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.

Nature Tourism – Bald Point State Park

Nature Tourism – Bald Point State Park

Some of the most picturesque and scenic natural areas along north Florida’s Gulf Coast are found in Bald Point State Park. The 4,065 acre park is located on Alligator Point, where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay.

Easy access to water activities at Bald Point State Park.
Photo: Les Harrison

Bald Point State Park offers a variety of land and water activities. Coastal marshes, pine flatwoods, and oak thickets foster a diversity of biological communities which make the park a popular destination for birding and wildlife viewing.

These include shorebirds along the beach, warblers in the maritime oak hammocks, wading birds, and birds of prey in and around the marsh areas.  The boardwalk and observation deck overlook the marsh near the beach.

During autumn bald eagles and other migrating raptors, along with monarch butterflies are frequently viewed heading south to a warmer winter.

Bald Point offers access to two Apalachee Bay beaches for water sports and leisure activities, and these facilities include a fishing dock and picnic pavilions at Sunrise beach, North End beach and Maritime Hammock beach.  Grills and restrooms are also available, but pets are prohibited on the beach.

Pre-Columbian pottery helped archaeologists identify the park’s oldest site, placing the earliest human activity 4,000 years ago. These early inhabitants hunted, fished, collected clams and oysters, and lived in relatively permanent settlements provided by the abundant resources of the coast and forests.

In the mid-1800s and late 1900s, fishermen established seineyards at Bald Point. These usually primitive campsites included racks to hang, dry and repair nets. Evidence of the 19th to 20th century turpentine industry is visible on larger pine trees cut with obvious scars.

Bald Point is an excellent location for both wildlife viewing and birding.
Photo: Les Harrison

Among the varieties of saltwater fish found in the brackish tidal waterway are redfish, trout, flounder and mackerel.

Today’s visitors may fish on the bridge over tidal Chaires Creek off of Range Road, and in Tucker Lake, by canoe or kayak. Sea trout, red fish, flounder and sheepshead are common catches, and this is an excellent area to cast net for mullet or to catch blue crabs.

Bald Point State Park is open 8:00 a.m. to sunset daily, with a charge $4.00 per car with up to eight people, or $2.00 per pedestrian or bicycle

More information is available at the Florida State Park site.

There are numerous trails where the visitor and explore Florida.
Photo: Les Harrison.

I’m so confused about seafood!

I’m so confused about seafood!

I’ve spent the past 25 years studying and growing fish. When folks find out I’m a fish head, I often get a lot of questions about the safety and sustainability of many seafood products.  It seems that the media and other groups have done a good job of scaring and confusing the American public to the point that some forgo consuming seafood altogether.  That is such a shame because seafood is great for human health. Seafood is typically high protein, low in fat and calories and bursting with good for you stuff like omega-3s.

Seafood is either wild caught, aquacultured (farm-raised), or both. Both wild fisheries and aquaculture have their pros and cons.  Overfishing, illegal fishing, bycatch, habitat degradation and lack of effective regulation have led to declines in wild fisheries.  Aquaculture has been plagued with claims of pollution, disease and escapees.  With all this negative press, what is the consumer to do?

You can choose your seafood based on its sustainability. Sustainable seafood has been caught or farmed in sustainable ways.  And there are several groups today that make choosing these sustainable product easy.  Once such group is the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.  Their Seafood Watch program makes it easy for you to choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.

Using science-based criteria and input from fisheries and aquaculture experts, Seafood Watch has developed standards and guiding principles to develop consumer friendly guides. The guides are specific to each state and there is even one for sushi.  These printable guides fit easily into your wallet so that you can use them anytime you purchase seafood.  The guide shows with seafood items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid.”  They also have an app for android and IPhone making it easier than ever to get the latest recommendations for seafood and sushi, learn more about the seafood you eat, and locate or share businesses that serve sustainable seafood.

As consumers, we have a lot of power in the seafood marketplace. With over 75% of the world’s fisheries either fully fished or overfished, we need to make smart choices about the seafood we buy and consume.  By supporting fisheries and fish farms that are working hard to limit their impact on the environment we help protect the seafood we love.  By using the seafood guide for your region, you’re making choices based on the best available information and supporting environmentally friendly fisheries and aquaculture operations.

