Friday, July 30, 2010

NOAA Fisheries Service Requests Comments on Amendment 17A

Picture courtesy of SAFMC
NOAA Fisheries Service has put out a fishery bulletin requesting comments on the South Atlantic Snapper-Grouper Amendment 17A. Amendment 17A was created to address the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment for red snapper in the South Atlantic that determined the stock is both severely overfished and undergoing a severe level of overfishing. In June 2008 the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) was notified of this stock assessment and, according to the 2006 Reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act, had one year to prepare a plan or proposed regulations to end overfishing. One measure the SAFMC took to address that was to request a closure of the red snapper fishery through an interim rule, which was put into affect by NOAA Fisheries on January 4, 2010. The fishery continues to be closed until December 5, 2010. The SAFMC approved Amendment 17A during its meeting in Orlando in June 2010. The amendment was submitted to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval and now NOAA Fisheries is soliciting public comment as part of the review process. The management measures will likely be implemented later this year. Actions contained in Amendment 17A include:
  • Annual catch limit and accountability measures for South Atlantic red snapper
  • A rebuilding plan for red snapper
  • A prohibition on all harvest and possession of South Atlantic red snapper
  • An area closure off southern Georgia and northern Florida (including Brevard County north of 28 degs latitude) where fishing for all snapper-grouper species would be prohibited, except when using spearfishing gear or black sea bass pots to fish for species other than red snapper
  • A requirement for circle hooks in the snapper-grouper fishery north of 28 degs latitude; and
  • A requirement for a program to monitor red snapper
Please see the fishery bulletin for instructions on how to submit comments.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nonnative Lionfish Found in Indian River Lagoon South of Fort Pierce Inlet

Picture courtesy of USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species program
The Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce put out a press release on Tuesday stating that they recently collected nonnative lionfish south of the Fort Pierce Inlet in the Indian River Lagoon. Following is the press release:

Researchers at the Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) in Fort Pierce recently collected four nonnative lionfish south of the Fort Pierce Inlet in the Indian River Lagoon. SMS Research Assistant Sherry Reed and Drs. Mark and Diane Littler of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History were collecting algae samples in approximately 3 feet of water when they came across a single juvenile red lionfish, Pterois volitans. The specimen was located on the seawall west of Fort Pierce Utilities Authority’s Water Reclamation Facility on South Hutchinson Island. Reed did not have equipment appropriate for the capture of the specimen, so reported the sighting to staff at the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit (SMEE). SMEE staff promptly returned to the location and captured the lionfish, which is approximately 9 cm in length. The specimen is currently on public display at the Ecosystems Exhibit as part of a temporary exhibit on invasive species. SMEE staff returned to the location two days later and captured three additional juvenile red lionfish, ranging in length from 10-12 cm, in approximately 7 feet of water. All three specimens were euthanized and sent to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS) program for DNA analysis. 

Lionfish are a nonnative, venomous fish of the scorpionfish family. Their native range is in the western Pacific but is now distributed in waters from Florida to Cape Hatteras, NC. It is thought that they were introduced into our waters through the aquarium trade. They inhabit reefs from about 10 to 175 meters (32 to 574 feet) in depth. Lionfish prey on many species of fish and are voracious eaters. Research has found that they lower the recruitment (i.e, accumulation of new juvenile fishes via settlement of larvae) of new fish species on a coral reef by 79% meaning that less fish are ultimately found on reefs. They also compete with other native species for food. For more information on lionfish, visit the NAS website at To report a sighting of a lionfish visit or call 1-800-STOP-ANS. Location information such as latitude/longitude, depth and type of habitat is encouraged when reporting a sighting.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fish Kills Can Happen in the Summer Too (Not Just Because of the Cold)

I'm sure everyone remembers this past colder than normal winter and all the fish kills that occurred. Warm water fish species such as snook and tilapia can't tolerate the extreme, prolonged cold that we saw earlier this year that resulted in the mass quantities of fish that died. But fish kills are also common this time of year too but this time it's due to the hot weather or extended periods of cloudy days. Hot weather during the summer months can cause fish kills because warm water doesn't hold as much oxygen as cold water so there's less oxygen for the fish. Also, if there hasn't been any rain for a long period of time (a condition we've seen this summer especially) then the water levels are lower overall which causes the water to heat up even more further depleting the oxygen. Fish kills can also occur when there are long periods of cloudy days. If there isn't enough sunlight for plants in the water to photosynthesize then they start using the dissolved oxygen in the water faster than they can produce it which lowers the oxygen. Most natural bodies of water are used to this fluctuation in the seasons but they can still occur. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) keeps track of fish kills in natural bodies of water (such as the hundreds of fish killed in the St. Johns River). If you see a fish kill in a natural lake or estuary you can report the location at or call the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sea Turtle Nests Moved from Northwest Florida to Our Area

