Friday, August 27, 2010

FWC seeks input on possible red drum regulation changes - Sept 20th Meeting in Cocoa

FWC is hosting a series of public workshops starting in September to discuss possible fishing regulation changes for red drum. FWC is considering creating regional management areas for red drum and raising the daily bag limit from one to two fish per person in Northeast and Northwest Florida. FWC is encouraging anyone interested to attend the workshops which will take place from 6-8pm at the following dates and locations (a local workshop is held on September 20th):

Wednesday September 8th
Gulf Coast Community College
5230 W. U.S. Highway 98
Student Union East
2nd Floor Conference Room
Panama City

Thursday September 9th
FWC Headquarters
620 S. Meridian Street
Farris Bryant Building
2nd Floor Conference Room

Monday September 20th (Local Workshop)
Brevard Agricultural Center
3695 Lake Drive

Tuesday November 23rd
Jacksonville Public Library
Southeast Branch
10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. 

Tuesday November 30th
FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
100 Eighth Ave. SE
Karen A Steidinger Auditorium
St. Petersburg

Wednesday December 1st
City Hall Council Chambers
123 NW Highway 19
Crystal River

For more information about the workshops, visit FWC Marine Fisheries Workshops.

NOAA Reopens More than 4,000 Square Miles of Closed Gulf Fishing Area

Today NOAA reopened 4,281 square miles of Gulf waters off western Louisiana to commercial and recreational fishing. No oil has been in the area since July 29th and models show this area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil. Fish caught in the area were tested by NOAA experts and showed no signs of contamination. NOAA will continue to take samples from the newly re-opened area and there is also dockside sampling to test fish caught by commercial fishermen throughout the Gulf.

The closed area now covers 48,114 square miles or 20 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico (37% at the peak of the closures). To view the official NOAA bulletin of the reopening, click here. To view the fact sheet released on the administration-wide effort to ensure Gulf seafood safety, click here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lionfish Derbies in the Florida Keys

Non-native lionfish invade a reef in Bahamas (Photo credit Tom DeMayo)
In an earlier blog I talked about lionfish and how some have been recently caught in the Indian River Lagoon (both Fort Pierce Inlet and Sebastian Inlet). Lionfish are a non-native, venomous fish of the scorpionfish family and considered to be extremely invasive. They are voracious eaters and feed upon many commercially and ecologically important species of native fish including grouper and snapper. They have also had a rapid increase in population especially in the Keys. They are frequently removed from the water when encountered by divers and researchers.  Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)-coordinated lionfish derbies in the Bahamas have removed almost 2500 lionfish since 2009. Thousands more fish have been captured in more than 30 REEF-organized lionfish collection trips across the Caribbean.

NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in partnership with REEF is hosting an inaugural series of lionfish derbies starting in September. Divers who remove lionfish from sanctuary waters will be eligible for more than $10,000 in cash and prizes. These two partners have been working with the Florida Keys dive community to remove invasive lionfish since early 2009. Divers will be given detailed briefings on lionfish collecting and handling procedures then they will be allowed to collect fish on the day of the tournament using handnets or spearfishing gear in areas of the sanctuary where fishing and spearfishing is allowed. The $100 registration fee for a 4-person team of divers or snorkelers provides participants with a pair of puncture resistant gloves and banquet tickets. Event banquets will feature a lionfish tasting for derby participants and guests. "Eating lionfish is a conservation activity," said Sean Morton, acting sanctuary superintendent. "We are its only known predator in the Atlantic and through dedicated diver-based removal efforts, and consumption of lionfish as a food source, we can control its establishment." NOAA has developed an "Eat Lionfish" campaign that brings together fishing communities, wholesalers, and chefs in an effort to increase awareness of this invader and enjoy a tasty meal.

For more information on the derbies and to register online, visit Dates and locations for the derbies are:
  • Sept 11th - Coconuts Restaurant, Key Largo
  • Oct 16th - Keys Fisheries Market and Marina, Marathon
  • Nov 13th - Hurricane Hold Marina, Key West
The Florida Keys lionfish derbies are sponsored in part by: Ocean Reef Conservation Association, Divers Direct, Spree Expeditions, Inc., Dive Key West, Inc., and Scuba-Do Dive Company. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coastal Wildlife Conservation Initiative Meeting Sept 7th