Brotula's Restaurant in Destin, Florida will cook your fresh catch to perfection.

Brotula’s Restaurant in Destin, Florida will cook your fresh catch to perfection.

 

Oil Spill Science Seminar held in Okaloosa County

Oil Spill Science Seminar held in Okaloosa County

Dr. Monica Wilson, University of Florida Sea Grant, shares an update on the research that has occurred in the past five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Presented in the Rodeo Room at the Destin History and Fishing Museum.

Dr. Monica Wilson, University of Florida Sea Grant, shares an update on the research that has occurred in the past five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Presented in the Rodeo Room at the Destin History and Fishing Museum. Photo credit: Laura Tiu

The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill occurred about 50 miles offshore of Louisiana in April 2010. Approximately 172 million gallons of oil entered the Gulf of Mexico. Five years after the incident, locals and tourists still have questions. The Okaloosa County UF/IFAS Extension Office invited a Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Scientist, Dr. Monica Wilson, to help answer the five most common questions about the oil spill and to increase the use of oil spill science by people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Gulf.

The event was held at the Destin History and Fishing Museum on Monday evening, July 11, 2016. Executive Director, Kathy Marler Blue partnered with the University of Florida to host the event. “The Destin History and Fishing Museum has a vision that includes expanding its programs to include a lecture series,” said Blue. Over 20 interested individuals attended the lecture and the question and answer session was lively. This was the first in what hopes to be an ongoing lecture series, bringing more scientific information to our county.

Dr. Wilson is based in St. Petersburg, Florida with the Florida Sea Grant College Program. Monica uses her physical oceanography background to model circulation and flushing of coastal systems in the region and the impacts of tropical storms on these systems. She focuses on the distribution, dispersion and dilution of petroleum under the action of physical ocean processes and storms. For this lecture, she covered topics such as: the safety of eating Gulf seafood, impacts to wildlife, what cleanup techniques were used, how they were implemented, where the oil went, where is it now, and do dispersants make it unsafe to swim in the water?

The oil spill science outreach program also allows Sea Grant specialists to find out what types of information target audiences want and develop tailor-made products for those audiences. The outreach specialists produce a variety of materials, such as fact sheets and bulletins, focused on meeting stakeholder information needs. The specialists also gather input from target audiences through workshops and work with researchers to share oil spill research results at science seminars that are facilitated by the specialists.

The Destin History and Fishing Museum is a nonprofit organization whose members are dedicated to preserving, documenting, and sharing the complete history of Destin. Please subscribe to their Facebook page for information on upcoming events. The UF IFAS Extension Okaloosa County office also hosts a Facebook page with announcement of upcoming programs.

For additional information and publications related to the oil spill please visit: https://gulfseagrant.wordpress.com/oilspilloutreach/

Scallop Season Postponed – Fishing Fun Available Now

Scallop Season Postponed – Fishing Fun Available Now

Bay Scallop Argopecten iradians http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

Bay Scallop Argopecten iradians
http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

If you had plans to go scalloping in St. Joseph Bay over the long holiday weekend I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed. FWC has postponed the opening day of scallop harvesting season in St. Joseph Bay until August 22.

The postponement, along with other conservation efforts, is intended to provide the scallop population in St. Joseph Bay additional time to recover from the effects of the Red Tide event we experienced last fall. Scallop season in St. Joseph Bay will start later, end earlier, and have tighter bag limits than the rest of the Bay Scallop Harvest Zone – “the Pasco-Hernando County line (near Aripeka – latitude 28 degrees, 26.016 minutes North) to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County (longitude 85 degrees, 25.84 minutes West)”(FWC). Below are several figures regarding the 2016 Bay Scallop season in St. Joseph Bay. All of the figures are courtesy of FWC.

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

 

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

Here’s the bright side, even with scalloping on hold for a while, here in NW Florida we have tons of other opportunities for fun on the water. If you were ready to go scalloping then you likely already have a saltwater fishing license, a boat, and a family that is ready to go have fun. You can still put all of these to good use – go fishing.

