Lending a Helping Hand after Irma, Harvey, and other Hurricanes

 

In the photo is a Houston area home with storm damage after hurricane Harvey . There are plenty of ways to help. See volunteer and donation opportunities at www.nvoad.org/voad-members/national-members . Photo by Christy Volanski.

Recent images of hurricane Irma and Harvey’s devastating impacts remind all of us living along the Gulf just how powerful tropical cyclones can be. There’s a Gulf of Mexico kinship we all feel. Even more today since Irma has put our Florida homes and cities in the news just like Harvey did a few days ago in Texas.

Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, and Ike are names that conjure personal memories of past storms that I’ve lived through and helped others recover from. Every storm’s impact and response is different but the main question is always the same, “What can I do to help?”

Help is the keyword. Showing up in a disaster area without a plan, without training, or without the support of a recognized and welcomed organization is potentially risky. Rogue, unaffiliated volunteers put themselves and others at risk by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just showing up is not help but compounds emergency recovery efforts.

Donating money is the best method to quickly provide resources where they are needed the most. Donating the wrong items can burden damaged communities and waste efforts. A better place to start to help is Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster or VOAD for short, http://NVOAD.org . VOAD includes well known response organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, and other non-profit or faith-based organizations which specialize in community disaster recovery. You can visit their webpage to donate to specific recovery efforts and to learn about volunteer opportunities. VOAD organizations support volunteers with training, coordination with emergency managers, and often provide volunteers with some types of work insurance coverage. Similar opportunities and information can also be found with Volunteer Florida at https://www.volunteerflorida.org/irma

The severe impacts from Irma and Harvey will extend recovery for several years, so there will be ample opportunity for individuals to help immediately and into the foreseeable future. Harvey’s flooding reminds me of Katrina. I volunteered months after the storm with a faith-based organization to help rebuild a church in St. Bernard Parish. This church became a focal point to help distribute clothing, food and other resources as local families recovered. Another time we assisted flood victims on the Wakulla River, volunteering with the Salvation Army. This organization provided us with training and support as we helped with mud-outs, removing sediment flooded homes. Look for similar opportunities in responding to Harvey and Irma. These are just two examples of many ways you can help make a difference.

Now is the perfect time to contact one of the VOAD organizations or with Volunteer Florida if you are interested in volunteering. Floodwaters will soon crest, safe access will be restored, and assessments will be completed. As a result, restoration efforts will be prioritized, timed, and coordinated to meet local needs. Quality trained volunteers are needed to help life return to normal. You can be the answer to prayers all across the Gulf.

Snorkeling Safety at the Jetty

Snorkeling Safety at the Jetty

The St Andrew Bay pass jetty is more like a close family friend than a collection of granite boulders. The rocks protect the inlet ensuring the vital connections of commerce and recreation. One of the treasured spots along the jetty is known locally as the “kiddie pool”, which is accessible from St Andrew’s State Park. There are similar snorkeling opportunities throughout northwest Florida. Jetties provide an opportunity to explore hard substrate or rocky marine ecosystems. These rocks are home to a variety of colorful sub-tropical and migrating tropical fish.

sergeant majors

Snorkelers and divers who visit are likely to see a variety fish like sergeant majors, blennies, surgeon and doctor fish, just to name a few. Photo by L Scott Jackson.

Exploring a jetty is more like a sea-safari adventure than an experience in a real swimming pool – it is a natural place full of potential challenges that first time visitors need to prepare to encounter.

Divers and snorkelers are required to carry dive flags when venturing beyond designated swimming areas. These flags notify boaters that people are in the water. Brightly colored snorkel vests are not only good safety gear but they help you rest in the water without standing on rocks which are covered in barnacles and sometimes spiny sea urchins.

Long Spined Sea Urchin

According to the Florida Department of Health, most sea urchin species are not toxic but some Florida species like the Long Spined Sea Urchin have sharp spines can cause puncture injuries and have venom that can cause some stinging. Swim and step carefully when snorkeling as they usually are attached to rocks, both on the bottom and along jetty ledges. Photo by L Scott Jackson

Dive booties also help protect your feet. I found out the hard way! A couple of years ago my foot hit against a sea urchin puncturing my heel. The open back of my dive fin did not provide any protection resulting in a trip to the urgent care doctor. My daughter later teased it was an “urchin care” doctor! Sea urchin spines are brittle and difficult to remove, even for a doctor. Lesson Learned: “Prevention is the best medicine”.

