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.


#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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The Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival: Fishing for our Future

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. For one weekend in February, this tough and tiny village will open its doors to thousands of visitors to share the proud history and culture of one of Florida’s last true working waterfronts.

Settled by fishermen from North Carolina in the late 1800s, Cortez has never stopped fishing. Its people have withstood hurricanes, wars, recessions and storms of regulations. The village has had to adapt to shifting sands – but the perseverance and grit of the people have never wavered. Today it remains a true testament to the “real” Florida.

This region has supplied bountiful seafood to humans for thousands of years. Fishing here is good for a reason. Nestled among mangroves on Sarasota Bay, Cortez is positioned between two nationally accredited estuaries. Quick translation: the habitat here is pretty special. However, like so much of Florida, Cortez faces threats associated with an increasing human population and ever-encroaching development. But unlike so much of Florida, where similar places have simply been swallowed by the concrete, Cortez has been fighting back.

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A Salty Heritage: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay

The National Sea Grant Program is celebrating 50 years of Science Serving America’s Coasts (for a 30 second video, or even better, a 10 minute video). To commemorate Sea Grant’s cherished history of working with fishing communities, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant Agents Libby Carnahan (Pinellas) and Angela Collins (Manatee, Hillsborough, Sarasota) hosted “A Salty Heritage: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay.” The program, held at Weedon Island Preserve in December 2016, was open to the public and highlighted the bounty and diversity of fishing opportunities within the Tampa Bay region. Invited panelists included commercial and recreational representatives, and featured crabbers, seafood wholesalers, and fishermen. Each speaker told tales from their past, provided insight into their industries, and shared their visions for the future.

John Stevely, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant Agent emeritus, talks about the history local working waterfronts in Tampa Bay; notably the sponge industry in Tarpon Springs and mullet in Cortez. Other panelists included (from left to right) Dawn Ayelsworth, Bob Ayelsworth, Jason DeLaCruz, Larry Borden and Gus Muench.

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Sea Grant 50th Anniversary Program: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay


Photo credit: Hubbard’s Marina

Sea Grant is turning 50! Come and Celebrate 50 Years of Putting Science to Work for America’s Coastal Communities.

What: A Salty Heritage: Celebrating the Fishing History of Tampa Bay

When: Saturday, December 3, 2016

Where: Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive, St. Petersburg, FL 33702

About: Tampa Bay has a rich heritage as a fishing community. To celebrate Sea Grant’s 50th Anniversary, we are holding a Marine Science Open Classroom (10 am – 12 pm) that will be fun for the whole family! Then we’ll have cake and refreshments in the lobby (12 – 1 pm), and will proudly finish the day by hosting some of the saltiest fishermen in the bay for an open panel discussion (1 – 3 pm) with the audience! Invited panelists range from crabbers, spearfishers, wholesalers, and recreational and commercial anglers. Each speaker will tell tales from the past, provide insights into their profession, and give us a glimpse of what they see as they look to the future. A question and answer session will follow the panel discussion.

We hope that you will join us for part (or all) of the day to learn about the resources Tampa Bay provides to our community.

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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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Water Quality: Who’s Monitoring Charlotte Harbor’s Water?

hands holding up globeMaintaining good water quality is essential to maintaining the health of our harbor. Water quality refers to the condition of water relative to legal standards, social expectations or ecological health. In order to track water quality conditions in the harbor and identify specific areas of concern, long term water quality monitoring is a must.

A number of organizations conduct water quality monitoring water quality in Charlotte Harbor and its adjacent tributaries. What follows is a look at some of the organizations who conduct water quality monitoring and the reasons why:

FDEP, Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves Volunteers – Conduct monthly sunrise sampling at 40+ fixed locations from Lemon Bay to Estero Bay. Initiated in 1996, trained volunteers sample mostly near shore shallow waters. Sunrise sampling serves to identify Dissolved Oxygen levels (necessary for plant & animal survival) at their lowest levels.

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Attention Captains – Join Us for a For-Hire Fishing Workshop

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Join us for an exciting opportunity! This “For-Hire” fishing workshop from Florida Sea Grant and UF/IFAS Extension will give you new ideas and proven advice that will help you grow your fishing business! You will connect with experts in your community, learn how to get involved in fisheries research opportunities, and get answers to the business questions and challenges that will keep you ahead of the competition. Workshop topics will include: Accounting practices to help you at tax time, Using the Visitors Bureau to market your business, Fish health and how you can help researchers, State and Federal fisheries management updates, And much, much more! New this year: Join us for our Captain’s panel and share time! Captains Ralph Allen, Dan Cambern, Mike Myers and Jay Withers will be on deck to answer your questions and lead everyone in some active discussion.

Need to know: The workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 9th, at the Charlotte County Eastport Environmental Campus, 25550 Harborview Rd., Port Charlotte, FL 33980. The cost is $20 and includes materials, lunch and refreshments. Registration is online at: https://for-hire15.eventbrite.com or contact the organizer at staugler@ufl.edu or (941) 764-4346.

Florida Remains a Top U.S. Aquaculture Producer

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent survey on farm production,  Florida aquaculture ranked 6th amongst U.S. states with 619 farms reporting $95.6fish million in sales. Florida’s top aquaculture sector continues to be ornamental fish (freshwater and marine tropical, koi, and goldfish) with 155 farms reporting farm-gate income of $42.9 million. In fact, Florida is the number one U.S. producer of ornamental fish followed by California at $5.3 million.

Shellfish production, specifically hard clams, is Florida’s second largest aquaculture segment. According to the USDA report Florida has 154 farms reporting $15.7 million in sales in 2012.  Florida ranks 6th in the nation behind other states that culture shellfish (clams, oysters or mussels) such as Washington, Virginia, Louisiana, California, and Connecticut.

The USDA report also found 126 Florida farms are producing a wide variety of “other species” with a sales value of $12.9 million.  Florida crustacean production such as shrimp, crawfish, and prawn ranked 4th in the United States with 22 farms selling $10.6 million worth of product after Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii.

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Sharks, Friend or Foe?

Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, …Shark Week! Well friends, it is that time of year again. Sharks take center stage this week on cable television. With all the hype, it can be hard to separate the fact from the fiction. Are sharks friends or foe? Perhaps they are not either. Perhaps we should look at them as oft-misunderstood, ecologically-important predatory ocean fish. So what are sharks?

Sharks ARE ancient. Sharks are sometimes referred to as “living fossils”. Ancient sharks lived in the oceans long before animals colonized the land. Sharks have lived on earth for at least 400 million years! Most fossil evidence of early sharks exists as fossil teeth along with a few skin impressions. Ancestry of sharks dates back before the earliest known dinosaur. Although the dinosaurs are long gone, sharks still live on.

Copy of IMG_1916

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Marine Life Harvesting Regulations Presentation

Recently, I’ve had several questions regarding the legality of harvesting live shells and other marine life such  as fiddler crabs, sand dollars and sea stars. In short, the recreational collection of sea shells is allowed depending on whether or not the harvested sea shell contains a living organism, the type of organism it contains, and where you will be collecting. The following presentation was prepared for county park rangers and resource managers in Collier County. The presentation addresses:

  • Jurisdiction for harvesting marine life in Florida
  • Basic license requirements

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