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8/27/2014

Plastic a serious threat to our oceans, seas, and waterways

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Plastics were invented in the 1800s but their mass production began in the 1950s and has since taken off around the globe. While it is possible to recycle most types of plastic, it is estimated that only about 25% of plastics are recycled worldwide. A great deal of the plastic ends up in our oceans, seas, and waterways. Research has shown severe impacts on our environment and our economy from this type of pollution. Marine life such as sea turtles, whales, seabirds and other marine life are eating the plastic and dying. Scientists are looking at long term impacts of pollutants consumed by fish and their potential effects on human health. It has become such an environmental concern that a little over a decade ago a science of marine debris began the study of garbage in our waters. A recent study showed the global magnitude of this problem.

The Malaspina expedition of 2010 was a nine-month research project to study the effects of global warming on the oceans and the biodiversity of the deep ocean ecosystem. Andres Cozar and his team were to study the small fauna living on the ocean surface. He was reassigned when plastic fragments kept turning up in water samples to assess the level of plastic pollution. Using that data and the data gathered by four other ships he and his team of researchers completed the first ever global map of ocean trash.

Photo: Start1.org

Continued at Start1.org... »

8/27/2014

Recreational Bay Scallop Season Opening Soon

Open through Sept. 24th- 25th. All Currently imposed size and bag limits apply. Each person can keep up to 2 gallons of whole bay scallops or 1 pint of meat. A single vessel has a limit of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or a half gallon of meat. To harvest scallops you may use your hands, a landing or a dip net. No commercial harvesting of bay scallops! Be safe when diving for scallops. Use a divers down flag on or around your vessel. Stay within 300 feet of your vessel. Have fun and enjoy the your scalloping.

8/27/2014

FIU and SFWMD Partner to Study Nitrogen in Caloosahatchee River

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"The study will examine the interplay between nitrogen and a range of naturally-occurring bacteria in the water." Cassondra Thomas district senior sentist said "Some forms of organic nitrogen include DNA, ammonic acids". So, they’re are a lot more complex, they’re bigger molecules and it takes a lot more to break them down.”

This study is just one part of the Districts plan to develop new Stormwater Treatment Area's (STA's). STA's are typically wetlands that are engineered to remove nutrients from water as it flows through the area.

Article published by Topher Forhecz.
Photo credited to Nikoretro/Flickr

For more information click here

8/27/2014

Webcast on Green Infrastructure and Smart Growth

Learn about communities that are successfully leveraging green infrastructure as part of broader planning and community development initiatives. Practitioners will discuss land-use strategies for clean water, including green streets, local code review, and stormwater banking. This webinar is part of the EPA Green Infrastructure Program's 2014 Webcast Series, and qualifies for 1.5 certification maintenance credits from the American Planning Association.

Presenters
Caran Curry, Grants Manager, City of Little Rock, Arkansas
Melissa Kramer, Senior Policy Analyst, EPA's Office of Sustainable Communities
Heather Nix, Director, Clean Air & Water Program, Upstate Forever

Register at:GoToMeeting

For more information visit the EPA''s website here

8/26/2014

See the Sea Monsters at Traveling Exhibit

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The Sea Monsters traveling exhibit from Mote Marine Laboratory, a marine science institution based in Sarasota, is on display at J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The exhibit features:

  • Monster Makeover panel where visitors can see themselves with different monster attributes.
  • Fold-down Sea Puzzle with large tiles that visitors move to make up a picture of extreme animals.
  • Jaws panel featuring a mako shark jaw and tooth-diet matching activity.
  • Central gallery with shark skin that can be touched, model of a colossal squid beak, small diorama of bioluminescent animals, and scale sized eyeball models for giant squid, blue whale and cow.
  • An inflated giant squid sits on top of the exhibit.

  • Visitors will be able to interact with the free, temporary exhibit, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily through Aug. 18. J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive in Sanibel. Phone (239) 472-1100 for more information, or visit dingdarlingsociety.org.

8/25/2014

Restoring Florida Bay: Sponges the foundation for thriving ecosystem

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"Prior to the 1990s the Florida Keys sponge community was a lively underwater city for fish and invertebrates. Curious divers could hear the snap, crackle and pop of snapping shrimp. The noisy bottom was a sign of health for the organisms that provide nursery habitat to juvenile marine species.

Researchers at the University of Florida and Old Dominion University, along with more than 40 volunteers from around the world have joined together for an ecosystem intervention. John Stevely, a sponge researcher and Florida Sea Grant agent emeritus, said transplanting sponge cuttings is a way to speed up nature so the ecosystem doesn’t reach a point of no return.

Marine sponges are not only a valuable commercial asset to the state, they are also critical to Florida marine life. Researchers suspect that the biotic sounds caused by the inhabitants that occupy the sponges may help guide the larva of fish and invertebrates to safe habitat, similar to coral reef communities..."

(Article by: Becca Burton)

Full article on the FL Sea Grant website

8/25/2014

Sea Level Rise and Climate Change Survey

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"1000 Friends of Florida is identifying communities using planning strategies to lessen their contributions to climate change and/or build community resilience to address the effects of climate change, including sea level rise. If your community is taking steps to address sea level rise and/or climate change we hope you will take a few minutes to complete 1000 Friends' 10-question survey. Your responses are anonymous, unless you chose otherwise. Please note, this survey is not intended to be statistically significant but rather to gather information on current planning efforts in Florida. 1000 Friends is also compiling information on sea level rise and climate change plans and studies around the state."

