The Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Science Outreach Team is proud to announce four new outreach items that are applicable throughout the US and showcases marine microplastics and homeowners’ insurance:
Marine Microplastics Primer for Extension Professionals – This publication is intended to serve as a guide for extension professionals to aid in answering questions about microplastics that they have encountered or may encounter in the future. The publication can be accessed at https://gulfseagrant.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/MASGP-23-051.pdf.
Property Insurance Basics – Confused about homeowners’ insurance and what it covers or know people who are? The outreach team has created a publication to share basic information about insurance to help property owners make informed decisions about the amounts and types of protection for their homes. Access to the publication can be found https://gulfseagrant.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/MASGP-23-015.pdf.
What is Risk Rating 2.0 and how will it affect my flood insurance?–FEMA has updated their risk rating approach through a new pricing method. This change is the biggest change to the way flood insurance premiums are calculated since 1968. Want to learn more about this new system and how it will affect your flood insurance? Click https://gulfseagrant.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/What-is-Risk-Rating-2.0.pdf to access our publication.
The Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament May 20-21, 2023, at HarborWalk Village in Destin, FL, is gearing up to tackle a pressing ecological challenge while showcasing the power of sport to make a positive impact. This unique tournament, held along the picturesque shores of the Emerald Coast, focuses on combating the invasive lionfish population in the region’s waters.
Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, have become a significant threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. With their voracious appetite and rapid reproduction, these invasive species pose a grave danger to native marine life. The Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament aims to address this issue by encouraging divers and fishermen to actively hunt and remove lionfish from the waters.
Participants in the tournament will compete to catch the most lionfish, utilizing their skills in underwater navigation, spearfishing, and conservation. Sponsors provide cash and prizes for multiple categories including most caught, largest and smallest lionfish. The event provides an exciting platform for experienced divers and newcomers alike to contribute to the preservation of the marine environment.
Beyond the ecological significance, the tournament also offers a thrilling experience for both participants and spectators. Divers equipped with their spears dive into the depths, searching for lionfish while showcasing their prowess and bravery. The tournament fosters a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose among the participants, creating a community dedicated to the cause of protecting marine ecosystems.
In addition to the competitive aspect, the Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament promotes education and awareness about the invasive species. Participants and attendees have the opportunity to learn about the impact of lionfish on local marine life and explore sustainable solutions to combat the issue at the free Lionfish Awareness Festival from 10:00-5:00 each day. Sign up to volunteer at the event if you want to join the fun. The week prior to the tournament is dedicated to Lionfish restaurant week where local restaurants practice the “eat ‘um to beat ‘um” philosophy and cook up the tasty fish using a variety of innovative recipes.
The Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament 2023 represents a unique fusion of sport, environmental conservation, and community engagement. By bringing together individuals passionate about marine conservation, this event serves as a powerful catalyst for change and a shining example of how sport can contribute to the preservation of our natural world. Learn more at https://emeraldcoastopen.com.
¿Está interesado en hacer algo que beneficie a su comunidad marina local? ¡Disfruta de días al sol, como un “Scallop Sitter” (cuidador de las vieiras)!
“Scallop Sitters” (cuidador de vieiras) es uno de nuestros programas de voluntariado cooperativo con Pesca y Vida Silvestre de Florida (FWC, por sus siglas en inglés). Históricamente, las poblaciones de vieiras de la bahía eran muy numerosas y podían sustentar las pesquerías en muchas bahías del norte de Florida, incluidas la bahía de San Andrés, la bahía de San Juan y el Puerto de los Caimanes (Condado de Franklin). Años consecutivos de malas condiciones ambientales, pérdida de hábitat y “mala suerte” en general resultaron en una escasa producción anual y provocaron el cierre de la pesquería de vieiras. La vieira de la bahía es una especie de corta vida que pasa de ser una cría a adultos que desovan y muere en un año aproximadamente. Las poblaciones de vieiras pueden recuperarse rápidamente cuando las condiciones de crecimiento son buenas y pueden disminuir drásticamente cuando las condiciones de crecimiento son malas.
En 2011 se presentó la oportunidad de poner en marcha la restauración de las vieiras de la bahía del norte de Florida. Con la financiación del derrame de petróleo de Deepwater Horizon, se propuso un programa de restauración de vieiras en varios condados, que finalmente se estableció en 2016. Los científicos de Pesca y Vida Silvestre de Florida (FWC, por sus siglas en inglés) utilizan vieiras criadas en criaderos, obtenidos a partir de progenitores o reproductores de las bahías locales, para cultivarlas en masa y aumentar el número de adultos reproductores cerca del hábitat crítico de las praderas marinas.