A loggerhead hatchling begins its journey to the ocean (FWC photo)

Sea turtle nests in several counties in Northwest Florida are being (and have been) relocated to the east coast in the hope the sea turtle hatchlings will have a better chance of surviving. This is an unprecedented event led by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its partners in order to keep sea turtle hatchlings from coming into contact with the oil from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Normally sea turtle hatchlings face many obstacles and challenges when they leave the nest, make their way to the water, and start their lives in the ocean. They face predators, currents, searching for food, and many other difficulties. But one obstacle they have to face this year is the oil. The oil products can cause problems for the hatchlings on the beach but more than likely currents could carry them straight into the floating oil, which would certainly cause death. So sea turtle experts from FWC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service have come up with a plan to relocate nests to the the Cape Canaveral area where, once they hatch, they'll be released onto area beaches. This is very risky and is only being considered because of these particular circumstances. Recently NASA released video of some of those sea turtle hatchlings from Northwest Florida being released on July 11th. They want to disturb the nests and hatchlings as little as possible and no one knows really what the consequences are of releasing the hatchlings in an area that's different from where they were laid. Female sea turtles always return to the same beach where they were born but the mechanism that sea turtle's use to locate that beach is unknown. So it's unclear if these hatchlings will return to the beach where they were released or where their mother laid the eggs. Even with these unknowns it's clear that without this relocation plan, those hatchlings would have less of a chance of survival if they had to deal with the oil. For more information on the plan to relocated Northwest Florida sea turtle eggs, go to For more information on sea turtle conservation, visit Also be sure to check out our local Sea Turtle Preservation Society and learn more about their efforts with turtles along our beaches.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Florida Legislature Rejects Constitutional Amendment to Ban Offshore-Drilling

In an earlier post I talked about how the Florida legislature would be meeting in a special session from July 20-23rd about creating a constitutional amendment to ban offshore-drilling, which would be put on the ballot in November for the people to vote on. The session on Tuesday lasted only 2 hours and 18 minutes during which the legislature quickly rejected Governor Charlie Crist's reason for calling the special session. What they did do was appoint six working groups of lawmakers to address oil spill issues. Each of the six groups included a lawmaker from the Panhandle, an area which has been hit the hardest so far by the oil spill. The lead coordinator to all the groups is Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral who all the groups will answer to. They will eventually report their findings in a special session that House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, and Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, plan to call in September. The ultimate goal of the working groups is to guide the creation of legislation in September that will provide property relief for the Panhandle, put the state and the people in a position that would allow them to sue BP and to strengthen the state's seafood-safety testing. To keep up-to-date on news in the legislature, check out Florida Capital News.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Panhandle Outdoors Newsletter

My colleagues in the panhandle have a quarterly newsletter called Panhandle Outdoors filled with lots of great information. Their Summer 2010 issue deals specifically with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. There are topics ranging from Oil Spill Basics, to Dispersants: Helpful or Harmful?, to Helping Wildlife. If you want to know what's been going on in the panhandle and read some informative articles about the oil spill, read their latest newsletter at Panhandle Outdoors Summer 2010 Newsletter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brevard Botanical Garden - Marsh Hibiscus Blooming!

I am part of a wonderful organization called the Brevard Botanical Garden. The organization's mission is to promote an increased appreciation of our environment. The Garden seeks to inspire, support, and educate the community about horticulture through UF/IFAS research based demonstrations, collections, and displays. All agents in my office from 4-H to horticulture to marine science will be able to use the garden for educational programs. It'll also be open to the public (eventually) where people can walk through and view lots of plants native to Florida. My contribution is helping with the pond in the garden. Today I took a picture of a marsh hibiscus blooming that I planted in May! I'm very excited about this! The flower of this plant is on the logo of the Garden so it seems fitting that it's included as one of the plants around the pond. For more information about the Garden check out the Brevard Botanical Garden Facebook Page and the website (work in progress). The Garden is always looking for people who want to be involved and help with different aspects of its development especially since we're still at the beginning stages.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tar Balls Found on Brevard County Beaches Not From BP Oil Spill

The Coast Guard released Monday afternoon news that tar balls found on local beaches were not from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Tar picked up last week from Cocoa Beach and Melbourne Beach share the same origin but it's not from the Gulf oil spill. They seem to be from the same source as tar balls recently found in Key West. The Coast Guard is going to continue its investigation to determine the source of the tar balls. To determine the source of the tar and whether it's specifically from the BP oil spill, it is sent to and examined by the Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in New London, CT. As a reminder, if you see tar ball on any Brevard county beaches, don't touch it but dial 2-1-1 in Brevard county or 1-866-448-5816 if outside of the county. If you see distressed wildlife call 1-866-557-1401.    