Take the survey »

Contact Information
1000 Friends of Florida, friends@1000fof.org, P.O. Box 5948, Tallahassee, FL. 32314
http://www.1000fof.org/
8/18/2014

650 acres of conservation land approved for acquisition by ARC

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Acquisition of Bond Ranch parcel will enhance current restoration plans

TALLAHASSEE – Today the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) voted to amend the existing boundary line of the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Florida Forever Project to include Bond Ranch, a 650-acre parcel. This step enables the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands to move forward with the acquisition of the parcel. Acquisition of conservation land is generally limited to Florida Forever project boundaries.

DEP’s Division of State Lands worked with the South Florida Water Management District and the Trust for Public Land to fast-track the boundary amendment to place it on today’s ARC agenda. The division will partner with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), which has committed $1.5 million for acquisition of the parcel.

“Adding the Bond Ranch parcel to the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods project will augment the current restoration efforts for Charlotte Harbor and the Caloosahatchee River watershed,” said Kelley Boree, director of DEP’s Division of State Lands. “I appreciate our partners recognizing the importance of this acquisition happening quickly and in concert with FDOT’s I-75 widening project.”

Bond Ranch is vital in the multi-phased regional hydrologic restoration effort. The restoration initiative will not only restore the original flow of water across Charlotte County and into Charlotte Harbor, but will also reduce the flow of excess water south into Lee County and the Caloosahatchee River watershed. The reduction will result in better flood protection for North Fort Myers as well as reducing nutrient loads to the Charlotte Harbor Estuary.

This parcel is integral to the success of the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Initiative, a multi-agency, multi-year effort to return this watershed’s waterflow to its historic westward direction. Multiple local, state and federal agencies are participating in this initiative that covers approximately 90 square miles and five sub-watersheds. Acquisition of the parcel, which is adjacent to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area, will also result in immediate increased wildlife habitat.

ARC is a 10 member group of representatives from various agencies with land conservation experience tasked with the responsibility of evaluating conservation lands for possible state acquisition and management. Along with the addition of Bond Ranch, ARC voted to update five management plans and considered five proposals for possible addition to the December 2014 Florida Forever list.

Source: Florida DEP News Release

Learn more about the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Initiative

8/18/2014

Mote and FWC release snook into Sarasota Bay

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On Aug. 15, 2014, scientists with Mote Marine Laboratory and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released hatchery-reared juvenile snook into the wild as part of an ongoing program designed to find the most effective methods to replenish and enhance wild snook populations.

The species is one of Florida’s most popular sport fish and plays an important role in drawing recreational anglers to the state. According to the American Sportfishing Association, Florida is the top-ranked state in economic output from recreational fishing, which draws $8.6 billion to the economy annually. Saltwater fishing alone generates 80 percent — $6.8 billion — of that income.

Snook, along with red drum, are the main test species for restocking efforts statewide. This project — which involves tagging and then releasing more than 2,200 snook into Sarasota Bay during over three days — is designed to determine whether snook that have been conditioned for release at Mote have better growth and survival rates in the wild.

This event is a key example of Mote’s efforts to develop and support public-private partnerships for the conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources. The snook release is possible now thanks to a private donation to Mote and from funding provided by FWC. For more than 25 years, Mote and FWC scientists have partnered on studies designed to increase the effectiveness of stock enhancement in Florida; their work on the topic is followed globally.

Continued on Mote Marine Laboratory’s website...

8/18/2014

DEP approves three first-magnitude spring systems to SWIM priority list

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officially approved adding three first-magnitude spring systems — Weeki Wachee River, Chassahowitzka River and Homosassa River — to the Surface Water Improvement Management (SWIM) Program priority list.

In January, The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board began the process of officially adding those systems to the existing SWIM Program priority list which includes two first magnitude spring systems: Rainbow River and Crystal River/Kings Bay. With the DEP’s approval, all five of the District’s first magnitude springs are now on the SWIM Program priority list.

District staff will now craft a SWIM management plan for each of the first magnitude springs systems with the newly formed Springs Coast Steering Committee to identify management actions, estimated costs, and responsibilities. Staff will then implement the strategies with our District partners.

Improving northern coastal spring systems is one of the District’s priorities. Adding these springs on the District’s SWIM list allows the District to better prioritize projects, programs, and funding to improve the water resources. These spring groups are important for their ecological value and their economic impact.

A first-magnitude spring or spring group discharges 64.6 million gallons of water per day or more. Together, all five of the District’s first-magnitude springs discharge more than one billion gallons of water per day.

Source: SWFWMD news release

Learn more about springs in west-central Florida...

8/18/2014

Registration open for “Water Words that Work” training

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Florida's west coast National Estuary Programs invite you to a training led by Water Words That Work (www.WaterWordsThatWork.com) on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, at Sarasota County Extension. Everyone with an interest in environmental education in southwest Florida should attend in order to:

• Network
• Collaborate
• Brainstorm
• Learn


Environmental writing can be a frustrating challenge but the Water Words That Work message method makes it easier to succeed. It's designed to turn passive "environmental awareness" into pro-environmental behavior. Eric Eckl's methods will help you create and deliver messages to reach your target audience and inspire them to action. This training walks you through Water Words That Work's six-step Environmental Message Method to relearn the language that everyday citizens use. You will become more confident and successful as you set out to enlighten the uninformed and persuade the undecided to take a stand or take action on behalf of our rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans.

Please register by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2 via EventBrite (link below). You may register after this date but please understand the food order will have already been placed. Registration will be limited to 80 people. There is a registration fee of $20 and an additional $20 fee if you would like refreshments and lunch provided. (We don't recommend you leave for lunch and a refrigerator won't be available if you bring your own.) This program is made possible because of the generosity of our sponsors but we ask those who are able to also make a donation. Any donation of $100 or more will be acknowledged as a sponsor.

