At a recent artificial reef workshop organized by Florida Sea Grant in Palmetto, world renowned fisheries biologist Dr. Chris Koenig (Florida State University) shared the results of the goliath grouper biology research he has recently completed. I know you will find these results to be fascinating.
What is juvenile goliath grouper habitat?
A variety of methods were used to study juvenile goliath groupers in mangrove habitat. Mangrove habitat is essential for juvenile survival and the Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades in southwest Florida is the most important source of juvenile recruitment, but other areas in Florida are also important. Juveniles remain in mangrove habitat for the first 5 to 6 years of life and they move offshore when they reach about 36 inches in length. The abundant food and shelter results in higher survival (95%) and rapid growth (4.5 to 6 inches/year). They tend to not move much and usually stay within 100 yards (meters) of the same spot.
What do goliath grouper eat?
Most local anglers and divers are convinced that this massive grouper (can weigh up to 800 lbs!) eats other small grouper and reef fish found on the reefs they inhabit. However, this does not appear to be true. Dr. Koenig found that 85% of the diet consisted of crustaceans, most of which were crabs. The remaining 15% of the diet primarily consisted of slow-moving fishes such as burrfish, catfish, toadfish etc. They forage for food during daylight and are mostly inactive during the night.
The world’s longest-running world dolphin research program is celebrating its 38th year
documenting multi-generational residency of dolphins in Sarasota Bay. The program, which began in 1970, has documented the movements of nearly 150 dolphins in Sarasota Bay as well as 2,500 recognizable animals ranging from Tampa Bay south to Charlotte Harbor.
A combined effort of Mote Marine Lab and the Chicago Zoological Society, the primary focus of the research is to better understand the structure and dynamics of dolphin populations, and the threats facing them.
Other recent research looked at the impact of red tide on coastal dolphin populations. Ironically, the toxic algal bloom did not directly cause dolphin deaths but the lack of prey fish apparently resulted in dolphin deaths caused as they stole bait from recreational anglers. An educational program teaching anglers how to deal with nearby dolphins and the problems caused by feeding wild dolphin is underway this year.
In an AnglerSurvey.com poll, 42% of anglers reported that they search the Internet more than once a week to find information about fishing techniques, products and angling destinations. Other responses were as follows: approximately once a week, 16%; one to three times a month, 20%; and less than once a month, 18%. Only 3% reported that they “never” use the Internet for this purpose.
Six months after deploying 6,200 ton of limestone boulders and transplanting 5,000 plants to three sites west of the main shipping channel in middle Tampa Bay, mangrove snapper and other fish are busy darting around a man-made coral reef. To compensate for unavoidable impacts to hard-bottom habitat in construction of its natural gas pipeline, Gulfstream Natural Gas was required to establish 2.83 acres of similar or better habitat. The operation began with two major transplants. First, divers collected sponges and octocorals from the mitigation area in preparation for seeding the sandy bottom with limestone rock hauled in by barge. Next, they collected plants in the path of the pipeline corridor. Harvested plants were loaded into baskets and transported by boat to an underwater holding area until the limestone boulders could be deployed. In all, 5,000 corals, sponges and seawhips were transplanted to three new reefs. Smaller plants were affixed to the limestone relief using a special epoxy. Larger sponges were wedged in between the rocks to reattach to the hard surface. “These sponges are pretty resilient
and tolerant,” said Walt Jaap of Lithophyte Research, which assisted with one of the sponge harvesting operations.
Early success of a similar effort in 2001, during construction of the Gulfstream mainline, prompted company officials to recommend the same approach for the Phase IV mitigation. Surveys of the Phase I mitigation areas indicate that recovery has been reached well ahead of schedule. Fish and plant recruitment at the mitigation sites are essentially comparable to
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida, keeper of the world’s shark attack records, is also now overseeing a national records collection for another toothy marine predator: the sawfish.
