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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Commercial Fishing in Southwest Florida

Image credit: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

Image credit: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

Southwest Florida has a long tradition of commercial fishing in its rivers, bays, and Gulf waters. In 2015 over 22 million pounds of wild harvested fish and shellfish including shrimp, blue and stone crab, grouper, mackerel, and mullet among others were harvested by commercial fishermen and landed in the seven-coastal counties of Southwest Florida. In addition, approximately 285 wholesalers and 750 retailers bought and sold seafood in this region contributing to Florida’s multi-billion dollar seafood industry.

The fisheries in Southwest Florida are monitored and managed at the state level by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and federally by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Closed areas and seasons, size and daily limits, trip tickets, and limited access into a fishery are all tools commonly used to manage Florida’s fisheries. In addition, managers establish annual catch limits and accountability measures to ensure the long-term health of the fisheries they manage. Fishermen use a variety of gear and methods to harvest their catch and they must also follow rules to minimize impacts to the surrounding environment and marine life.

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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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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:


2012 Fisheries of the United States Report Now Available

Have you ever wondered….DSCN3892

Which U.S. port landed the largest quantify of seafood last year? How many fishing trips did recreational anglers take? How  much seafood does the average American eat?

Fortunately, the answers to these questions and many more can be found in NOAA Fisheries annual report, “Fisheries of the United States.”  The report for 2012 recently was published and provides a comprehensive overview of how our country’s commercial and recreational fisheries are doing. For example:

U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.6 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2012, valued at $5.1 billion.

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Seafood Safety in the Home Webinar Recording

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the past three years Florida Sea Grant Agents in Collier and Miami-Dade Counties have been offering brown bag webinars to help educate consumers about various Florida seafood products and issues associated with these commodities. This past year’s series has focused on seafood health and safety. Recently, we presented the final webinar of the series, which provided tips for ensuring the seafood you bring home stays fresh while being safe and smart about it. The goals of the presentation are to

  • —Increase your knowledge on how to select seafood to purchase
  • —Increasing your knowledge of techniques for safely preparing seafood in a healthy way
  • —Increase your knowledge on how to safely handle your own catch

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Recording: Seafood Regulatory Oversight Webinar

Have you ever wondered who regulates the safety of the seafood you eat? What steps are taken to ensure our seafood supply remains safe? Florida Sea Grant Extension Agents in Collier and Miaimi-Dade Counties just wrasnapper in fish housepped up their Brown Bag Webinar on Seafood Regulatory Oversight, and can help answer these questions. The presentation is intended for general audiences and the goals are to:

  • —Increase your knowledge of the regulatory agencies responsible for providing oversight for seafood safety
  • —Make you aware of the regulatory measures in place to ensure the U.S. seafood supply is and remains safe
  • —Discuss how seafood fraud is affecting the seafood industry, and what is being done to address it.
 To view a recording of the webinar visit:

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Webinar Recording: Florida Seafood Seasons and Availability

Did you know Florida fishermen harvest over 80 varieties of both wild caught and farm raised products along its Gulf and Atlantic coasts? In fact, because of it’s geography, climate, and diversity of DSC_0039coastal and marine environments, Florida harvests a greater diversity of seafood commodities than any other state in the United States. Florida Sea Grant Extension Agents in Collier and Miami-Dade recently offered a brown bag webinar on Florida Seafood Seasons and Availability and now a recording of the webinar is available to consumers wanting to learn more about local seafood. Specifically the goals of the webinar are:

  •  Make you aware of the diversity of wild caught and farm-raised seafood harvested in Florida
  • Increase your understanding of factors that can influence the availability of Florida seafood
  • Highlight the seasonality of some of Florida’s top seafood commodities
  • Provide you with tips and resources to find Florida seafood in your community

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Webinar recording: Frequently Asked Questions about Mercury in Seafood

DSC_0025Which species of seafood have the highest amounts of mercury?…

Is it safe for pregnant women to eat seafood?…

Who regulates how much mercury is allowed in the seafood we eat?…

What role does selenium play in mitigating the effects of mercury?…

If you would like to know the answers to these questions and more, please click on the link below to view a recording of a recently offered Florida Sea Grant webinar on Frequently Asked Questions about Mercury in Seafood. The webinar also provides a variety of resources for you to learn more about maximizing the health benefits of consuming seafood while minimizing potential risks associated with mercury.

2013 Florida Seafood Brown Bag Webinar Series

Current recommendations include eating two seafood meals a week. Seafood is a nutritious, high protein food but confusion exists about the risks associated with consuming and preparing seafood. 06778S_jpg The Florida Sea Grant Extension Program is offering a Brown Bag Webinar Series to discuss balancing the benefits and risks of consuming seafood.  Spend your lunchtime with us learning about seafood health and safety.

Webinars are offered select Thursdays and Wednesdays from 12:15-12:45 EST

Click here to register

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