La Pesca y Vida Silvestre de Florida (FWC, por sus siglas en inglés) también creó otro programa en el que los voluntarios pueden ayudar con la restauración llamado “Scallop Sitters” en 2018 e invitó a UF/IFAS Extension a ayudar a dirigir la parte de voluntarios del programa en 2019, lo que llevó a esfuerzos específicos en los condados del Golfo y la Bahía.
Para ayudar a las vieiras, los “Scallop Sitters” trabajan con UF/IFAS Extension, Florida Sea Grant y los científicos de restauración de la Pesca y Vida Silvestre de Florida (FWC, por sus siglas en inglés) limpiando las vieiras y comprobando la salinidad una vez al mes desde junio hasta enero. Foto de Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS Extension y Florida Sea Grant.
Después del hiato de 2020 debido a COVID-19, el programa presumió de casi 100 voluntarios para la campaña de 2021. UF/IFAS Extension se asocia de nuevo con Pesca y Vida Silvestre de Florida (FWC, por sus siglas en inglés) en los Condados de Bahía y Golfo y Franklin. A pesar de los retos que suponen las lluvias, la escorrentía de las aguas pluviales y la baja salinidad, nuestros voluntarios de Scallop Sitter han proporcionado información valiosa a los investigadores y a los esfuerzos de restauración, especialmente en estos primeros años de nuestro programa. Los “Scallop Sitters” recogen información útil sobre la salinidad en las bahías de destino. Pero la mayor parte del impacto se produce al observar de cerca sus vieiras. Las vieiras que mantienen sus cuidadores tienen más posibilidades de desovar con éxito cuando sea el momento adecuado.
Una jaula “Scallop Sitter” lista para ser colocada cerca de las praderas marinas. Las jaulas son herramientas de restauración utilizadas para producir crías de vieira durante el ciclo anual de crecimiento. Foto de L. Scott Jackson.
¿Qué hace un cuidador de vieiras? Los voluntarios dirigen jaulas de exclusión de depredadores de vieiras, que quedan colocadas en la bahía o junto a un muelle. Los “Scallop Sitters” (cuidador de vieiras) vigilan la tasa de mortalidad y recogen datos sobre la salinidad que ayudan a determinar los objetivos de restauración y el éxito en las zonas seleccionadas.
¡Está invitado! ¡Cómo convertirse un “Scallop Sitter” (cuidador de vieiras)!
Las fechas de entrenamiento para 2023 se anunciarán en breve. Por favor, envíenos un correo electrónico si está interesado en ser voluntario o en recibir información adicional. Chantille Gooding, Coordinadora de Recursos Costeros del Condado de la Bahía. firstname.lastname@example.org
Una institución con igualdad de oportunidades. UF/IFAS Extension, Universidad de Florida, Instituto de Ciencias Alimentarias y Agrícolas, Andra Johnson, Decana de UF/IFAS Extension. Las copias individuales de las publicaciones de UF/IFAS Extension (excluyendo las publicaciones de 4-H y de los jóvenes) están disponibles gratuitamente para los residentes de Florida en las oficinas de UF/IFAS Extension del condado.
The University of Florida/IFAS Extension faculty are reintroducing their acclaimed “Panhandle Outdoors LIVE!” series. Conservation lands and aquatic systems have vulnerabilities and face future threats to their ecological integrity. Come learn about the important role of these ecosystems.
The St. Joseph Bay and Buffer Preserve Ecosystems are home to some of the one richest concentrations of flora and fauna along the Northern Gulf Coast. This area supports an amazing diversity of fish, aquatic invertebrates, turtles, salt marshes and pine flatwoods uplands.
This one-day educational adventure is based at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve near the coastal town of Port. St. Joe, Florida. It includes field tours of the unique coastal uplands and shoreline as well as presentations by area Extension Agents.
Registration fee is $45.
Meals: breakfast, lunch, drinks & snacks provided (you may bring your own)
Attire: outdoor wear, water shoes, bug spray and sun screen
*if afternoon rain is in forecast, outdoor activities may be switched to the morning schedule
Space is limited! Register now! See below.
All Times Eastern
8:00 – 8:30 am Welcome! Breakfast & Overview with Ray Bodrey, Gulf County Extension
8:30 – 9:35 am Diamondback Terrapin Ecology, with Rick O’Connor, Escambia County Extension
9:35 – 9:45 am Q&A
9:45- 10:20 am The Bay Scallop & Habitat, with Ray Bodrey, Gulf County Extension
10:20 – 10:30 am Q&A
10:30 – 10:45 am Break
10:45 – 11:20 am The Hard Structures: Artificial Reefs & Marine Debris, with Scott Jackson, Bay County Extension
11:20 – 11:30 am Q&A
11:30 – 12:05 am The Apalachicola Oyster, Then, Now and What’s Next, with Erik Lovestrand, Franklin County Extension
12:05 – 12:15 pm Q&A
12:15 – 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 – 2:30 pm Tram Tour of the Buffer Preserve (St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Staff)
2:30 – 2:40 pm Break
2:40 – 3:20 pm A Walk Among the Black Mangroves (All Extension Agents)
3:20 – 3:30 pm Wrap Up
To attend, you must register for the event at this site:
In December of 2021 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) passed new regulations concerning the diamondback terrapin. One will make it illegal to possess a terrapin without a permit beginning March 1, 2022. The other will impact recreational crab trap design in early 2023. A number of people have begun to ask questions ab
The diamond in the marsh. The diamondback terrapin. Photo: Molly O’Connor
ut this new ruling so, we will explain it.