Workshop location:
Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension
6700 Clark Road
Twin Lakes Park
Sarasota, FL 34241

This program is made possible by support from the Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program, Mosaic, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension and the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Inc.

Full agenda and registration form at eventbrite.com...

Contact Information
Maran Hilgendorf, Communications Manager, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, mhilgendorf@swfrpc.org, 1926 Victoria Drive, Fort Myers, FL. 33901-3414
phone: (239) 995-1777 ext 240.
http://www.chnep.org/
8/14/2014

Learn to be a fishing guide or charter captain Sept. 9th

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Attention charter captains, fishing guides and wannabes!
Florida Sea Grant is giving a one-day workshop that will help grow your fishing business!

Sept. 9, 2014, 8:45 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

Workshop topics will include:
• Developing a winning business plan
• Increasing market visibility
• Essentials of social media marketing
• New fisheries conservation research findings and gear
• Becoming a partner in fisheries research
• Law enforcement updates

LOCATION
The workshop will be held at the
Charlotte County Environmental Campus,
25550 Harborview Rd, Port Charlotte, FL 33980.

WORKSHOP FEE
The cost is $25 and includes materials, lunch and refreshments.

Register with your Sea Grant Agent:
Betty Staugler, Charlotte County, staugler@ufl.edu, 941-764-4346
Joy Hazell, Lee County, jhazell@leegov.com, 239-533-7518
Bryan Fluech, Collier County, fluech@ufl.edu, 239-438-5594

8/14/2014

Volunteers still needed for 7th Annual Great Bay Scallop Search

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Boaters are needed!
Non-boaters will be placed on boats as space permits.

Why: To annually monitor our bay scallop populations and to support the scientific study of scallops.
Where: Meet at the Mar Vista Restaurant, 760 Broadway Street, Longboat Key, FL
When: Saturday, August 23. Captains' meeting at 8:30 am. Scallop search begins at 9:00 am sharp and ends around 12:30 pm with a complimentary lunch courtesy of the Mar Vista Restaurant.
What To Bring: Able bodied swimmers with sunscreen, hat, dive gloves, mask, snorkel, fins, and water. Weight belt, optional but recommended. We will attempt to get those without boats onto vessels, space permitting.
Registration:    Required. This event fills to capacity every year

»» This is a NO HARVEST event ««

Sign Up Today »

8/13/2014

Be safe... Be aware of rip currents this summer!

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Gulf Coast beaches are great places to relax and to swim in the Gulf of Mexico. But before taking a dip, beachgoers should be aware of rip currents.

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents are the leading surf hazard for beachgoers and can occur at any beach with breaking waves.

The association says swimmers should avoid areas that show signs of rip currents, which include a channel of churning, choppy water, an area with a notable water color difference, a break in the wave pattern and a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily out to sea.

“Swimming at a lifeguard-monitored beach is the best way to stay safe,” said Katherine Cleary, aquatics supervisor with Pinellas County. “When conditions indicate rip currents may occur, we put up warning flags or in some cases close beaches to swimming altogether.”

While some beaches have lifeguards, not all do. If a swimmer is at a beach with no lifeguard on duty and gets caught in a rip current, the Association has a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline or float and calmly tread water until out of the current.
  • Once out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If unable to reach shore, draw attention and yell for help.

More about rip currents »

8/11/2014

Health officials urge awareness of potential bacteria in coastal waters

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Sarasota County reports two cases - one resulting in a death

SARASOTA COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County urges area residents and visitors with certain health conditions to avoid eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to seawater and estuarine water, which may harbor bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus.

A total of 41 cases of Vibrio vulnificus were reported statewide during 2013, and there have been at least 11 cases and several deaths (as of 7/25/14), due to the infection of an open wound or from consuming raw shellfish.

In Sarasota County, there were no cases reported in 2013. However, there were two cases reported during July, resulting in one recent death not included in the statewide report. Both individuals were middle-aged and had medical compromising conditions. Health officials are saddened by the death and say that unfortunately those living with chronic health conditions are at increased risk for adverse outcomes. Both individuals are believed to have gotten infected with the bacteria entering through an open wound.

Occurring naturally in the warm coastal waters, particularly during the summer months, Vibrio vulnificus has the potential to cause serious illness. Persons who have wounds, cuts or scratches and wade in estuarine areas or seawater where the bacteria might be present can become ill. Symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus in wound infections typically include swelling, pain and redness at the wound site.

Other symptoms of Vibrio vulnificus infection include; nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, and the formation of blistering skin lesions. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should contact a physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

Individuals with liver disease, including Hepatitis C and cirrhosis, are most at risk for developing serious illness from Vibrio vulnificus. Others who should avoid consuming raw shellfish are those with hemochromatosis (iron overload), diabetes, cancer, stomach disorders or any illness or treatment that weakens the immune system. Thoroughly cooking oysters, either by frying, stewing, or roasting eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses in the meat. Consuming raw oysters that have undergone a post-harvest treatment process to eliminate the bacteria can also reduce the risk of illness.

Resources for more information:
Our Gulf Environment (please see water quality tab and then click on the bacteria tab)
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' website

Source: Sarasota Dept. of Health news release

8/8/2014

Volunteer help needed for Punta Gorda oyster reef restoration project

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Pilot project seeks volunteer help to restore estuary habitat

The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves and the City of Punta Gorda to launch an oyster reef restoration project adjacent to the Trabue Harborwalk.