One of the most attractive aspects of scalloping is that it is, quite frankly, easy. It’s fun for the whole family, even those with shorter attention spans. Fishing can be easy too, if you target the right species. When looking to entertain the family don’t think about trying to catch the trophy that will be the envy off all your friends, think about fish that are easy to find and eager to bite. The following are a few species to target that I think fit this scenario nicely.

Sand Perch – If you are dealing with anglers that are very inexperienced and casting is an issue Sand Perch are an excellent option. They prefer deeper bay waters with sandy bottoms. The deeper water allows for bait to be dropped vertically, no casting necessary. ½ of a live shrimp on a #2 or 1/0 hook with enough weight to get to the bottom, is all you need. These little guys bite very aggressively and generally when you find one there will be many more in the area. If you want fish for supper, Sand Perch taste very good but the smaller ones have very little meat.

Sand Perch - Diplectrum formosum http://floridasportfishing.com/sand-perch/

Sand Perch – Diplectrum formosum http://floridasportfishing.com/sand-perch/

 

Ladyfish – The “poor man’s tarpon” is often found over the same flats where you would go to find scallops but likely in slightly deeper water. These acrobatic fish will readily eat a wide variety of offerings, anything resembling a shrimp or bait fish (live or artificial), as long as it is moving up in the water column, not lying on the bottom. Ladyfish generally travel in schools and put on quite a show when hooked. Unfortunately, they are generally considered unfit to eat and they have a nasty habit of defecating when they are lifted from the water. (When I hook one I generally fight it to the boat, then give it some slack line which it will use to sling the hook from its mouth, thereby avoiding having to lift the fish from the water and the subsequent mess.) Mess aside, these fish are really a lot of fun to catch.

Ladyfish - Elops saurus http://www.captivafishing.net/?p=772

Ladyfish – Elops saurus
http://www.captivafishing.net/?p=772

Spotted Sea Trout – A game species that is highly regarded throughout the coastal waters of Florida that is almost two fish in one. Big, “gator” trout are widely sought by anglers and can be very difficult to catch; that’s not the fish we’re after here. Juvenile trout are much easier to catch than their more mature counterparts. A live or artificial shrimp drifted under a cork over seagrass beds is a simple but very effective recipe for catching trout. Most “serious” anglers will leave an area when they start to catch “shorts”, that’s exactly where you want to be for lots of fast paced action. Just because they are small doesn’t mean they are not fun to catch. A couple of things to remember with trout; 1) they are a regulated species so make sure you know the rules if you are planning on keeping fish, 2) they are fairly fragile fish and should be handled gently with wet hands and returned to the water quickly. Visit catchandrelease.org for additional fish handling tips.

Spotted Sea Trout - Cynoscion nebulosus http://www.floridasportsman.com/sportfish/seatrout/

Spotted Sea Trout – Cynoscion nebulosus
http://www.floridasportsman.com/sportfish/seatrout/

There are many other species that I could have mentioned; catfish, bluefish, blue runners, and even pin fish can all help make for a day on the water fun for the whole family. It’s all about mindset, look for lots bites and bent poles not trophies. Don’t let the delay of scallop season delay your family’s fun on the water this summer – go fishing.

NISAW 2016 – Working together to remove Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) from Northwest Florida

NISAW 2016 – Working together to remove Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) from Northwest Florida

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Giant Salvinia mats completely covering Bay County pond. This fast growing invasive can double in coverage every two weeks! Photo by L. Scott Jackson

Giant Salvinia mats completely covering Bay County pond. This fast growing invasive can double in size every week! Photo by L. Scott Jackson

 

Matthew Phillips and Scott Jackson –

UF/IFAS Extension and Research works with many partners supporting invasive species management actions and strategies across Florida. One key partner is the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conserva­tion Commission (FWC), Invasive Plant Management Section. FWC Biologists provide resources and expertise to address threats from Florida’s most disruptive invasive species. FWC and UF/IFAS have worked together for years. They have teamed-up to help residents make the best cost-effective management decisions to preserve unique habitats and ecosystems. Most days are filled with routine questions from land managers and pond owners but on rare occasions there are days we will never forget.