After a couple of weeks of limping around and a course of antibiotics, I recovered ready to return one of my favorite watery places – a little wiser and more prepared. I now bring a small first aid kit, just in-case, to help take care of small scrapes, cuts, and other minor injuries.

Gloves are recommended to protect hands from barnacle cuts and scrapes. Shirts like a surfing rash guard or those made from soft material help keep your body temperature warm on long snorkel excursions. Along with sunscreen, shirts also protect against sunburn.

Properly Prepared Snorkeler

There’s opportunity to see marine life from the time you enter the water with depths for beginning snorkelers at just a few feet deep. Some SCUBA divers also use the jetty for their initial training. Most underwater explorers are instantly hooked, and return for many years to come. Photo by L Scott Jackson

Finally, know the swimming abilities of yourself and your guests, especially when venturing to deeper areas. It’s good to have a dive buddy even when snorkeling. Pair up and watch out for each other. Be aware that currents and seas can change dramatically during the day. Know and obey the flag system. Double Red Flag means no entry into the water. Purple flags indicate presence of dangerous marine life like jellyfish, rays, and rarely even sharks. Local lifeguards and other beach authorities can provide specific details and up to date safety information.

Follow these beach safety tips for helping your family enjoy the beach while protecting coastal wildlife.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.

 

Ready for Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Workshop Wednesday February 22

Ready for Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Workshop Wednesday February 22

Northwest Florida Workshop Attendees from 2013 in Niceville, FL. This year’s workshop will be held at the UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County Office in Crestview, February 22, 2017. Direction and Contact Information can be found at this link http://directory.ifas.ufl.edu/Dir/searchdir?pageID=2&uid=A56 

Researchers from University of West Florida recently estimated the value of Artificial Reefs to Florida’s coastal economy. Bay County artificial reefs provide 49.02 million dollars annually in personal income to local residents.  Bay County ranks 8th in the state of Florida with 1,936 fishing and diving jobs. This important economic study gives updated guidance and insight for industry and government leaders. This same level of detailed insight is available for other Northwest Florida counties and counties throughout the state.

The UWF research team is one of several contributors scheduled to present at the Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Manager’s Workshop February 22. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Florida Sea Grant are hosting the workshop. This meeting will bring together about fifty artificial reef managers, scientists, fishing and diving charter businesses, and others interested in artificial reefs to discuss new research, statewide initiatives and regional updates for Florida’s Northwest region. The meeting will be held at the UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County Office in Crestview, FL.

Cost is $15.00 and includes conference handouts, light continental breakfast with coffee, lunch, and afternoon refreshments. Register now by visiting Eventbrite or short link url  https://goo.gl/VOLYkJ.

A limited number of exhibit tables/spaces will be available. For more information, please contact Laura Tiu, lgtiu@ufl.edu or 850-612-6197.

 

Super Reefs staged at the Panama City Marina, which were deployed in SAARS D, located 3 nautical miles south of Pier Park. Learn more about this reef project and others at the Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Manager’s Workshop in Crestview, February 22, 2017. (Photo by Scott Jackson).

 

Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Workshop Tentative Agenda

Date: February 22, 2017

Where: UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County Office, 3098 Airport Road Crestview, FL 32539

8:15     Meet and Greet

9:00     Welcome and Introductions – Laura Tiu UF/IFAS Okaloosa Co and Keith Mille, FWC

9:25     Regional and National Artificial Reef Updates – Keith Mille

9:50     Invasive Lionfish Trends, Impacts, and Potential Mitigation on Panhandle Artificial Reefs – Kristen Dahl, University of Florida

10:20   Valuing Artificial Reefs in Northwest Florida – Bill Huth, University of West Florida

11:00   County Updates – Representatives will provide a brief overview of recent activities 12:00 LUNCH (included with registration)