WHAT IS A DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN?
We will start there. Most Floridians have never heard of this animal, and if they have, they know it from the Chesapeake Bay area. Diamondback terrapins are turtles in the Family Emydidae. This family includes many of the pond turtles Floridians are familiar with – cooters, sliders, red-belly, and others. The big difference between terrapins and pond turtles is the coloration of their skin, and their preference for brackish water – they like estuaries over ponds and lakes. They do have lachrymal glands in their eyes to help excrete salt from water, but they are not as efficient as those of sea turtles so, they cannot live in sea water for more than about a month – it is the bays and bayous they like to call home.
There are seven recognized subspecies which range from Cape Cod MA., to Brownsville TX. Five of them are found in Florida and three are only found in Florida. But few Floridians have ever heard of them and even fewer have seen one. Their cousins the pond turtles are quite common. We see their heads in ponds and lakes, several of them basking on logs near shore of ponds, lakes, and rivers, and frequently see dead ones along our highways. We don’t see terrapins. We do not see their heads in the marsh, basking on logs, or dead carcasses along our coastal highways. Again, this is an unknown turtle to us.
WHY ARE THERE NEW REGULATIONS ON A TURTLE MANY HAVE NEVER SEEN?
The question sort of explains the answer – we do not see them – their population in our state may deem some action by the FWC. In the Chesapeake region they are quite common, and people see them frequently. It is the mascot of the University of Maryland. Along the roads to the barrier islands in Georgia hundreds of terrapins can be found trying to nest and many are hit by cars. In most of these mid-Atlantic states there is some form of protection for them. They either list them as threatened or a species of concern. One state has it listed as endangered. Again, these are states where encounters are much more common.
Florida has a rich diversity of turtles, maybe the richest in the country, and we have been the target for turtle harvest. Turtles are sought after for food and as pets. The harvest of some species has been heavy and FWC has listed them as “no take”. For a variety of reasons, harvest being one of them, Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii), the Suwannee Cooter (Pseudemys suwanniensis), and the Barbour’s Map Turtle (Graptemys barbouri) are illegal to possess without a permit. This includes their eggs. Because other species look very similar to these, they have also been added to the no-take list. This would include all species of cooters and snapping turtles, the Escambia Map Turtle (Graptemys ernsti) and the Striped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon baurii) – which is a small riverine turtle that resembles a small snapping turtle. Note: the regulation on the striped mud turtle is for the lower Florida Keys only. You could take diamondback terrapins but only one and you could have no more than two in your possession. You could not possess their eggs. But with the 2021 ruling – this has changed.
As mentioned, terrapin encounters are rare in our state. There has been concern about their population status here. I got involved with them in 2005 primarily to answer the question “Do terrapins even exist in the Florida panhandle?”. The answer is yes, they do. Since 2005 myself, and trained volunteers, have conducted 859 surveys searching for them between Escambia and Franklin counties. We have encountered terrapins, or terrapin sign (tracks, shells, depredated nests) 215 of those – 25% of the surveys; most of those encounters were terrapin sign – they are hard creatures to find. Because of the low encounter rate across the state, it is believed that the populations here are low and in need for conservation measures.
Then comes the crab traps…
Researchers with the Diamondback Terrapin Working Group have identified several stressors to terrapin populations. Loss of habitat, depredated nests by predators (particularly the raccoon), road mortality, and… crab traps. Terrapins feed primarily on shellfish but will eat other things if given the opportunity. They do have a tendency to enter crab traps. Though they feed on small juvenile crabs it is the bait we think they are after in this scenario. Once in, like blue crabs, they find it hard to escape. Unlike blue crabs, turtles have lungs, and the terrapins eventually drown. In the Chesapeake Bay region blue crabs are ”king” – a major commercial and recreational fishery. Terrapins entering crab traps means crabs are not. There have been as many as 40 dead terrapins found in one trap. This was a major concern for all. Dr. Roger Woods of the Wetlands Institute in New Jersey began working on a device that would keep terrapins out but allow blue crabs in. Data shows that in most cases, the larger females are the ones entering and the smaller males would follow. If you could keep the female out it was believed that most males would not enter. So, the device was designed to keep the large females out. A 6×2” rectangle seemed to work best. Field studies showed that these By-Catch Reduction Devices (BRDs) kept 80-90% of the terrapins out and did not significantly impact the crab catch. We had a design that seemed to work.