Volunteers are needed to help with all aspects of this project:
• Fill bags with oyster shells (You must be able to lift 30 lbs. to make oyster bags.)
• Deploy the materials in the water

There's something for everyone! Civic groups, schools, clubs, boating groups, recreational clubs, church groups—or anyone looking for a fun way to help restore the estuary are welcome to participate.

It is the first oyster restoration project in the northern portion of the estuary and three methods will be tested here: oyster mats, oyster bags and loose shell secured by a perimeter of oyster bags. These materials will provide a foundation for oyster larvae to settle and grow.

The three-dimensional structure of an established oyster reef can help protect the project site's mangrove shoreline from the future impacts of erosion and sea level rise and provide valuable habitat and food for other species such as fish, crab, shrimp, and birds. Oyster reefs have the potential to also benefit the juvenile stage of the endangered smalltooth sawfish, a species that relies on healthy red mangrove habitat for food and shelter in the Charlotte Harbor region. This project will add to the scientific understanding of how oyster reefs might also benefit sawfish.

Kate Aug, Florida DEP- Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves Community Outreach Coordinator is still in need of volunteers interested volunteering to make oyster bags as a part of the Trabue Harborwalk Oyster Habitat Creation Project.

She will be bagging at the Burnt Store location Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8:30 am to 10:30/11:00, through August 20th. If you are interested in lending a hand, please contact Kate directly. Individuals and groups are welcome. You can reach Kate by phone (941-575-5861) or by email (preferred method) Katherine.Aug@dep.state.fl.us

Contact Information
Katherine Aug, Community Outreach Coordinator, DEP Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, katherine.aug@dep.state.fl.us
phone: 941-575-5861 ext. 117.
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/
8/8/2014

Public workshops scheduled for estuary NNC and water quality credit trading

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has scheduled public workshops for two separate rulemaking efforts:

(1) estuary-specific numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) for estuaries, and
(2) revisions to Chapter 62-306, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), Water Quality Credit Trading.


Public workshops are scheduled as follows:


NNC Estuaries

DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martinez Center, Room 609, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee**
AREA TO BE DISCUSSED: Panhandle and Big Bend estuaries from Upper Escambia Bay to Cedar Key, Fenholloway and Econfina River estuaries

DATE AND TIME: Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: The Captain’s House at Goode Park, 1300 Bianca Drive NE, Palm Bay, FL
AREA TO BE DISCUSSED: Southwest estuaries from Anclote Bayou to Moorings Bay, and the southeast Florida estuaries up to and including Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon.

DATE AND TIME: Thursday, August 28, 2014, 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: Northeast Florida Regional Council, Soforenko Board Room, 6850 Belfort Oaks Place, Jacksonville, FL
AREA TO BE DISCUSSED: Estuaries in northeast Florida from the Upper Halifax River to the St. Marys River, as well as additional coverage of the Fenholloway and Econfina River estuaries

The overall scope of this rule development will address estuary-specific numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) for total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and chlorophyll a in the following estuaries: portions of the Big Bend from Alligator Harbor to the Suwannee Sound, Cedar Key, St. Marys River estuary, Southern Indian River Lagoon, Mosquito Lagoon, several portions of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICWW) connecting estuarine systems, a variety of small gaps between estuaries with adopted NNC, and parameters for estuaries not currently covered by their adopted nutrient Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), including Upper Escambia Bay, Lower St. Johns River, Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie Estuary, and Caloosahatchee Estuary. Nutrient criteria for these estuaries were included in an August 1, 2013 report to the Governor and Legislature. Pursuant to Chapter 2013-71, Laws of Florida, the Legislature directed the Department to establish these estuary NNC by rule or final order by December 1, 2014.

Water Quality Credit Trading

DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
PLACE: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martinez Center, Room 609, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee**

DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: The Captain’s House at Goode Park, 1300 Bianca Drive NE, Palm Bay, Florida

Rule development will update the Water Quality Credit Trading Rule in Chapter 62-306, F.A.C. Pursuant to Section 403.067, Florida Statutes, Chapter 62-306 was adopted in 2010 to establish the requirements for a pilot water quality credit trading (WQCT) program among pollutant sources in the Lower St. Johns River Basin. Chapter 2013-146, Laws of Florida, revised Section 403.067 to, among other things, eliminate the requirement that WQCT be limited to the Lower St. Johns River Basin and authorize the Department to implement WQCT on an ongoing basis in adopted basin management action plans or other applicable pollution control programs. This rulemaking is intended to amend Chapter 62-306, F.A.C., consistent with the statutory changes, as well as update the rules to reflect knowledge gained during implementation of the pilot program.

** The Tallahassee meeting for both NNC Estuaries and Water Quality Credit Trading can also be accessed via GoToWebinar at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/585558034. Parties can register to attend that webinar via their personal computers and will be able to listen using their speakers connected to their computer. Webinar access will not be available for the other workshop locations.

8/7/2014

Mote Marine Lab robots help researchers, forecasters monitor red tide bloom

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By Hayley Rutger

Underwater robots “Waldo” from Mote Marine Laboratory and “Bass” from University of South Florida (USF) have been hard at work monitoring the offshore bloom of Florida red tide and surrounding ocean conditions since they were deployed on Aug. 1. Their results are helping shape short-term bloom forecasts.

The bloom was recently reported to be 80 miles long and 50 miles wide, reaching from Dixie County to southern Pasco County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) statewide update on Aug. 1.

