Monday, January 31, 2011

New Report on Coastal Conservation for Florida

The National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Federation, and Sea Turtle Conservancy recently released a report titled Sea Turtle Homecoming, Class of 2010: A Proactive Coastal Conservation Agenda for Florida. It lays out a 4-part agenda to: (1) Uphold adequate funding and support, (2) Eliminate costly subsidies, (3) Enhance protection of less-developed coastal lands, and (4) Commit to meaningful strategies to combat climate change. The report describes the sea turtle species that are found around Florida and the current threats they face. The report goes into detail the 4-part agenda and describes how each can be accomplished.
At the same time this report was released, there was an announcement of a settlement in a federal lawsuit between the groups that released this report and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The settlement asks FEMA, which oversees the flood insurance program, to ask two other agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, that share responsibility for protecting sea turtles to scrutinize the flood insurance program. These two agencies will then have 11 months to issue a detailed "biological assessment" of any impacts. This will potentially impact Florida the most since it has the largest number of flood insurance policies compared to other states. The groups from this report state they want FEMA to stop issuing new policies, particularly those in flood-prone areas, but not eliminate flood insurance from areas heavily developed such as Miami Beach or Fort Lauderdale. They also want to end policy renewals for coastal structures heavily damaged by storms or erosion. They say the settlement is one step in protecting sea turtle species that face growing threats from development, pollution, fish gear, and others. To read the full press release from the Miami Herald visit

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

SAFMC Public Hearings/Scoping Meetings Set to Address Federal Fisheries Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  
January 5, 2011   
CONTACT:  Kim Iverson  
Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10                                                                                                                                                                                   

Public Hearings/Scoping Meetings Set to Address Federal Fisheries Issues

Council seeks input on Annual Catch Limits, trip limits, catch shares, and other management measures

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is holding a series of public hearings and scoping meetings regarding fisheries management measures proposed for several federally managed species, including those within the snapper grouper management complex, dolphin (fish), wahoo, golden crab, and octocorals within the South Atlantic region.  The measures will impact both commercial and recreational fishermen who fish in federal waters between 3 and 200 miles offshore ranging from the North Carolina/Virginia state line southward to the east coast of Florida and the Florida Keys. 

Public Hearings will be held on three separate amendments:

Comprehensive Annual Catch Limit Amendment to establish Annual Catch Limits and Accountability Measures for species not currently listed as undergoing overfishing as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  Annual Catch Limits (pounds or number of fish) will be set for species in the snapper grouper management complex as well as dolphin, wahoo, and golden crab.

Snapper Grouper Regulatory Amendment 9 includes commercial trip limit options for greater amberjack, vermilion snapper, black sea bass, and gag grouper.

Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 2 includes actions relative to the management of octocorals and non-regulatory actions that update existing Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) information.  Also, modifications to the management of Special Management Zones in South Carolina, sea turtle release gear requirements for the commercial snapper grouper fishery, designation of new EFH areas and EFH-Habitat Areas of Particular Concern are being considered.

Informal Public Scoping comments will be taken on four amendments currently being considered by the Council:

A Comprehensive Catch Shares Amendment (Amendment 21) is being considered to look at options for catch share programs for species currently under management through quotas (except snowy grouper), effort and participation reduction, and endorsement actions.  Snapper Grouper Amendment 22 explores options for long-term management of red snapper as the stock begins to rebuild, while Amendment 24 addresses the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to end overfishing and rebuild the red grouper stock.  Scoping comments will also be taken on Golden Crab Amendment 5 to implement a catch share program for the commercial golden crab fishery.

The hearings/meetings will be open from 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM.  Council staff will provide periodic presentations and be on hand to answer questions.  Local Council representatives will take formal comments on the public hearing documents any time between those hours.  Public testimony will be video-streamed live via a link from the Council’s website at as they occur.  

The Council is also accepting written and email comments from January 12, 2011 until 5:00 p.m. on February 14, 2011.  Copies of the public hearing and scoping documents with details on how to submit written comments will be posted on the Council’s web site and available by contacting the Council office at 843/571-4366 or Toll Free 866/SAFMC-10.

SAFMC Public Hearing/Scoping Meeting Schedule

Monday, January 24
Hilton New Bern Riverfront
100 Middle Street
New Bern, North Carolina 28562
Phone: 252/638-3585

Wednesday, January 26
Crown Plaza Charleston Airport
4831 Tanger Outlet Boulevard
N. Charleston, SC 29418
Phone: 843/744-4422

Thursday, January 27
Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
175 Bourne Avenue
Pooler, Georgia 31322
Phone: 912/748-8888

Monday, January 31
Jacksonville Marriott Hotel
4670 Salisbury Road
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Phone: 904/296-2222

Tuesday, February 1
International Palms Resort
1300 North Atlantic Avenue
Cocoa Beach, Florida 32931
Phone: 321/783-2271

Thursday, February 3
Key Largo Grande
97000 S. Overseas Highway
Key Largo, Florida 33037
Phone: 305/852-5553

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils, conserves and manages fish stocks from three to 200 miles offshore of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida.

2010 Was A Cold Year For Manatees

There were two periods of unusually cold weather in 2010 that contributed to a larger than normal number of manatee deaths. This year there were more than double the yearly average of manatee deaths compared to the past five years. Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) documented 767 manatee carcasses in state waters in 2010, 185 of those occurring in Brevard County (the most out of any county in the state). The cold weather in Florida caused many of the deaths which the category of "cold-stress" being used for 279 of the documented cases (90 in Brevard County). Of these cases, 244 occurred in the early part of the year and 35 occurred in December. Cold-stress also contributed to the deaths of 21 of the 96 manatees in the "newborn" or "perinatal" category and most likely contributed to many of the 214 deaths in the "undetermined" category and the 68 deaths in the "unrecovered" category. Brevard County is generally in the number one or two spot for number of manatees deaths throughout the year compared to other Florida counties.
FWRI Director Gil McRae said, "The unusually high number of manatee deaths in 2010, including those caused by the two periods of cold weather, are of concern to the FWC. Over the next few years, the FWC will be relying heavily on monitoring programs to better understand any long-term implications for the manatee population. In the meantime, we will continue to work with our partners to enchance the availability of natural warm-water sites and to rescue manatees in distress."
The reasons for cold stress associated deaths are not completely clear but there have been studies done to determine the causes. When manatees are exposed to cold water (at or below 68 degrees Fahrenheit) their metabolism slows, leading to digestion problems, decreased appetite, and weight loss. These conditions weaken the manatee's immune system making them vulnerable to environmental toxins as well as a variety of diseases, including pneumonia. When cold weather comes, manatees generally migrate to relatively warm freshwater springs or far enough south to avoid colder water. But over the years more and more manatees have started accumulating near warm water discharges from industrial plants (such as power plants). As outdated power plants are shut down, these warm water oases are removed and some manatees are not able to find substitutes in time.
To learn more about manatee conservation, go to To view the 2010 preliminary mortality numbers as well as a Web article detailing the cold-related manatee die-off in early 2010, visit and click on "Manatee Mortality Statistics".
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).