Monday, September 27, 2010

NOAA Strategy for Future Reopenings of Areas in the Gulf

September 27th news release from NOAA: NOAA’s Fisheries Service first prohibited commercial and recreational fishing in federal waters impacted by the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill as a seafood safety measure in early May. The closed area was 88,522 square miles or 37 percent of the Gulf of Mexico federal waters at its largest and now after six reopenings is 31,915 square miles or 13 percent of the Gulf of Mexico federal waters.Since July 22, NOAA has reopened about 52,000 square miles of oil-impacted federal waters in accordance with the reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Gulf states. These areas are illustrated in gray on the map. Prior to reopening an area, the protocol requires NOAA to demonstrate the area is oil free, the area has little risk of being re-exposed to oil, and seafood tissue samples collected from within the area have passed both sensory and chemical analysis for hydrocarbons. This protocol involves sensory testing for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) components of the oil and dispersant along with chemical based testing for PAH as a confirmatory measure. After areas are reopened NOAA Fisheries Service will maintain a seafood safety monitoring program continuing the collection and testing of seafood to ensure that Gulf seafood remains safe for consumers. NOAA’s Fisheries Service’s sampling strategy in general has been to work from the lesser oiled outer boundaries of the federal closure in toward the more heavily oiled areas immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon/BP wellhead. Area-specific sampling plans focus on species fishermen generally target in those areas, and require more samples to be collected in heavily oiled areas, compared to lightly oiled areas. The tentative sequence of remaining sampling within the federal closed area is illustrated on the map. In summary, the closed area has been divided into eight sub-areas, which are labeled in priority from 1-8. Priority Area 1 was reopened on September 21, and included a 7,970-square mile area located along the southern boundary of the closed area, offshore of central Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the western edge of the Florida panhandle. The next federal reopening priorities include a 5,628-square mile area (Priority Area 2) and a 2,927-square mile area (Priority Area 3) located off eastern Louisiana, just west and south of the Mississippi River delta. NOAA is currently processing samples collected in these two areas, which could reopen within the next few weeks pending test results. NOAA is actively sampling Priority Area 4, and expects to begin sampling Priority Areas 5-8 within the coming weeks. Updates on the reopenings and sampling schedules, as well as supporting information and data on previous reopening are available at:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Florida Master Naturalist Upland Habitats Class

Brevard County Extension Service and Parks and Recreation will be offering a Florida Master Naturalist class focusing on Upland Habitats starting Saturday October 2nd and continuing till November 20nd for a total of 7 days. The class will be offered at Riverwalk Nature Center in Rockledge, FL from 8am to 5pm every Saturday. Participants will learn about upland habitats and the many organisms and plants that are found in that environment. The class is a combination of lecture and field trips at Erna Nixon Park and the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary. Participants are expected to complete a project during the course and present during the final class (either individually or in a group). Pre-registration is required so please visit for more information about the class and to register.
The mission of the Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) is to promote awareness, understanding, and respect of Florida's natural world among Florida's citizens and visitors. This mission is accomplished in part by FMNP instructors, who teach students in the program about Florida's environment using science-based information and interpretive techniques that prepare students to share their knowledge with others.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program - Landscape and Ponds Class

Sally Scalera, Homeowner Horticulture agent, and myself will be offering a class on September 27th from 5:30-7pm and October 21st from 2-3:30pm on landscaping and ponds at our Cocoa office. Participants will learn about several Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles including how to reduce stormwater runoff and protect the waterfront using native aquatic plants and simple steps to a Florida-Friendly yard. I'll be showing participants the Brevard Botanical Garden pond and the native aquatic plant species that have been planted in the pond over the past year. The cost to attend the class is $12 and light snacks and refreshments will be provided. Please register at so we know how many people are attending and can provide enough snacks. I hope to see you there!

Cocoa Hook Kids on Fishing Program

The non-profit organization Anglers for Conservation will be conducting a Cocoa Hook Kids on Fishing Program at Cocoa's Lee Wenner Park on November 6th from 11am to 1pm. This program is offered for kids ages 6 to 16 along with their parents. The first 100 registered kids receive a free rod, reel and tackle box. Clinics of casting, cast netting, fishing habitat and biology, conservation, fishing safety, knot tying and catch and release techniques will all be available. Sign up for this program by calling the Indian River Lagoon program at 321-984-4950. For more information check out
If you'd like to volunteer to help with this program please contact Capt. Rodney Smith at 321-750-3374 or email him at Volunteers are needed to assist with registration, event set-up, fundraising, teaching kids to cast, fishing techniques, habitat restoration, conservation, fishing safety, knot tying and catch and release tactics.
This free program is being offered during the same time and place as the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Indian River Lagoon program. The outdoor part of the event will be held from 11am - 4pm at Riverfront Park. Outdoors will feature environmental organizations, food, and fun.  The indoor portion of the event will be held from 9am - 5 pm at the Cocoa Civic Center and will include a variety of short talks and displays highlighting the many efforts being undertaken by groups and agencies to protect and restore the lagoon. For more information or to register for the event, contact the Indian River Lagoon Program office at 321-984-4950.