Robot results:
During the past few days, the robots have reported:

Waldo: At 40 miles from the Pasco/Hernando border, red tide was detected at the surface and to depths of about 25 meters (82 feet) in areas where it was indicated by satellites.

Bass: At the outer edge of the bloom, elevated chlorophyll associated with the red tide was present in waters as deep as 40 meters (131 feet).

Both: The bloom water is “stratified” (layered) with denser, cooler water below and lighter, warmer water on top. Waldo will complete his mission this week or early next, while Bass will finish in two to three weeks.

The robots’ data are feeding into short-term forecasts of the red tide bloom developed by the Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides, a partnership effort between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and USF.

More info and forecast findings, from Mote Marine Laboratory »

Contact Information
Mote Marine Laboratory, educate@mote.org, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL. 34236
phone: (800) 691-MOTE.
http://www.mote.org/
8/5/2014

Register now for 2014 CHNEP Conservation Lands Workshop

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CHNEP’s third annual workshop is available for everyone interested in conservation lands. Speakers and the topics are diverse, ranging from the power of GIS using the CHNEP Special Places Map as an example, prescribed fire outreach toolkit, “Ding” Darling’s phone app, understanding the relationship between our environment, economy and quality of life, carrying capacity, Southwest Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, Florida’s bonnetted bat, environmental psychology, restoration in the Charlotte Harbor watershed, and Mosaic’s compensatory mitigation and conservation lands.

Jim Wohlpart, Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Environmental Literature at Florida Gulf Coast University, will give the keynote presentation Remembering Sacred Reasons: Finding Our Way in the 21st Century. Dr. Wohlpart’s research focuses on how we are “placed” on Earth, and how we might be “replaced” in more nourishing ways—physically, emotionally, spiritually.

This program is free thanks to the speakers, to CHNEP’s financial partners and to the workshop sponsors that, as of June 12, include Mosaic, Jelks Family Foundation, Estero Bay Buddies and the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Inc.

To learn more and register (by August 29th), visit eventbrite.com.

Workshop flyer with detailed agenda

Contact Information
Maran Hilgendorf, Communications Manager, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, mhilgendorf@swfrpc.org, 1926 Victoria Drive, Fort Myers, FL. 33901-3414
phone: (239) 995-1777 ext 240.
http://www.chnep.org/
8/4/2014

80 mile-long red tide bloom still evident in northeast Gulf of Mexico

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Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, was detected in background to medium concentrations in several water samples analyzed this week from offshore of Hernando and Pasco counties and in background concentrations in one sample collected offshore of Okaloosa County. Several additional samples collected this week offshore of Pinellas County ranged from background to low concentrations.

Satellite images from the Optical Oceanography Laboratory at the University of South Florida show a patchy bloom approximately 80 miles long and up to 50 miles wide 40 to 90 miles offshore between Dixie and southern Pasco counties in northwest Florida. Although satellite images are not available for regions offshore of Pinellas County, sampling confirmed K. brevis populations at depth 33 miles west of Caladesi Island and 13 miles west of Madeira Beach, both offshore of Pinellas County. This bloom has caused an ongoing fish kill in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. FWC’s Fish Kill Hotline has received reports of thousands of dead and moribund benthic reef fish including various snapper and grouper species, hogfish, grunts, crabs, flounder, bull sharks, lionfish, baitfish, eel, sea snakes, tomtates, lizardfish, filefish, octopus, and triggerfish. Reports of water discoloration have been received and respiratory irritation has been reported offshore in the bloom patch. Additional samples collected throughout Florida this week did not contain red tide.

Detailed red tide status from MyFWC.com for the entire state of Florida

8/1/2014

USF & UF approved for grants to support climate resilience and “green infrastructure”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the 2014 USDA Forest Service’s National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge grant recipients. The grants provide funding that will help enhance urban forest stewardship, support new employment opportunities, and help build resilience in the face of a changing climate. Close to 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas and depends on the essential ecological, economic, and social benefits provided by urban trees and forests. Climate and extreme weather events pose threats to urban trees and forests requiring increased investment in management, restoration and stewardship.

The grant proposals were recommended by the Secretary’s National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council and will address urban forest resiliency to extreme weather events and the long-term impacts of climate change; strategies for bolstering green jobs; and opportunities to use green infrastructure to manage and mitigate stormwater and improve water quality.

The University of South Florida was approved for their project, "From Gray to Green: Tools for Transitioning to Vegetation-Based Stormwater Management Program"

Description of Program Purpose: Many communities lack systematic strategies to transition from the existing conventional (gray) drainage systems to green infrastructure. This project will provide natural resource managers, planners, and engineers with decision-support tools to aid the strategic planning process for transitioning to green infrastructure systems that emphasize trees and urban forests.
Federal Grant Amount: $149,722

The University of Florida was approved for their project, "Mobile Tree Failure Prediction for Storm Preparation and Response Program".

Description of Program Purpose: This proposed modeling system will assist urban forest managers in predicting tree failure during storms by developing a data collection model and a mobile Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping application to quantify tree risk in communities. The results and a best management practices manual will be made available to all researchers and professionals through the International Tree Failure Database, providing the standardized data needed to enhance our understanding of wind-related tree failure.
Federal Grant Amount: $281,648

USDA Forest Service grant announcement

Contact Information
U.S. Department of Agriculture , 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC. 20250
phone: (202) 720-2791.
http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome
8/1/2014

Webinar will address spread of aquatic invasive species by recreational boaters

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On August 18th, from 2-4 p.m. EDT, the Environmental Law Institute and the National Invasive Species Council will co-host a webinar addressing the problem of recreational boats spreading aquatic invaders—both plants and animals.