The Coastal Wildlife Conservation Initiative (CWCI) will have a meeting hosted by our Brevard County Extension office in Cocoa on September 7th. The CWCI is a FWC-led multi-agency strategy to address threats to native wildlife and their habitats in coastal ecosystems, while including human interests and the values placed upon Florida's coastal areas. The goal is a statewide, cooperative process to provide for greater consistency and coordination to:
  • Protect coastal wildlife populations
  • Conserve and manage coastal ecosystems
  • Achieve balance between conservation and opportunities for recreation, commercial activities, and responsible development
If you're interested in learning more about CWCI, the partnership strategy, and help identify coastal area issues of concern please register at If you have questions or would like additional information contact Laura DiGruttolo, CWCI Coordinator, or 386-758-0525 or myself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NOAA Reopens Finfish Harvesting in Portion of Gulf of Mexico

Effective August 10th at 6pm, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reopened an area 5,144 square miles to finfish harvesting only in the Gulf of Mexico. This area had previously been closed to commercial and recreational fishing due to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Fishing for non-finfish species, such as shrimp, is still prohibited in this area. This area previously was closed because oil had been present in the area but no oil has been documented since July 3rd. NOAA collected 153 finfish from this area and performed tests to determine if oil or dispersants were found in the samples. Sensory tests showed no detectable oil or dispersant odors or flavors and the chemical analysis results were well below levels of concern. Both NOAA and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are continuously working together to ensure seafood safety by closing fishing areas where tainted seafood could be caught and determining whether seafood is tainted or contaminated. For more information, visit

Local Seafood Class This Saturday!

Just a reminder that a Local Seafood Class is being offered this Saturday from 10am to Noon at the Cocoa Extension Office. We'll be talking about fisheries management, what kinds of local seafood is available, nutritional facts about seafood, and there will be a seafood cooking demonstration along with samples to taste. Register at under Class Registration or call me at 321-633-1702 ext. 235. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

FWC extends snook-fishing closure

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has temporarily extended the emergency closure of snook harvest and possession in Florida through Sept 16th. The emergency closure was initially put into affect because of the possible effects of the prolonged cold weather on the snook population the previous winter. Catch-and-release fishing is still allowed but there is a continued prohibition on harvest and possession. The season would have normally opened on Sept 1st but will remain closed until 12:01am on Sept 17th. On Sept 2nd, the FWC Commissioners will hear a report on the extent of the damage to the snook population and consider different management options for the next 12 months. For more information, visit FWC Snook Regulations.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

National Aquaculture Association Workshop

The National Aquaculture Association is presenting a workshop titled "The Four P's of a Safe and Sustainable Aquaculture Industry: Practices, Presentation, Promotion, and the Press" on October 8th from 9:00am-4:00pm at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce. Here is a description of the workshop:

U.S. aquaculturists face a variety of challenges to the marketability of their products including cheaper imports from foreign producers, environmental advocates who don't fully understand U.S. aquaculture, and negative media coverage that can result from these factors. To help regional aquaculturists meet such challenges and grow their businesses, the National Aquaculture Association (NAA) and the National Soybean Board are teaming up with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University and the Florida Aquaculture Association to present a day-long workshop .The workshop presentations will cover product safety and sustainability, the knowledge and skills necessary to help shape public perception of aquaculture at the local level, and information on regulatory verification and the certifications that various private organizations use. In addition to a local speaker presenting on "Why Aquaculture within the Region is Environmentally and Sustainably Sound," workshop instructors will include aquaculture experts Drs. Andy Goodwin and Nathan Stone from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, NAA Executive Director Betsy Hart, and NAA Outreach Coordinator and Communications Consultant Linda O'Dierno. All participants will receive an information toolbox containing handy references and important information to help spread the good news about U.S. aquaculture.

For the workshop agenda and registration information, visit

Monday, August 2, 2010

NOAA Announces Gulf Surface Oil Not a Threat to South Florida, Keys, and East Coast

Map of location of oil and loop current (NOAA)
On Friday July 30th, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that new analysis shows that Southern Florida, the Florida Keys, and the East Coast of Florida are not likely to experience any effects from the remaining oil on the surface of the Gulf. Since the well was capped, no oil has been discharging since mid-July and the oil that remains is hundreds of miles away from the loop current. A large loop current eddy, called Eddy Franklin, has pinched off and detached from the loop current and is more than 100 miles from the nearest surface oil. Unless Eddy Franklin rejoins the loop current and comes in contact with oil then there is no clear way for oil to be transported to the Florida Keys and beyond. The remaining oil is dispersing and biodegrading. Assuming the cap continues to stop oil from discharging and the relief well(s) and static kill work later this month then no more oil should be discharged. To keep up to date with the latest Oil Spill news check out To view NOAA's press release, visit or DEP's press release at

On another positive note, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently reopened 23-miles of state waters offshore of Escambia County to the harvest of saltwater fish. This area had been closed since June 14th as a precautionary measure due to possible impacts from the oil. To view FWC's press release, visit