CLARIFICATION on the Current Threat to Florida Peninsula and Florida Keys from Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has put out a clarification to its earlier report about modeling the long-term oil threat to the gulf and east coast shoreline. The July 2nd Press Release discusses and models the coastlines with the highest probability of impact as of Day 120 of the oil spill. The July 3rd Press Release states that the earlier model was focusing on the possible long-term shoreline threats and not on the current wind and ocean conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. Debbie Payton, NOAA oceanographer, states that right now there is a very low probability of oil threatening the Florida Peninsula shorelines in the short term because there is no oil in the area near the loop current and the present forecast don't indicate any oil moving into the loop current area. The Florida Peninsula Command Post constantly and aggressively monitors the footprint of the spill and it's relation to the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys and has response plans in place should the situation changes. For the latest information and updates on the response to the oil spill, please visit:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Governor Charlie Crist Calls for Special Session on Oil Drilling

Governor Charlie Crist is calling for a Special Session from July 20th-23rd to put a constitutional ban on the exploration and drilling for oil in Florida waters on the November ballot. State law has prohibited drilling in state waters (3-10 miles of the coast) since 1990 but there have been efforts in the past couple of years to lift the ban. The proposal by Governor Crist would put the ban in the Florida constitution, which would mean only voters could change. Ballots for the November election are scheduled to be printed in early August so Governor Crist is calling this special session now so the proposed revision can be placed on the ballot. Contact your Florida Senator and House Representatives for your district to tell them how you feel about this proposed revision and whether you want to see it on the November ballot. You can find them at the FL House Website or the FL Senate Website.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Local Seafood Class

I will be offering a Local Seafood Class on Saturday, August 14th from 10am to Noon at our Cocoa Extension Office. It'll be a fun class where you'll learn about the different types of local seafood available locally, why you should buy local seafood, the health benefits of eating seafood, and fishery management and sustainability. We'll even provide samples of a couple of seafood recipes at the end of the class for tasting! The cost to attend is $5 and pre-registration is required. Please register on our website (Class Registration) or give me a call at (321)633-1702 ext. 235. You can also call me if you want more information. So come on by and learn about local seafood while enjoying some tasty treats!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Have a Safe July 4th Boating Weekend

July 4th weekend is one of the most popular holiday weekends for boating in Florida. With the hot weather and extra day(s) off the need to be out on the water is great. Who doesn't want to see all the wonderful fireworks displays from their boat or just go out for a fun day on the water. But problems occur with the mixture of boating and alcohol as well as when people don't wear life jackets. FWC along with sheriff's and local police departments will be out on the water in force this weekend ensuring the safety of boaters. They are all involved in Operation Dry Water, a national effort that calls attention to the dangerous practice of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol. So stay safe, use good judgment, and enjoy your weekend out on the water!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shoreline Fishing License Free to Residents

Starting today, July 1, 2010, the license for FL residents to catch saltwater fish from shore is now free. Last year it cost $9 but the FL Legislature repealed the shoreline license fee during the past session. You still need to get the license but you won't have to pay for it if you're a FL resident. If you order your license over the phone or internet you will still have to pay the processing fee to the vendor ($2.31 for internet sales at or $3.33 for phone sales through 888-FISH-FLORIDA). A couple of permit fees did increase today also. The snook permit increased from $2 to $10 and the lobster permit increased $2 to $5. All permits and licenses can be purchases online at, at county tax collector's offices, many retail outlets that sell fishing supplies, and by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA. Check out for more information on license requirements and current exemptions.

Who Am I?

Hi Everyone. I'm the Marine Extension Agent for Brevard County Extension Service. I provide educational opportunities and university research-based information designed to assist citizens, businesses, community leaders, and visitors in making informed choices as they enjoy and conserve Brevard's unique marine and aquatic resources. Future generations can then continue to enjoy and conserve these same ecological wonders. Please contact me anytime and enjoy reading my posts!