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are a persistent scourge of our lakes, rivers, and streams. These species—such as the zebra mussel and Eurasian watermilfoil—cause substantial harm to the environment and economy by changing food webs, undermining commercial and recreational fisheries, clogging pipes, and through other means. Unfortunately, we cannot eradicate species once they are introduced—but environmental, government, and industry stakeholders are working together to stop them from spreading into new areas.

This webinar will introduce new legal tools and collaborative approaches to prevent the spread of AIS via recreational boats, which are a major pathway for the spread of invasive mussels and other AIS. Speakers will discuss state, industry, and environmental perspectives on the “building consensus” approach used to develop and implement legal tools to address this pathway in the western US. In addition, speakers will address other industry efforts at the national level to minimize risks associated with aquatic hitchhikers and recreational boating.

PANELISTS:

  • Elizabeth Brown, Invasive Species Coordinator, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Brian Goodwin, Technical Director, American Boat and Yacht Council
  • Gabriel Jabbour, Owner, Tonka Bay Marina, MN
  • Stephanie Showalter Otts, Director, National Sea Grant Law Center
  • Bob Wiltshire, Executive Director, Invasive Species Action Network
  • Read Porter (Moderator), Director, Invasive Species Program, Environmental Law Institute

The event is free and open to the public. Contact Narayan Subramanian with questions.

Register for the webinar

8/1/2014

Learn to Get Rid of the Bully Air Potato!

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Air potato is an invasive vine that is everywhere in South Florida. If you leave your backyard unattended for a couple of months, there’s a good chance when you return you might see the weed popping up. Once established, it is tough to control and it just won’t stay out. Air potato can quickly engulf native and landscape vegetations, climbing high into the tallest of trees and palms.

For this reason, Lee County Extension is sponsoring an Air Potato Control and Management Workshop. Staff will show the best management strategy and how you might be able to obtain your own air potato-eating beetles.

The speakers are researchers from USDA, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and Lee County Conservation 20/20 program.

When: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 15.
Where: Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, 1926 Victoria Ave, Fort Myers, FL 33901
Cost: $8 per person


UF/IFAS Lee County Extension agents offer educational services through a three-way cooperative arrangement between the Board of County Commissioners, the University of Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Local extension agents are off-campus faculty members of the University of Florida.

For registration and more information, visit the link below or contact Stephen Brown at gardenclasses@leegov.com or (239) 533-7513.

More information, including agenda and registration link

7/31/2014

SBEP announces press conference at the federal building August 26

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SARASOTA – The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) will host a press conference at the Federal Building located at 111 South Orange Avenue 9am on Tuesday, August 26. The purpose of the press conference is to release the results of the Economic Valuation Study of Sarasota Bay and to present the recently updated Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP).

The Economic Valuation Study was led by Paul Hindsley, PhD, an Environmental Studies Professor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and the Coordinator of Eckerd’s Coastal Management Program. The two-year study was divided in two phases; phase one focused on the total capitalized value of single family properties on or near the bay and phase two included a survey of residents and visitors to learn how people access and use resources associated with Sarasota Bay.

Mark Alderson, the SBEP Director, will make a brief presentation about the CCMP. The CCMP is the official document that sets the priorities for SBEP and the other 27 National Estuary Programs located throughout the U.S. Copies of the CCMP will be available at the press conference.

SBEP will provide the media information handouts about the CCMP and Economic Valuation Study. A member of the SBEP Policy Board will also attend the press conference and will be available to make comments and answer questions.

Learn more about SBEP’s goals for the Sarasota Bay watershed...

7/31/2014

USGS study: Nesting Gulf sea turtles feed in waters filled with threats

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DAVIE — Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed.

The feeding areas for 10 turtles overlapped with an area that experienced surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These sites, and others, also overlapped with areas trawled by commercial fishing operations and used for oil and gas extraction.

The study, which is the largest to date on Northern Gulf loggerheads, examined 59 nesting females, which scientists believe could be 15 percent of the breeding females in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—a small and declining subpopulation of loggerheads that is federally classified as threatened.

“With such a large sample of the nesting females, we’re finally getting the big picture of when, where and how females that nest in the northern Gulf of Mexico rely on off-shore waters to survive. This information is critical for halting and reversing their declines,” said USGS research ecologist Kristen Hart, the lead author of the study.

The study began in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a means to better understand how sea turtles used habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico by analyzing the movements of turtles tagged between 2010 and 2013.

All of the turtles tracked in the study remained in the Gulf of Mexico to feed, and a third remained in the northern part of the Gulf. This differs from reports in other parts of the world, where some loggerheads have been shown to migrate across ocean basins after nesting.

Continued on the USGS website...

7/30/2014

UF researchers: “Little janitor” merits attention in Florida springs' health debate

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GAINESVILLE – A small, slow moving resident who enjoys a vegetative diet and keeps things tidy may be the overlooked player in public debates over Florida’s ailing freshwater springs, University of Florida researchers say.

North Florida has the world’s highest concentration of large freshwater springs. For decades, crystal-clear water bubbling from the ground has driven tourism in the form of scuba divers, canoeists, boaters and swimmers, but today, many of those springs don’t bubble like they used to; green scum often obliterates the view.

Although the blame for algae-choked springs is often pinned on excess nitrate, the scientists say the absence of algae-eating native freshwater snails known as Elimia — which UF researcher Dina Liebowitz calls the “little janitor of the springs” — may be a key factor.

Nitrate, which has gotten the lion’s share of attention in springs-health discussions, enters the aquifer and emerges at the springs from municipal sewage treatment and disposal, agricultural and residential fertilizer use, livestock farms and residential septic systems.

