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/
Bay Scallop Argopecten iradians
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.
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/
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
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
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.
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
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.
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. 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.email@example.com Scott Jackson is a University of Florida/ IFAS Sea Grant Extension Agent, Bay County; (850) 784-6105; LSJ@ufl.edu
Yea, seafood… who doesn’t like seafood… actually, based on a small scale survey I conducted with marine science students over the last 28 years I have found a slight increase in the number of those who do not. Curious about this, I followed up by asking whether their concern was seafood safety or other. Almost all said they just did not like the taste. Okay… I can take that… there are something I do not like either BUT I LIKE SEAFOOD. The survey also showed that almost every year with young/old or male/female – shrimp was at the top of their favorite list. After shrimp the next 3-4 choices for males was some type of fish. For females it varied – fish, lobster, calamari, to name a few.
Shrimping depends on healthy estuaries.
So what does this have to do with estuaries…
Well, you may not know this but 90% of the commercial important marine species require estuaries for at least part of their life cycles. Just as humans select a neighborhood to live and raise their kids based on safety and schools – “fish parents” find everything they want for their “kids” in an estuary. They are shallow – allowing light to reach much of the bottom where submerged plants, like seagrasses, can grow. These seagrasses provide hiding places and a place for small algae to attach – which is an important food source for many of them. There are other places for them to hide as well – emergent salt marshes and oyster reefs are biologically very productive habitats. Many of the developing larva and juveniles require lower salinities to begin and complete their life cycles; venturing to the open Gulf only when they have developed a tolerance for the higher salinities. The freshwater discharge not only lowers the salinity it also brings nutrients. These nutrients, along with the sunlight reaching much of the water column, produce an abundance of microscopic plankton – food for the young. The nutrients, thermal mixing, low salinities, and variety of habitats provide a combination for one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet – a great place to grow up… and much of it we enjoy eating.
Most of what we consume in the seafood world is divided into shellfish and finfish. Some of it is harvested and sold commercially, some we collect recreationally. In the shellfish world we are talking mollusk and crustaceans – two of the most popular seafood groups on the planet. The mollusk include snails, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and cephalopods like squid and octopus. Many of these species live in our estuaries their entire life cycle. Most are slow moving creatures – if they move at all – and have provided a living for some humans, recreation for many, for decades – though the landings of these species are on the decline… more on this in a later issue.
Oysters are one of the more popular shellfish along the panhandle.
Crustaceans include the ever popular gulf shrimp. We actually have three different species of bay shrimp we like – white, brown, and pink shrimp. There are other varieties found offshore we are now consuming, but these have been the big three. Blue crab – my personal favorite – is another popular crustacean. Though these are still harvested commercially, “crabbing” with your kids is a long time popular panhandle activity – and the day always ends well with a great meal. Crustaceans are more mobile and conduct small migrations during their life cycles. Shrimp develop within the estuary and then move offshore for breeding where the incoming tide brings the larva back to the estuary. Blue crabs migrate to the head of the bay for breeding and the females return to the lower end of the estuary for egg development and larva release – they may enter the Gulf during this process but tend to stick to the bays for the entire cycle.
The famous Gulf Coast shrimp.
Photo: Mississippi State University
In the finfish world we are talking drum, snapper, grouper, trout, whiting, mullet, flounder, sheepshead, and many more. These species have provided both a living for the commercial fishermen and recreation for families for years. Many species breed and grow within the estuary while others make trips in and out of the bay to complete their cycles. In addition to commercial and family recreation charter fishing has increased as a business along the Gulf coast.
One of the more popular finfish – the grouper.
Photo: Bay County Extension, UF IFAS
We hope you and your family enjoy local seafood from our bays. There are several websites and apps, such as Seafood@Your Fingertips, that can help you locate local seafood – or you can go catch some yourselves! If harvesting recreationally be reminded that there are regulations and licenses required. You can read more about those at MyFWC.com.
Boating is a very popular activity in the sunshine state.
Photo: Rick O’Connor
Okay… Let’s start at the beginning. We began drilling oil over 100 years ago. The crude was refined into kerosene, gasoline, plastics, and other products that have completely changed our lives. A huge international industry developed from the drilling and employed who knows how many people. But then a few problems began to emerge…
The emissions from burning oil have added compounds to our atmosphere that have contributed to human health issues and have changed the climate. As the human population grew the demand for this energy source grew, and the problems grew as well. One of the first steps made by the governments and the industry to curb the problems was the removal of lead from gasoline. At first this was problematic because many of the internal combustion engines that ran on gasoline did not run efficiently on unleaded and a back-lash occurred. Service stations offered both leaded and unleaded at the pump and motorist could choose. The car industry followed by developing engines that ran on unleaded only and eventually leaded gasoline was no longer offered. Since the phase out the blood lead level has dropped from 88% of children in the United States to 1% in 2006 (www.worstpolluted.org).
The next issue was the amount of oil. Though many text list fossil fuels as a renewable energy, it takes millions of years to renew it – so in the time frame we think of it is basically a non-renewable resource. With a finite amount of oil available the industry began looking for new sources of oil and encouraging the public to conserve their use. The government answered this by requiring the car industry to produce fuel efficient automobiles, which they have. My original truck got between 8-12 mpg, today’s trucks can get over 20 mpg. Smaller, more efficient engines that burn unleaded gasoline have certainly improved some of the problems.
One of many marinas in Florida where boats fuel.
Photo: Rick O’Connor
However the population continues to grow. I remember just a few years ago everyone was amazed when we hit 6 billion humans, we are now at 7.2 billion and the clock moves quickly (http://www.census.gov/popclock/) . The largest growth has been in China and India. Both of these nations have experienced huge increases in their economy and quality of life. As their economic status improved their demand for energy increased and concerns about the amount oil demand increased. With the somewhat finite amount of oil, and the compounds that are still part of the emissions. Many became concerned about what would happen with growth in that part of the world. One answer to both emissions and amount was to begin searching for alternative fuels. Biofuels was one option. These fuels can be generated from plant material, which can produce ethanol. There are certainly some problems with growing corn for fuel instead of food but this is one option that the industry began to explore. Just as the original engines had problems with unleaded fuel, today’s engines have problems with ethanol. The engines that power the Indy and Formula 1 race cars do use biofuels but who can afford a Formula 1 engine? The industry’s response was to blend ethanol into the existing unleaded gasoline and offer this. The hope was that the global amount of gasoline could be conserved using this method. The original fuel was 10% ethanol and was called E-10 fuel. As expected problems occurred. Though the engine ran pretty efficiently if the fuel was used in a relatively quick period of time, and not allowed to sit within the tank and fuel lines, the ethanol began to degrade parts. Pieces of rubber and plastic blocked fuel lines causing all sorts of problems. I personally experienced this issue with my outboard motor. The outboard industry responded by developing more E-10 friendly engines and additives you can use if your fuel will be sitting in the tank for long periods of time. It is currently recommended that if you are not going to use your lawnmower or outboard over winter that you fill the tank for storage. Ethanol breaks down and water is produced. With a full tank there will be less water accumulation over time. Now comes E-15.
Yep… E-15, 15% ethanol. Though this move will eventually improve some of the problems with using oil there will be, as there have been, some growing pains. IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED THAT OUTBOARD MOTORS, LAWN CARE MOTORS, OR ANY OTHER SMALL ENGINE, use this E-15 fuel. It is currently being offered at service stations but in many cases is NOT clearly marked. All boaters, lawn care operators, and anyone else who uses small engines should check the gas pump labels carefully before fueling.