Council Reviews Options for Future Management of Red Snapper

Here is the latest news release from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (courtesy of Kim Iverson - Public Information Officer).

New stock assessment due for completion in December may prompt changes in regulations

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council met last week in Charleston, South Carolina to discuss several amendments currently under development that may impact fishermen in the future who target species such as snapper, grouper, dolphin, and mackerel.  An issue of special interest to both commercial and recreational fishermen is the ongoing closure of the red snapper fishery in the South Atlantic and the possible implementation of a large area closure off the central and northeastern coast of Florida and southern coast of Georgia. Within the proposed area closure, fishing for all snapper grouper species in water depths ranging from 98 feet to 240 feet would be prohibited (with the exception of spearfishing and use of black sea bass pots).
     The red snapper fishery has been closed to all fishermen in South Atlantic federal waters since January 4, 2010 as part of an effort to end overfishing of red snapper and meet the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The interim rule used to close the fishery is set to expire on December 5, 2010. However, new measures proposed in Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan would extend the closure indefinitely, create the new area closure noted above, require the use non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for snapper grouper species north of 28 degrees N. latitude, and develop a fishery-independent monitoring program to help track the rebuilding and recovery of red snapper.  The amendment is currently under review by NOAA Fisheries Service and a public comment period for Amendment 17A and proposed regulations is open until September 27, 2010.  The final decision for implementation of Amendment 17A will be made by the Secretary of Commerce by October 27, 2010.  If approved, the final rule implementing management measures could be issued as early as December 1, 2010.
     A new stock assessment is underway for red snapper through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) stock assessment program.  According to Dr. Roy Crabtree, Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service’s Southeast Regional Office, the preliminary stock assessment indicates more positive findings for the red snapper stock, but he cautioned that the final assessment must go through further review before being presented to the Council in December.  During last week’s meeting, the Council discussed options for modifying the measures in Amendment 17A if the amendment is approved.  It is likely the closure of the red snapper fishery will continue, but modifications may be made to the area closure to reduce the size and configuration or allow fishing for snapper grouper species other than red snapper during a portion of the year.  The Council’s intent is to use the quickest means possible within the management process to implement such changes if they are warranted.  Any necessary changes to regulations will be determined by the Council during its December meeting in New Bern, North Carolina after reviewing the final stock assessment results.
Other Actions
     As management measures for some species in the snapper grouper management complex become more restrictive, there is concern that fishing effort may shift to the commercial golden tilefish and black sea bass fisheries.  The Council is developing management alternatives through Amendment 18A to the Snapper Grouper FMP to help address these concerns, including measures to limit participation in the commercial golden tilefish fishery through the use of an endorsement program, changes to trip limits, and modifications to the fishing year.  Management alternatives are also being developed to limit participation in the black sea bass fishery, reduce bycatch, change the fishing year, and split the quota between seasons.  The amendment will also include measures to improve the accuracy, timing, and quantity of fisheries data. Measures to extend the snapper grouper management unit as far north as New England were removed from the initial Amendment 18 and will be included in Amendment 18B. The Council approved Amendment 18A for public hearings to be held later this fall.  The dates and locations for the hearings will be publicized once they are finalized.
New Chair and Vice-Chair Elected
     The Council elected at-large member, David M. Cupka of Charleston, South Carolina as its new Chairman during last week’s meeting.  Mr. Cupka has served several terms on the Council, including his appointed position as the representative for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Marine Fisheries before his retirement.  He previously served as Chairman of the Council from 1995-1996, and again in 2002-2004.  His election as Chairman gives him the distinction of being the only member of the Council to be elected to serve in that role three separate times.  Dr. Brian Cheuvront, the Council representative for the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries was elected to serve as Vice-Chair.
     The Council will meet again December 6-10, 2010 in New Bern, North Carolina.  Meeting information, including Summary Motions from the September meeting in Charleston, will be posted on the Council’s Web site at as it becomes available.