Matthew Cohen, a UF associate professor and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member who specializes in ecohydrology, says while controlling nitrate is a worthy goal, doing that alone “will not be enough to restore springs ecology.”

Continued on news.ufl.edu...

7/30/2014

FGCU ArtLab Opens “Death of a River” on Aug. 14

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FORT MYERS – The ArtLab at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) presents the first exhibition of its 2014-15 season, “Death of a River,” on Thursday, Aug. 14. The exhibition of individual and large-scale collaborative prints showcases artists responding to the ecological impact of water releases from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River.

The works were created using a method called steamroller printing by FGCU’s printmaking class led by Associate Professor Andy Owen. The images created reflect a diverse set of concerns including the flooding’s effect on wildlife, human behavior and cellular structures.

Due to the large scale of the prints, the FGCU Library is exhibiting additional prints on the first floor library exhibition space. Visitors are encouraged to attend both parts of the exhibition to appreciate the full scope of the project. Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet some of the artists at the closing reception being held in the ArtLab on Sept. 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The ArtLab will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ArtLab is located on the west end of FGCU’s Library.

For images and further information on this exhibition and others, visit the Art Gallery’s Website: artgallery.fgcu.edu or call Anica Sturdivant at (239) 590-7199 or asturdiv@fgcu.edu.

Visit the FGCU Art Galleries website...

7/30/2014

Results of 2014 harmful algal bloom state survey released

Toxic algae outbreaks, or Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) are a widespread problem across the U.S., but few states have programs dedicated to monitoring or reporting on these outbreaks. That’s the top finding in a 50-state survey conducted in spring 2014 by Resource Media and the National Wildlife Federation.

Survey created by: Resource Media & The National Wildlife Federation"

TOPLINE FINDINGS
Assessing the Seriousness of HABs
• 71% of responding states reported that HABs are either a “somewhat serious” or a “very serious” problem
• No responding states reported that HABs are “not an issue”
• More than half (20) of responding states reported that “HABs occur every year in many lakes and/or other fresh water bodies in my state”
• 49% (19) of states reported actively monitoring some public access lakes/water bodies that have experienced HABs in the past
• One state (Nebraska) actively monitors all public access lakes/water bodies for HABs
• 56% (22) of responding states reported relying, at least in part, on local municipalities and members of the public to report HABs to 31% (12) of responding states reported relying solely on local municipalities and members of the public to report HABs
• 38% (15) of responding states reported not tracking any of the impacts of HABs
• Of states that do track HAB impacts, the most commonly reported impact to be tracked/studied was animal mortalities (54%)
• Two states (Oklahoma and Virginia) reported tracking or studying Emergency Room admissions
• Three states (Hawaii, Kansas and Oklahoma) reported tracking or studying tourism statistics in relation to HABs
• 77% (30) of responding states reported that they do not have a HAB hotline for the public to report HABs.
• This includes 11 of the 12 states that reported relying solely on local municipalities and members of the public to report HABs

Public Information
• 73% (27) of responding states reported that they “provide information to those who request it”
• 4 states (Alabama, Alaska, New Mexico and Utah) reported that they “provide information to those who request it”, but do not disseminate information to the public in any other way
• The following methods of communication with the public received between 46% and 49% popositive responses:
• My state alerts the local media about HABs and/or health advisories with a press release or press advisory
• My state provides information about the location and/or severity on a publicly available website
• My state posts signs at HAB impacted beaches/lakes/communities to educate local residents and visitors
• My state provides general education to the public about what to do if they suspect a HAB
• Two states (Kansas and New York) reported using Facebook and/or Twitter to announce information about HABs, health advisories or beach closures
• More than half (20) of the responding states reported tracking historic data on HABs and all but two of those states reported providing public access to that data

Action
• 12 states reported running a HAB program (i.e. with dedicated staff, a budget, a planning process).
• 3 of those states (New York, Virginia and Washington) reported that their HAB programs have dedicated funding
• 47% (18) of responding states reported “actively addressing known causes of HABs”
• 4 states (Alaska, Maine, Nevada and New Mexico) reported taking no action on HABs, past, present or future

More Information On The 2014 Harmful Algal Bloom State Survey...

7/30/2014

Recycling rates In Florida continue to climb

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This year's new 2013 recycling data released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows Florida's official recycling rate is now 49 percent, up one percent from last year. This represents a substantial increase in the amount of solid waste recycled -- from 9.7 million tons in 2012 to 11.8 million tons in 2013.

“As we get closer to the 2020 deadline for the 75-percent recycling goal, we need all Florida residents to step up recycling efforts,” said Division of Waste Management Director Jorge Caspary. “While we have made modest improvements again this year, it is still critical for the commercial sector to increase its recycling efforts before the goal can be achieved.”

Lets keep up the great work Florida and achieve the 75% recycling goal by 2020!

Top 10 Counties for Total Recycling Rates:
  1. Hillsborough, 73%
  2. Lee, 70%
  3. Hendry, 68%
  4. Pasco, 67%
  5. Pinellas, 63%
  6. Collier, 60%
  7. Sarasota, 58%
  8. Martin, Palm Beach, 56% (tie)
  9. Monroe, 55%

Top 10 Counties for Traditional Recycling Rates:
  1. Sarasota, 58%
  2. Alachua, Martin, Collier, 54% (three-way tie)
  3. Brevard, 52%
  4. Manatee, 48%
  5. Orange, 47%
  6. Lee, 46%
  7. Duval, Leon, 45%(tie)

Read The Full News Release Here

7/30/2014

Average “dead zone” predicted for Gulf of Mexico

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Scientists are expecting an average, but still large, hypoxic or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-supported modeling is forecasting this year's Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone to cover an area ranging from about 4,633 to 5,708 square miles (12,000 to 14,785 square kilometers) or about the size of the state of Connecticut.