Active growing Giant Salvinia was observed growing out of the pond water on to moist soils and emerging cypress and tupelo tree trunks. Photo by L. Scott Jackson

Active growing Giant Salvinia was observed growing out of the pond water on to moist soils and emerging cypress and tupelo tree trunks. Photo by L. Scott Jackson

Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) is an invasive free-floating aquatic fern from South America that is rarely observed in Northwest Florida. The species is on the Federal Noxious Weed List and the Florida Prohibited Aquatic Plants List. After a site visit with a pond owner, Scott Jackson, a University of Florida/IFAS Extension Agent, identified Salvinia molesta in the Bay County pond and notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Invasive Plant Management Sec­tion. Their staff confirmed the identification of the specimen and a second voucher specimen was transferred to the Godfrey Herbarium at Florida State University.

Jackson reported the observation on the Early Detection and Distribution Map­ping System (EDDMapS) housed at the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. This was only the second reported occurrence of giant salvinia in Northwest Florida. It is a high control priority for the state of Florida due to its high invasive potential.

Giant salvinia has caused severe eco­nomic and environmental problems in Texas and Louisiana and in many countries including New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Giant salvinia grows rapidly and produces a dense floating canopy on the surface of ponds, lakes, and rivers. It ag­gressively spreads by vegetative fragments and thrives in slow-moving, nutrient-rich warm fresh water. Floating mats of giant salvinia shade out native submersed vegeta­tion and degrade water quality.

Mats also impede boating, fishing, swimming, and clog water intakes for irrigation and electri­cal generation.1 Salvinia molesta has been listed in The World’s Worst Weeds – Distribu­tion and Biology2 since 1977. It was recently added to 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species, an all taxa list compiled by invasion biologists with the Global Invasive Species Database.3

The most distinguishing physical characteristic of Salvinia molesta is the basket- or egg beater-like hairs on the up­per leaves (a hand lens is required) which distinguishes it from common salvinia (Salvinia minima). Common salvinia also has hairs on the upper leaf surface but they do not form basket-like structures at the tips. The upper leaves of both species repel water.

Photo by Barry Rice, sarracenia.com, Bugwood.org Rows of egg beater or light bulb shaped leaf hairs are a unique identifying characteristic of giant salvinia.

Photo by Barry Rice, sarracenia.com, Bugwood.org Rows of egg beater or light bulb shaped leaf hairs are a unique identifying characteristic of giant salvinia.

The location of the giant salvinia infesta­tion found by Jackson is precariously close to Deer Point Lake, a 5,000 acre water body that is the main source of drinking water for Panama City and surrounding Bay County. The 2.5 acre infestation was on a 3.6 acre divided pond and both sections were treated. Treatment of the infestation was initiated by FWC in June 2013 at no expense to the property owners.

Bay County pond with no observed Giant Slavinia. Take Oct 2013 by Derek Fussell, FWC.

Bay County pond with no observed Giant Slavinia. Taken Oct 2013 by Derrek Fussell, FWC.

The pond continues to be monitored and, to date, there have not been any signs of living Salvinia molesta. We will continue to monitor the pond to make sure there is no re-establishment of giant salvinia. Investiga­tions continue to try and learn more about the introduction of the pernicious species to this isolated pond.

Read more about the successful treatment regime FWC Biologists used to control giant salvinia in Northwest Florida. This was published in Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society’s publication “Aquatics” – see page 5.

WJHG 7 in Panama City ran this news story. Please see their webpage for additional information and video. “Invasive Plant Threatens Deer Point Lake“.

1 Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta), Weed Alert, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conserva­tion Commission, Tallahassee, FL, 2 pp.

2 The World’s Worst Weeds – Distribution and Biology. 1977 and 1991. L.G. Holm, D.L. Plucknett, J.V. Pancho, and J.P. Herberger. 609 pp.

3 Alien species: Monster fern makes IUCN invader list. 2013. Nature 498:37. G.M. Luque, C. Bellard, et al.

Matt Phillips is an Administrative Biolo­gist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conserva­tion Commission, Invasive Plant Management Section in Tallahassee; (850) 617-9430; Mattv.phillips@myfwc.com Scott Jackson is a University of Florida/ IFAS Sea Grant Extension Agent, Bay County; (850) 784-6105; LSJ@ufl.edu