Distinguished by a long rostrum or “saw” that makes it a popular curio item and gives it its name, the sawfish has become a historical and cultural icon that is rapidly disappearing, said George Burgess, a UF ichthyologist and curator of both the International Shark Attack File and the newly expanded National Sawfish Encounter Database.
“Postcards from the turn of the 20th century often depicted this so-called monster that inhabited Florida waters, and if one goes back and looks at newspaper accounts from places outside Florida, every time a sawfish was caught it made the papers,” he said. “Today, it’s difficult to find a bar in South Florida that doesn’t have a sawfish ‘saw’ hanging on the wall.”
On a trip to the beach, many of us will play in the sand at the water’s edge, uncovering some of the curious creatures that live in this “swash zone.” The two most abundant types of animals found here are the mole crab and the coquina clam.
Mole crabs, also referred to as “sand fleas” are small, oval-shaped crabs that are light brownish-grey in color. They have two long, feathery antennae on their heads, and they lack claws. They burrow backwards into wet sand (facing the water) where they sit just below the sand’s surface, antennae sticking out into the water. They use their antennae to filter small food particles out of the water. When a wave dislodges them from the safety of the sand, they rapidly re-bury themselves by backing into the sand. As the tide moves up and down the beach, the mole crabs move too. During summer months, female mole crabs (which can be up to an inch long) may be carrying eggs, which appear as either an orange or grey mass near the base of the back legs on the underside of the crab. As with many other crab species, orange eggs are those that are newly-fertilized, and contain a large proportion of yolk. Grey eggs are more mature eggs that are almost ready to hatch. The grey color comes from the dark eyes of the larvae, which will have eaten most of the yolk before they hatch. Male mole crabs are smaller than females, only reaching about half an inch in length. Mole crabs are commonly sought after by surf fishermen, who use them to catch pompano, spotted sea trout and even sheepshead.
Coquina clams, often locally called” periwinkles,” are small, sometimes brightly-colored clams that also live in the tides. Coquinas have been described as surfers as they can push themselves out of the sand as a wave washes past them; they then ride the wave to a higher portion of the beach. Like mole crabs, they are filter feeders, extracting small plankton from the water as it washes over them. It is quite fascinating to watch a coquina clam bury itself in the sand – it will extend part of its body out of the more tapered end of its shell, and use that to dig. The shell appears to dive into the sand as the animal buries itself. Coquinas can be collected and used to make a kind of soup or broth. In summer months, coquinas may appear to be sporting a brown “beard” – this tuft is a type of hydroid (a colonial animal related to corals and jellyfish). The nature of this seasonal relationship is not well understood, however clams that have the hydroid attached may be less likely to be eaten by predatory snails than those that do not have attached hydroids.
Get ready for two unique days of fun and family entertainment along the historic and picturesque shoreline of Cortez. If you love seafood and want to savor a taste of Florida’s history, don’t miss the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.
The Festival is a special event: visitors will be welcomed to help Cortezians celebrate their love of marine life and pride in their heritage. Festival goers will enjoy a variety of live entertainment, music, clog dancing, boat rides, marine life exhibits, plenty of delicious seafood, and the beautiful vista from the Cortez shoreline will provide a day you won’t soon forget. You will also be treated to a nautical Arts and Crafts Show and tours and displays on local marine life and the commercial fishing industry.
Don’t forget your camera. Magnificent bird life abounds and the marine life touch tank always results in squeals of delight and discovery for children of all ages.
All Festival proceeds are committed to purchasing 95 acres of mangrove wetlands immediately east of the village — The FISH Preserve. This area is one of the last few undeveloped shorelines found in Sarasota Bay. Come on out for a wonderful day and, at the same time, provide your support for helping your community protect the health of bay waters.
Hunting and fishing magazines remain the primary sources of information and entertainment for both anglers and hunters. About 39% of anglers and 47% of hunters indicated that magazines are their primary sources of information. About 34% of anglers stated that Web sites are their primary source of fishing information, compared with about 24% in 2007.