This orange plastic rectangle is a Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) used to keep terrapins out of crab traps – but not crabs. Photo: Rick O’Connor
BRDs are designed to keep terrapins out but allow crabs to enter. Photo: Virginia Sea Grant
These BRDs have been required in the Mid-Atlantic states for a few years now. With the concern in Florida populations, it is now coming to Florida. By March 1, 2023, all recreational crab traps in Florida will be required to have a fixed funnel size no larger than 6×2”. Either the funnel must be this size, or you can attach one of the plastic orange BRDs to the opening (see photo). Currently bait and tackle shops do not have the BRDs but will be acquiring over the next year. FWC will be working on providing sources between now and March of 2023. If you are in the Pensacola area you can contact me, I have a case of them in my office.
As far as having one on your possession – it is now a no-take species. This rule began March 1, 2022. If you have had a terrapin in your possession you can apply for a no-cost permit to keep it (visit the FWC link below to obtain information on applying for this permit). If you are an education facility that houses terrapins for educational purposes – the same, you can apply for a no-cost education permit to keep your terrapins. You must have this permit by May 31, 2022.
Let’s begin by stating what a diamondback terrapin is. I have found many Floridians are not familiar with the animal. It is a turtle. A turtle in the family Emydidae which includes the pond turtles, such as cooters and sliders. The big difference between terrapins and the other emydid turtles is their preference for salt water. They are not marine turtles but rather estuarine – they like brackish water.
The diamond in the marsh. The diamondback terrapin. Photo: Molly O’Connor
Their haunt are the salt marshes and mangroves of the state. Their range extends from Massachusetts down the east coast and covering all of the Gulf of Mexico over to Brownsville Texas. There are seven subspecies of the animal within that range. Five of those live in Florida and three only live in Florida. They are more abundant, and well known, in the Chesapeake Bay area where they are the mascot of the University of Maryland. In Florida they seem to be more secretive and hidden. Encounters with them are rare and there has been concern about their status for years. Though researchers are not 100% sure on their population size, it was felt that more conservation measures were needed.
Ten years ago, the issue with all turtles in the state was the illegal harvest for the food trade. All sorts of species were being captured and sent to markets overseas. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) stepped in and set possession quotas on many species of Florida turtles. For terrapins, the number was two. For some, like the Suwannee Cooter, there was a no possession rule.
Drowned terrapins in a derelict crab trap in the Florida panhandle. (photo: Molly O’Connor)
There has also been concern with incidental capture of terrapins in crab traps. These turtles have been known to swim into the traps and drown. In the Chesapeake Bay area, they have found as many as 40 dead turtles in one trap. Not only is this bad for the turtles, but it is also bad for the crab fisherman because high numbers of dead turtles in the trap means no crabs. Studies began to develop some sort of excluder device that would keep terrapins out, but allow crabs in. Dr. Roger Wood developed a rectangle shaped wire excluder now called a By-Catch Reduction Device (BRD) that reduced the terrapin capture by 80-90% but had no significant effect on the crab catch. That was what they were looking for. This BRD has been required on crab traps up there for years.
What about Florida?
Studies using the BRD were also conducted here with the same results, but the BRD was not required. Incidental capture in crab traps does occur here but not to the extent it was happening in the Chesapeake and FWC wanted to hold off for more science before enacting the rule. BRDs were available for those who wanted them, but not required. This past December (2021) that changed.
This orange plastic rectangle is a Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) used to keep terrapins out of crab traps – but not crabs. Photo: Rick O’Connor
In recent years there has been another issue with harvesting terrapins for the pet trade. With this, and other conservation concerns for this turtle, FWC developed a new rule for terrapins at their December 2021 meeting.
The possession limit for terrapins has dropped from 2 to 0 – there is a no-take rule for this animal beginning March 1, 2022. Collection for scientific research will still be allowed with a valid collecting permit from the FWC. Those who currently have two or less terrapins in their possession as pets may keep them but must obtain a no cost personal possession permit to do so by May 31, 2022. Those who have terrapins within an education center may keep them but must obtain a no cost exhibit permit by May 31, 2022.
Recreational crab traps will require the BRD device by March 1, 2023. You have a year. Those in the Pensacola area can contact me for these. I have a case of them I am willing to provide to the public.
Again, studies have shown that these BRDs do not significantly impact the crab catch. Crabs can turn sideways and still enter the traps. But reducing incidental capture of terrapins will hopefully increase their numbers in our state. For information on how to obtain the needed permits visit FWC.