12:00   LUNCH

1:00     NRDA NW Florida Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration Project Update – Alex Fogg, FWC

1:15     Goliath Grouper Preferences for Artificial Reefs: An Opportunity for Citizen Science – Angela Collins, FL, Sea Grant

1:45     Current Research and Perspectives on Artificial Reefs and Fisheries – Will Patterson, University of Florida

3:00     BREAK

3:30     Association between Habitat Quantity and Quality and Exploited Reef Fishes: Implications for Retrospective Analyses and Future Survey Improvements – Sean Keenan, FWRI

3:50     Innovations in Artificial Reef Design and Use – Robert Turpin, facilitator

4:10     Using Websites and Social Media to Promote Artificial Reef Program Engagement – Bob Cox, Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association & Scott Jackson, UF/IFAS Bay Co

4:40     Wrap Up and Next Steps – Keith Mille and Scott Jackson

5:00     Adjourn and Networking

 

Register now by visiting Eventbrite or short link url  https://goo.gl/VOLYkJ. Live Broadcast, workshop videos, and other information will be available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/floridaartificialreefs/ (Florida Artificial Reefs) .

An Equal Opportunity Institution. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension, Nick T. Place, Dean.

The Autumn Journey of Red Drum

The Autumn Journey of Red Drum

Red Drum are easily identified by their false eyespot located on the tail. Often, the tail and false eyespot break the water surface when red drum feed in shallow water. Shrimp and crabs are favorite food items of hungry red drum. Photo courtesy of NOAA. http://www.photolib.noaa.gov

Red Drum are easily identified by their false eyespot located on the tail. Often, the tail and false eyespot break the water surface when red drum feed in shallow water. Shrimp and crabs are favorite food items of hungry red drum. Photo courtesy of NOAA. http://www.photolib.noaa.gov

Cool mornings this week reminded everyone fall is just around the corner. This subtle change in temperature inspires many of us to behave differently. It’s actually enjoyable to be outside again. Now, it’s easier to relax and drink a morning cup of pumpkin spice coffee on the porch or maybe take a brisk evening walk. These slightly cooler days not only announce the end of the dog days of summer but cue the natural world.

One of the most fascinating stories in nature unfolds this time of year. Red Drum or Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus) are some of the most well-known and easily identified predators of the bay flats and marshes – But did you know these prized game fish can tell time? They don’t have calendars or watches but sense changes in water temperature and to the length of daylight : night time hours. Our calendar says September while their calendar says time to feed, migrate, and reproduce.

In the fish world, reproduction is known as spawning. It takes about three to four growing seasons for a red drum to mature and spawn. A mature four-year-old fish is about 28-inches in total length from head to tip of the tail. This size fish is critical to the continuation of the red drum population. This is one of the main reasons why fisheries managers regulate the number of 27 or 28-inch red drum caught. Limiting the number of this size redfish supports sustainable recruitment so there will be fish for years to come. Learn more about red drum fishing regulations by visiting Florida Fish and Wildlife at http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/red-drum

When mature, red drum leave the nursery grounds of back bays and bayous and move to inlets and passes. This time of year, groups of spawning red drum may occur in entrances of the bay.

Notable members of Sciaenid or drum fish family include red drum, black drum, Atlantic croaker, and seatrout. Males have muscle fibers they vibrate against their swim bladder. The swim bladder is a hollow air filled sac fish use for buoyancy or depth control. When the muscle “strikes” the hollow sac a drum or drumming noise is created. The larger the fish the greater potential for noise. Male red drum often drum while spawning which generally occurs from sunset to sunrise.

In red drum hatcheries, light and temperature mimic the outside world and control spawning to support stock enhancement programs. In the hatchery, the drumming noise is loud and sounds like a bass drum being struck in rapid succession for about 10 seconds and then repeated. In the natural environment, Sciaenid drumming is so distinctive that researchers use hydrophones to locate and study fish species like seatrout and red drum.

While some fish species take care of their young and produce a few nurtured offspring, red drum overwhelm the odds of survival through shear numbers. During the two month spawning season, red drum spawning aggregations can produce millions of eggs each night. According to Louisiana Sea Grant, one female red drum can produce 1.5 million eggs in one night or 20-40 million per female each spawning season!