The Gulf of Mexico prediction is based on models developed by NOAA -sponsored modeling teams and individual researchers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University ,Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences/College of William and Mary, Texas A&M University, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and relies on nutrient loading estimates from the USGS. The models also account for the influence of variable weather and oceanographic conditions, and predict that these can affect the dead zone area by as much as 38 percent.

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico affects nationally important commercial and recreational fisheries and threatens the region's economy. A second NOAA-funded forecast, for the Chesapeake Bay, predicts a slightly larger than average dead zone in the nation's largest estuary.

More Information on the USGS Website...

7/30/2014

Project at Selby Gardens recognizes importance of bay health

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The tidal lagoon at Selby Gardens is an oasis of nature in downtown Sarasota. The installation of the lagoon began in 1997 with the removal of a grass lawn that extended from the mansion down to Sarasota Bay. After the excavation of the lagoon, native plant species were added creating several habitats ranging from brackish marsh to upland hammock.

This restoration project addressed the need to re-establish coastal habitats along the Sarasota bayfront as well as to provide a stormwater retention function. The lagoon intercepts and filters polluted stormwater runoff, allowing it to percolate through vegetation and sediment before flowing into the bay.

Nitrogen in lawn fertilizer is one source of water pollution. You too can help protect our water bodies from pollutants by using only slow-release fertilizer, following package directions, and never fertilizing before a heavy rain.

According to Rob Wright, coordinator for Sarasota County’s Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST) program, there are three simple rules that homeowners can put into practice in their own backyards to keep Sarasota County’s coastal waters pollution-free:

Continued on MySuncoast.com...

7/30/2014

EPA encourages homeowners to care for their septic systems

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WASHINGTON - Proper septic system care and maintenance is vital to protecting public health and preserving valuable water resources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging homeowners to take action to ensure their septic systems are functioning properly. Nearly one quarter of all American households-more than 26 million homes-depend on septic systems to treat their wastewater.

Failure to maintain and service a home's septic system can lead to system back-ups and overflows, which can result in costly repairs, polluted local waterways and risks to public health and the environment.

"By taking a few small, simple steps to care for their home's septic system, homeowners can help protect the health of their community and their local waterways, while preventing potentially costly repairs to their septic system that can occur if the system is not properly maintained," said EPA acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner.

Homeowners can do their part by following these SepticSmart tips:

  • Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.
  • Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain, which can clog a system's pipes and drainfield.
  • Ask guests to put only things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
  • Be water efficient and spread out water use. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products that bear the EPA WaterSense label, and spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn't been pumped recently.
  • Remind guests not to park or drive on a system's drainfield, where the vehicle's weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

EPA's SepticSmart program encourages proper septic system care and maintenance all year long, helping to educate homeowners about the need for periodic septic system maintenance and proper daily system use. In addition to helping educate homeowners, SepticSmart also serves as an online resource for industry practitioners, local governments, and community organizations, providing access to tools to help educate their clients and residents.

More information on how to find WaterSense-labeled products in your area: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/products/index.html

More information on how to find WaterSense-labeled products in your area

7/29/2014

To better combat lionfish invasion, FWC has new rules

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Imported lionfish not welcome in Florida

Florida is known as a tourist-friendly state, but starting Aug. 1, one visitor will no longer be welcome: the invasive lionfish.

Introduced into Florida waters in the late 1980s, lionfish populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat.

Several management changes go into effect Aug. 1 that will help the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) combat the growing problem by making it easier for lionfish hunters to remove the spiny predators and limiting further introduction of the species into the waters.

Changes include:

  • Prohibiting the importation of live lionfish;
  • Allowing lionfish to be removed via spearfishing when diving with a rebreather, a device that recycles air and allows divers to remain in the water for longer periods of time (currently, you cannot spear any fish when using a rebreather); and
  • Allowing participants of approved tournaments and other organized events to spear lionfish or other invasive species in areas where spearfishing is not currently allowed (such as certain state parks or refuges). This will be done through a permitting system.

See or catch a lionfish? Report a sighting by downloading the new Report Florida Lionfish app on a smart device or by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Recreational Regulations” (under “Saltwater”) and then “Lionfish.”

Learn more about lionfish

7/29/2014

Cape Coral Utilities seeks customers to volunteer for water sampling project

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The City of Cape Coral’s Utilities Department is asking for help from customers who live in homes with copper pipe, or homes that have copper, brass or bronze fittings/fixtures. The City is required to collect water samples from 125 homes that meet these parameters and are connected to the City’s drinking water system.
Lee County Health Department requires the City to collect samples from these homes and test for the presence of lead and copper. The City is looking for customers to volunteer for the water sampling project, and there is no charge for the testing.

Samples will be collected only one time. Sample bottles will be dropped off and picked up by the City’s Utilities workers. If you are interested in assisting, please email Bob Woods, Chief Operator at the City’s Southwest Reverse Osmosis Plant. In addition to your name, address and phone number, please include the following information in the email:

  1. Year home was built
  2. Whether the home has copper pipe or copper, brass or bronze fittings/fixtures
  3. Whether the home is a single-family home or multi-family home (apartment, duplex, condo, town house)

For more information, please contact Bob Woods at (239) 574-0759.

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