) and the Gulf of Mexico (2010). Today, they are a common sighting on any reef, in the listed areas — natural or manmade, including those off southwest Florida.

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Stone Crabs

A stone crab after removal of it’s claw and showing a clean break. Stone crabs have a much better chance of survival if the diaphragm at the body/claw joint is intact. The diaphragm functions as a seal to close the wound and stop the bleeding. Photo: FWC

They’re feisty, fearsome predators, even cannibalistic; and they’re what’s for dinner. At least at my house! Let’s talk stone crab!

Two commercial species of stone crab coexist in the state of Florida, the Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) and the Gulf stone crab (Menippe adina). These two crabs are managed as a single fishery in the state. The Florida stone crab (our crab) occurs in the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico and extends from North Carolina throughout peninsular Florida and the Caribbean. The Gulf stone crab occurs principally in the northern and western Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida stone crab inhabits mixed seagrass-hard bottom habitat. Adult crabs dig burrows under the seagrasses or excavate holes in emerged rocks on the seafloor. The Gulf stone crab also occupies those habitats, but prefers muddier bottoms and oyster reefs. Both species feed primarily on mollusks, including scallops, clams, conchs, and oysters, which they crush with their powerful claws. Predators that feed on stone crabs include octopus and humans.

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Staying legal with Florida fishing license rules

Fishing license rules can be confusing, especially if you’re new to Florida or don’t know where to get good information. We have fishing license requirements for fresh water and salt water. We also have fishing regulations that apply to state waters and federal waters, and they are not always consistent. Knowing how and when they apply to you is important for ensuring a good fishing trip doesn’t go sour when law enforcement arrives. Licensing and regulatory information about fishing in Florida can be found at MyFWC.com.

If you are going fishing in Florida, you can assume you need a fishing license, unless you meet one of the state’s exemptions, are fishing from a pier that has a valid “pier license” (most of them don’t), or are fishing on a licensed charter boat.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Vibrio in Florida

vibrio

Vibrio under a scope. Source: CDC

Two recent deaths in Florida have raised concern about the saltwater-dwelling bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus. MOST HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS ARE NOT AT RISK FOR V. vulnificus INFECTION, however, to ensure that your time on the water is safe and enjoyable, be aware of your risk and take steps to minimize becoming infected.

What are Vibrio?

The name Vibrio refers to a large and diverse group of marine bacteria. Most members are harmless, however, some strains produce harmful toxins and are capable of causing a disease known as “vibriosis.”

When and where are Vibrio found?

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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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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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Reef fish return to the Deep! Tracking gag grouper after catch and release.

acoustically tagged gag

A gag grouper fitted with an ID tag and an acoustic pinger. These ‘pingers’ allow researchers to monitor fish behavior after release.

Reef fisheries are economically important to commercial and recreational industries in the state of Florida. Most species are carefully managed through quotas, size limits and seasonal closures; however, these regulations are effective only if released fish survive.

Gag grouper are a favorite target for many marine anglers in the Gulf of Mexico. Seasonal and size restrictions contribute to recreational discard, and the associated release mortality is an important consideration during stock assessments. There is  uncertainty regarding current discard mortality estimates, and the effectiveness of different barotrauma mitigation techniques is unclear.

DD release

A gag grouper is returned to the reef using a weighted release device. This method provides an alternative to venting.

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