Spawning also occurs at the height of tropical storm season. Red drum eggs float on a tiny droplet of biologically produced oil that can be carried long distances by wind, waves, and water. In successful recruitment years, eggs and hatching red drum larvae make a journey into the most protected and productive portions of the bay or estuary in less than a week. Seagrass and submerged shoreline grass provide cover and protection. After rain and storms, adjacent land provides nutrients that naturally fertilize the bay waters. In response, algae and zooplankton bloom just in time to create the perfect first fish food for hatching red drum. The timing of red drum reproduction and survival is precise and elegant!

Juvenile red drum spend their next three to four-years growing to spawning adults, before migrating and starting the reproduction cycle over again.

Quick Facts: According to Texas Parks and Wildlife the oldest red drum ever recorded is 37 years old. The state record in Florida for red drum landed is just over 52 pounds and was caught near Cocoa in Brevard County, FL. A red drum caught in 1984 off the North Carolina coast holds the world record for largest red drum ever caught, 94 pounds!

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.

Bay County Deploys First Super Reefs in Panama City Beach

Bay County Deploys First Super Reefs in Panama City Beach

Super Reef Deployment Location Graphic

Earlier this year, Bay County completed an artificial reef project in Gulf waters approximately 3 nautical miles (nm) south of the Panama City Beach Pier (Pier Park) and 11 nm west of St Andrew Bay Pass in Small Area Artificial Reef Site D. On May 14, five Super Reefs were deployed, each weighing approximately 36,000 lbs and rising 18 feet from the ocean floor. Typical artificial reef modules are only about 8 feet tall. This was the first time Super Reefs were deployed in western Bay County in the Panama City Beach area. The project provides marine habitat comparable to sinking a large vessel.

Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA) supported Bay County and Walter Maine during the deployment efforts. MBARA provided this YouTube video documenting the deployment and post-deployment dive survey. During the survey, divers noted baitfish already utilizing the new habitat. The Super Reef module coordinates and details were verified as follows:

 

Patch Reef # Latitude Longitude Depth (ft) Permit Area
BC2015 Set 17 (1) 30° 10.196N 85° 54.607 W 74 SAARS D
BC2015 Set 18 (2) 30° 10.179 N 85° 54.567 W 75 SAARS D
BC2015 Set 19 (3) 30° 10.176 N 85° 54.603 W 75 SAARS D
BC2015 Set 20 (4) 30° 10.153N 85° 54.594 W 73 SAARS D
BC2015 Set 21 (5) 30° 10.138 N 85° 54.602 W 73 SAARS D

Previous monitoring and research suggest it takes 3 to 5 years for new reefs to reach full development of the associated marine ecosystem. Bay County will work with local anglers, divers, reef associations, and agencies to evaluate the performance of the new reef materials and the reef design.

Bay County artificial reef projects seek to use material that meets program goals and objectives. In this case, larger reef materials were selected to support larger reef fish such as amberjack, grouper, and snapper. Individual reef modules were spaced to support fish forage areas and accommodate multiple users including anglers and divers.

FL Artifcial Reefs FB

 

 

Funding for this $60,000 project was provided by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Artificial Reef Program. Additional reef projects were deployed by the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association earlier in the week. The Bay County Artificial Association (BCARA) is also planning new reef deployments in Bay County. Learn more about Bay County’s public artificial reefs at http://x.co/reefm. Florida Sea Grant hosts a Facebook page focused on news and information related to Florida’s Artificial Reefs. You can visit the page for latest information from around the state at https://www.facebook.com/floridaartificialreefs.

 

 

 

Walter Marine’s Maranatha deploying one of the five Super Reefs placed 3 nm south of Pier Park. The Super Reefs weigh greater than 18 tons and are 18 feet tall. Photo by Bay County Artificial Reef Coordinator, Allen Golden.

Walter Marine’s Maranatha deploying one of the five Super Reefs placed 3 nm south of Pier Park. The Super Reefs weigh more than 18 tons and are 18 feet tall. Photo by Bay County Artificial Reef Coordinator, Allen Golden.